My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How N.J. town, university came to terms

by Nick Grabbe

Monday, June 15, 2009 - Hampshire Gazette

AMHERST - While the town and gown debate who should pay to educate the children of graduate students, school advocates are considering other ways the University of Massachusetts could help the town.

And some are looking southward to the settlement of a lawsuit between Rutgers, the New Jersey state university, and its host community.

The school district in Piscataway, N.J., challenged the tax-exempt status of graduate student housing at Rutgers, where about 65 children live and attend the local schools. A state tax court upheld the tax-exempt status of Rutgers housing last August, but the school district appealed.

In April, the two parties agreed to a settlement that will provide the school district with about $80,000 a year worth of free services, causing Amherst officials to speculate about a similar deal with UMass.

For example, the New Jersey agreement sets up a work-study program that will enable Rutgers students to work in the school district and be paid by the federal government, according to a story on the Web site

Amherst School Committee member Catherine Sanderson said that UMass work-study students working in the school libraries or cafeterias could ease the budget crunch.

Piscataway also plans to use the $80,000 in credits to hold graduation at Rutgers; it cost Amherst $13,000 to rent the Mullins Center last Saturday. It would also like to use the Rutgers pool and send teachers there for training.

Under the settlement, Rutgers will lobby state officials for payments to help cover the cost of educating children whose parents live in tax-exempt housing. The university will also provide a head football or basketball coach to speak at a fundraiser for the local schools, according to

UMass may have difficulty paying the cost of renovating Mark's Meadow Elementary School building for a few years, and should consider letting the school district continue to use it for another purpose, such as the alternative high school program, Sanderson said.

Her employer, Amherst College, has lifted the cap on the number of high school students who can take free classes on campus, whereas UMass charges $1,200 a class, she said.

"Why not, for every child in graduate student housing, have UMass provide free space to an Amherst student?" she asked.


Anonymous said...

Other ideas:
--in addition to free courses for high school students, reduction tution for Amherst residents to attend UMass for college
--free courses open to high school students at Hampshire College
--10% off all camps held at UMass and Amherst College for Amherst residents (does Hampshire offer summer camps for kids?)
--10% off ticket prices (athletics, arts performance, etc) for Amherst residents at all three institutions
--free use of playing fields for town sports teams at both Amherst College and Umass

If we are really going to be partners with our resident institutions, they need to start benefitting AMHERST residents specifically, over and above what residents of other towns receive as benefit from them. Hadley residents, for example, are also right next to the Umass campus for handy employment and receive the shopping dollars of the three college students yet don't have to educate the UMass children for free or provide costing public safety covereage.

Anonymous said...

Hadley = "Dumb like fox"

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 9:57 - all good ideas ... and again, many of these would be win-win for the schools and the town/kids.

Anonymous 2:21 - I'm hearing this more and more!

Ed said...

First, how about going after the Amherst Housing Authority for all the children THEY put into the schools?

Second, Massachusetts is a Commonwealth and the difference between Rutgers and UMass is that Amherst SIMPLY CAN'T TAX UMASS. It could tax the other two colleges but it can no more tax UMass than Pelham can tax the MWRA for the half of Pelham that is under Quabbin.

Third, if Amherst pressures UM to pay for the North Village kids, they will do the same thing they did a decade ago in Lincoln - kick out all the children. Then the town will have to absorb the costs of the social worker and other support staff that UMass is currently paying for. And the police costs and the rest.

Fourth, as UMass continues to go up in cost - in part because of this sort of stuff - the number of students will drop and with that the Amherst Town budget.

This is most important: Amherst is actually richer than Northamption but Hamp gets less state aid because of the UM students.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I love the race to the bottom.

It starts with "well, look at other towns and what they do!"

But it's been clear for some time now: the residents here come here for and expect BETTER schools than the towns and cities around us.

The administration at the University is going to have to decide: do they want to sit by and watch the schools deteriorate? If you want the best, you've got to pay for it.

Just the facts said...

I remember reading about Williams College's financial support to its public schools. Could we have those numbers again?