Public education has suffered under Koch; Mahoney pledges to make Quincy schools a priority once more

QUINCY— As thousands of Quincy children prepare to return to school this week, School Committee Vice Chair and mayoral candidate Anne Mahoney said the Quincy Public Schools have suffered under the Koch administration, and pledged to restore public education to a top priority.

Pointing to a recent Boston magazine article that ranked the Quincy Public Schools 108th out of 135 area school districts, Mahoney said the Koch administration has reversed much of the progress that had been made in funding public education in previous years.

“When I first joined the School Committee in 2006, it was a positive, exciting time for public education in the city of Quincy,” said Mahoney, noting that the implementation of full-day kindergarten, literacy specialists and the construction of a new Quincy High School were just a few of the accomplishments achieved. “Under Tom Koch, however, that progress has been reversed, and Quincy families are paying the price for the mayor’s failure to recognize the importance of having a top-rate public school system.”

Under the Koch administration, the city’s FY2010 budget saw a $1 million cut to the public schools – a reduction that Mahoney said translated into a $3 million shift in the schools’ bottom line.

“Tom Koch doesn’t seem to understand the very basic financial implications of making cuts like this,” Mahoney said. “After cutting $1 million and laying off dozens of teachers and other staff, the Quincy Public Schools had to pay $1.5 million to cover unemployment costs for those positions, plus shift money from classroom funding to cover maintenance costs.”

The FY2011 budget, meanwhile, saw the deepest cut of all to the Quincy Public Schools: a proposed $9 million cut that was later reduced to $6 million when teachers agreed to defer raises. Even with the deferral, the Quincy Public Schools lost 72 teachers as well as other staff including custodians and security personnel.

All told, since Tom Koch took office the Quincy Public Schools have endured more than $9 million in budget cuts and lost more than 160 positions. Key academic and extracurricular programs have also been cut – including literacy specialists, middle school reading, SAT Prep, Media, Technology, Health, Art/Music, history programs, a 50% cut in extra-curricular activities for secondary school and more – while fees for bus transportation and other programs have been increased. [See detailed list of program eliminations and reductions, and fee increases below.]

“These cuts and program shifts have placed a tremendous strain on our school system’s performance,” Mahoney said. “Increased class sizes and program reductions or eliminations have a direct impact on a district’s graduation rate and drop-out statistics, which in turn impacts the percentage of students who go on to college.”

“One of the reasons I first ran for public office was because I’m committed to making sure we offer our children the best possible public education system,” said Mahoney, whose three children all attend the Quincy Public Schools. “As a School Committee member, it’s been very difficult to watch the Koch administration systematically dismantle the progress we’d made in our public schools, and wherever possible, I’ve fought to maintain funding and prevent further erosion of our school system.”

Mahoney said that while the School Committee has fought to maintain quality school programs and prevent even deeper cuts by the Koch administration, Quincy’s charter gives the mayor the ultimate power to set the city’s funding priorities.

“Tom Koch seems more concerned about handing out six-figure jobs to friends, family and political cronies and funding his pet projects than he does about ensuring that the Quincy Public Schools offer a high-quality, free education to Quincy’s children,” she said. “As mayor, I will restore public education to a top priority.”

When elected, Mahoney said she would draw on her background in finance and private-sector business experience to improve the city’s overall financial picture. She also pledged to begin forecasting city budgets – a change that would help the city plan for long-term costs and enable city departments, like the schools, to better plan for the future.

“Quincy is one of the few cities in Massachusetts that doesn’t do budget forecasting,” Mahoney said. “Currently, Quincy doesn’t even begin discussing next year’s budget until May, which only gives city departments – including the School Committee – about eight weeks to make decisions as to how to prioritize and allocate the budget given to them.”

Mahoney noted that a high-quality public school system is one of a community’s most important assets. “The Bostonmagazine rankings demonstrate the impact having a well-regarded public school system can have on a community,” Mahoney said. “Quincy needs a mayor who understands that a top-notch public school system increases a community’s property values, and that generates new tax revenues that can be used to fund increased police, fire and other city services that benefit all Quincy residents.”

Funding changes/program eliminations to Quincy Public Schools under the Koch administration:

Programs Eliminated/Positions Cut:

Medial/Library K-8
Curriculum Director
High School Department Heads
Middle School Reading
Middle School History
Full Day Aids in Kindergarten
Office and Para Aides
SAT prep classes in high school (impacts college entrance)

Shifts in Academic Programs
Increased class sizes due to budgets
Literacy Teachers lost: 3.5
Health Teachers
Media Teachers
Phys. Ed. Teachers
Art/Music Teachers
Occupational Therapy Teachers
50% cut in extra-curricular activities secondary schools

Fees Increased:
Athletics (Eliminated Freshman and JV Participation. Dropped teams down to 24)

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