, Salem, MA

February 11, 2014

Letter: Private school costs Danvers little

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I have been reading in this paper over the last couple of months about proposals being put forth by the town of Danvers to extract funds from the local “non-public” school systems. Things like payment in lieu of taxes and just recently, help paying for traffic lights. I have read mention of some of the intangible benefits that these institutions bring to the town but never a word of the financial benefit that comes from these institutions. It would be my guess that some of the readers of this paper either have not thought about or cared about that. However, I am pretty sure that those responsible for deciding how our taxpayer-funded school dollars are spent are keenly aware of that financial benefit.

I have read many times over the years about the cost of educating a student in different school systems around the area. It has been a while since I have seen any of those figures, but I seem to recall the numbers ranging from a low of about $5,000, up to as much as $10,000 to $12,000, and I am sure those numbers have not gone down. If you were to take the number of Danvers children that are educated in the Danvers non-public school systems, and multiply it by whatever that per student yearly cost is for the town of Danvers, I would bet that you could pay for those traffic lights in a year, with plenty left over, and this financial benefit goes on and on, year after year. I know that there are some expenses placed on the town by these institutions, but I am quite sure that these expenses are but a small fraction of the money saved by the town of Danvers by way of not having to educate the Danvers students enrolled in these institutions.

And what about the cost that these proposed additional revenues put on the Danvers families that choose to put their children through the non-public school systems? At a time when these institutions are getting less and less from their parent organizations, those additional revenues just get passed along in the form of higher tuition. These are families that are paying for two school systems, one voluntarily, and one by way of their real estate taxes. Where is the fairness in that? I know that there are readers out there who will say, “Well, that’s your choice,” and that would be correct. Keep in mind that choice may have nothing to do with religion. I know there are readers out there who will say “Those non-public school families have lots of money, so they can afford it.” But the truth is, a lot of these families make sacrifices, such as second jobs and second mortgages, to pay for these non-public educations, and they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t see value in it.

The big-ticket items in the town of Danvers budget are fire, police and education. I don’t think the non-public schools cost the Fire Department any more than their public counterpart. In light of recent events, we know that police costs are less than their public counterparts. And education, the Danvers School Committee and the taxpayers of the town of Danvers should thank their lucky stars for these institutions because if they all closed their doors tomorrow, the cost of educating all the Danvers students currently enrolled in these institutions would throw the Danvers school system budget into financial chaos.

Let these institutions be. Find your revenue elsewhere.

Gordan Wallick