A disturbing trend in financial support for Milton education

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A disturbing trend in financial support for Milton education

Contributed by Phil Mathews, Milton MA resident

Statewide data on educational funding at the local level paints a troubling picture of educational support for Milton schoolchildren.

Over the past decade (2011 – 2021) per pupil support for education in Milton has eroded compared to both statewide averages and comparable communities. This is despite annual increases and one override for town-wide expenses in 2017. During this period the town saw a steady, significant increase in enrollment. This increase began as early as 2008, and between then and 2021over 450 additional students entered the public schools, an increase of 11.7%.

The budget increases for education presented to Town Meeting over this period were simply not sufficient to cover this growth on top of “level service funding”, which tends to be the goal of the budgets presented.  The affects are stark.

For the year 2021 Milton spent $16,863 per pupil. The state average for the year was $19,062. Milton’s expenditure ranked 301 out of 401 reporting districts. If you compare this to 2011 you see a significant decline. In 2011 Milton ranked 180 out of 331 school districts. To make these two years more comparable you need to adjust the 2021 ranking. That ranking contains approximately 66 Charter schools that were not part of the 2011 report. The ranking list shows that these Charter Schools all spent more per pupil than Milton, so removing them results in a ranking for Milton of 235 out of 335. So Milton’s ranking fell 55 spots in that 10 year period.

The spending trend can also be seen by looking at per pupil expenditures of long-time comparable communities.

2011 Per Pupil Expenditures

Comparable Communities

1. Sharon$ 14,096
2. Westborough$ 14,007
3. Westwood$ 13,999
4. Needham$ 13,601
5. Milton$ 12,612
6. Holliston$ 12,089
7. Belmont$ 11,968
8. Walpole$ 11,691
9. N. Andover$ 11,503
10. Scituate$ 11,381
11. Westford$ 11,178
12. Hingham$ 11,076
13. Reading$ 10,975

2021 Per Pupil Expenditures

Comparable Communities

1. Needham$ 21,146
2. Westwood$ 20,499
3. Sharon$ 18,963
4. Westborough$ 18,296
5. Scituate$ 17.609
6. Belmont$ 17,450
7. Walpole$ 17,395
8. Hingham$ 17,319
9. Milton$ 16,863
10. Reading$ 16,616
11. Westford$ 16,256
12. N. Andover$ 16.052
13. Holliston$ 15,822

In 2011 Milton ranked 5th out of 13 comparable communities. Its spending was 3% above the comparable community average. By 2021 Milton dropped 4 spots, from 5th to 9th. And its spending was 5% below the group average.

Now let’s look at income.

2021 Median Household Income

Comparable Communities

1. Needham$ 182,813
2. Westwood$ 171,071
3. Westford$ 161,076
4. Sharon$ 157,928
5. Hingham$ 154,300
6. Milton$ 153,971
7. Belmont$ 151,502
8. Reading$ 145,552
9. Holliston$ 142,348
10. Walpole$ 138,821
11. Scituate$ 129,132
12. N. Andover$ 120,954
13. Westborough$ 118,185

Per Pupil Expenditures

As a Percent of Median Household Income

1. Westborough15.5%
2. Scituate13.6%
3. N. Andover13.3%
4. Walpole12.5%
5. Westwood12.0%
6. Sharon12.0%
7. Needham11.6%
8. Belmont11.5%
9. Reading11.4%
10. Hingham11.2%
11. Holliston11.1%
12. Milton11.0%
13. Westford10.1%

It ranks 6th among comparable communities. If we look at per pupil expenditures as a percentage of MHI, Milton ranks 12th. Although the rankings appear close it would require real money to raise our ranking. To raise our share of MHI from 11% to 11.6%, the level of 7th ranked Needham, would cost about $445,000. And this would be over and above any annual increase to maintain level services.

So let’s recap:

  • Milton’s 2021 Per Pupil Expenditures were 12% below the state average. In 2011 it was 6% below the state average.
  • Our PPE ranked 235th out of 335 districts for a town with the 34th highest Median Household Income in the state.
  • Our ranking dropped 55 spots in the last 10 years.
  • Our comparable community ranking dropped 4 spots from 5th to 9th.
  • Our PPE as a percentage of MHI ranked 12th in that group.

The decade long slide in financial support for the schools is real and it is significant. Just to reach the comparable community average – still $1280 below the state average- would require an infusion of $4 million. And yet, incredibly enough, a Town Meeting Member proposed to amend the School Budget at last years Annual Town Meeting by cutting it $5 million! This mindless proposal was voted down but was supported by around 2 dozen town meeting members.

We have a political problem that needs to be addressed. Leadership on this front must come from school parents. You are most directly affected and represent a sizable slice of Town voters. You need to educate and advocate for what will need to be a multi-year effort to improve this situation.

To begin, ask this year’s candidates for Select Board and School Committee where they stand on school funding.Also ask them if they support the land swap for a new school. It’s educationally crucial. And while you’re at it, use your votes to send a message to those TMMs who failed to oppose the disastrous cut proposed at last year’s TM. One is running for re-election in Precinct 3 and in Precinct 5 two candidates abstained in the vote, at least in the public roll call vote. Don’t unknowingly put into office people who don’t support your interests.

Finally we need to advocate for an override next Spring- an override that includes a substantial downpayment on the debt we owe to Milton’s schoolchildren.


Per Pupil Expenditures: https://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/ppx.aspx

Median Household Income: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 5-year data, 2021.

Comparable Community Criteria: http://miltonview.blogspot.com/2009/02/comparable-communities-financial-data.html


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