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Greenfield Recorder – My Turn: Mohawk’s Excess for Heath School Funds

PERSONAL FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

PERSONAL FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ
PERSONAL FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

As residents of Heath, we are increasingly concerned about the apparent belief that Heath is not paying for its children’s education and that other towns must pick up the costs. Not true.

Each city, including Heath, is responsible for paying for its students’ education through the same contractual agreement. All residential students attending Mohawk School are paid from three funds: Chapter 70, Minimum Contribution, and Contribution above the minimum amount. Each city pays its share based on the number of students it sends to Mohawk Trail Regional School District schools. For selected students, all cities pay the minimum contribution to Mohawk, but not the minimum above. Mohawk is then responsible for sending the payments to the recipient school choice districts.

Mohawk receives an average of approximately $17,257 per child for each student selected. This comes from resident city and state aid. Students’ choice generally costs $5,000. Mohawk pays each receiving school accordingly. The remaining $12,257 does not follow those students to the school of their choice, but remains in the Mohawk district.

Heath has a much higher percentage of choice students than other cities. The difference for Heath is that we don’t have a school within our boundaries. In 2018 we made the difficult decision to close our school. We did this in response to concerns expressed by the Mohawk District and recognized that the school was no longer educationally or economically sustainable. Various paths have been followed towards a permanent solution for educating our children. During this uncertain time, many parents made the decision to choose the schools they considered best suited to their needs.

The decision to close the school has brought numerous financial benefits to the district each year from staff reductions, elimination of construction expenses, and materials and supplies provided to other schools. The annual financial benefits from this closure do not accrue to the Heath but are shared across the district.

Heath sees about 9% of these savings. The other seven cities see savings of the other 91%. Heath receives minimal financial benefits, suffers the loss of his school and suffers a blow to his sense of community.

Last year, Mohawk proposed an amendment to the regional agreement that would change the language so that all cities would pay Chapter 70 aid and the two local assessments for selected students. This will add another $6,846 per child to what each Mohawk city already pays per student of choice. Once again, this money will not follow individual city students to the school of their choice. It will lower the ratings for the other cities.

Heath will bear the financial burden of this language change. Heath sacrificed his school and suffered a profound loss to the community. We continue to save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. This proposal seems like an excessive charge to Heath.

I have always supported the Mohawk budget. I have always supported the Mohawk district. It is past time for these misunderstandings to be resolved. Rural school districts are struggling with rising costs and declining enrollment. We need to find a better way to support each other and work together to give our children the education they deserve.

Sue Lively and Deb Porter live in Heath.