Scott Brown: Road to ruin for Northampton schools

Published: 05-17-2024 8:01 PM

Many thanks to Lander-Grinspoon Academy for its brutal candor. In a recent recruiting missive, the private day school did a very 2024 thing and said the quiet part out loud: “As the Northampton public school system is introducing inevitable budget cuts, we are committed to expanding our faculty team and providing a robust education — small class sizes with strong academics.”

Apparently, and also predictably, our budget-cutting had created a marketing opportunity for the private/bespoke education industry. I was delighted to see the stakes laid out with such brutal clarity: Private schools foresee — and are counting on — a death spiral where well-resourced families flee the system in droves, accelerating the crisis until the angle of decline is Titanic-esque.

So, in the interest of equal time, here’s some jazzy marketingese on behalf of our community’s top resource: Northampton’s selling point for young families fleeing expensive cities is its welcoming, functional school system — excellence at a fraction of the cost — made possible by full staffing, paraeducators included.

Schools, to Noho, are what the snows are to Aspen, what the lobster are to Ogunquit, what, I suppose, that big submarine is to Groton. (Never been. Looks cool.) Tahoe doesn’t drain the lake for much-needed toilet water. Why is Northampton, known cradle of education and innovative education policy, playing with house money?

Mindless, grinding cuts, year after year, are as suicidal as overspending. And being pennywise and pound-foolish — effectively forcing today’s mainstreamed kids into tomorrow’s special education programs, at many times the cost to taxpayers — is a wonderful way to slit our own throats.

Yes, “budget shortfalls.” Yes, “sunsetting pandemic funds.” Yes, inflation. Today. But there will be a tomorrow. And we can either muster the vision and tenacity and stomach to plan for it — with innovative new public-investment funds, with creative and surgical approaches to tax policy, with a more granular look at our city budgets — or we can bean-count and bond-monger our way into educational, and then literal, impoverishment.

Scott Brown

Florence

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