, Salem, MA

Local News

May 19, 2014

School choice swings in city's favor

Beverly: 24 new requests, 79 students already in district

For the first time ever, Beverly is on the positive side of the school-choice equation.

The latest figures from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show that 87 students from other communities chose to attend Beverly public schools this year, while 66 students from Beverly chose to go elsewhere.

Since the home district pays the receiving district for the cost of educating students, the disparity means Beverly brought in $156,867 more than it paid out this fiscal year. It marks the first time the city has ended up on the plus side of school choice finances since the program began in 1991.

School Committee President Paul Manzo said some people attribute the turnaround to the opening of the new high school in 2010. But he said the reasons run deeper.

“I say it has as much to do with the teaching and instruction in the schools,” he said. “The building’s not everything. You still have to be able to educate the students, and that’s something we’re doing right.”

Since the state adopted the school choice program in 1991, Beverly had lost money every year due to a higher number of students leaving the district, for a total of nearly $4 million.

The low point came in 2002, when 101 Beverly students left for other schools, and 46 out-of-town students chose Beverly. The difference in tuition payments cost the city nearly $420,000.

Beverly’s negative cash flow was down to $35,000 last year, before climbing into the black for the first time in 2014.

“When you go into the positive, it’s a significant change,” Superintendent Steven Hiersche said. “Having more money coming in than going out helps substantially from the financial end.”

As someone who is new to the district, Hiersche said he is not sure how to explain the turnaround.

“To a certain extent, we’ve really got things going on in Beverly,” he said. “Our facilities are in good shape; our education programs are in good shape. I think it really has more to do with our programs and our facilities being on good, solid ground.”

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