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Administrative Cost Increases at Worcester Schools: 0.61%

By Tom Marino | July 8, 2024
Last Updated: July 8, 2024

WORCESTER – A Worcester School Committee meeting on Thursday, June 20, that ran nearly six hours, ended with the committee approving a $485 million budget for the 2025 fiscal year. School committee members approved the budget by a 6-3 vote, with members Maureen Binienda, Dianna Biancheria, and Kathleen Roy in opposition.

The fiscal year starts July 1, 2024, and ends June 30, 2025.

The approved Worcester Public Schools budget cuts several positions from the previous year to close a $22 million funding gap for the upcoming fiscal year. Those cuts include the positions of 86 classroom teachers, 70 student support professionals, five psychologists, and 22 administrative roles.

The cuts in classroom teacher positions include 31 voluntary resignations and 12 retirements. Layoffs affect no teacher with over three years of experience, according to the administration of the Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools, Dr. Rachel Monárrez.

See our previous story in this series, Worcester School Committee’s “Keep Failing” Caucus, for more on the cause of the deficit and the results of policies of the past Binienda and Biancheria repeatedly advocated for in the June 20 meeting.

Here, let’s look at the fact of the administrative costs of Worcester Public Schools.

Accusations of Administrative Expansion

On Nov. 18, 2022 (paywall), Ray Mariano, an opinion column writer at for Worcester Telegram and Gazette, wrote a column titled, “Violence up in Worcester schools, police report says.” In that column, Mariano wrote that police responses to Worcester schools had sharply risen since the start of that school year.

As This Week in Worcester previously reported, what Mariano claimed was a report was an internal email from within the police department, not a crime analysis by the department. The statistics were wildly inaccurate.

Mariano served as a member of the Worcester School Committee from 1977 to 1981, then a Worcester City Councilor from 1981 to 2002, including serving as mayor from 1992 to 2002. The Mayor is also chair of the school committee in Worcester’s system of government.

Mariano is a long-time supporter of Binienda.

Two weeks prior to his column alleging an increase in violence in schools, the Telegram published a column by Mariano titled, “New school superintendent stacks deck with new admin positions,” on Nov. 4, 2022. In it, he said that, “It appears that (Monárrez) added as many as 17 new administrative and administrative support positions, maybe more.” He also said that, “it’s hard to tell exactly how many positions are being added.”

He also recalled leading an effort to eliminate 13 administrative positions when he was in office.

Like the allegedly out-of-control violence in schools, which a crime analysis from the Worcester Police Department did not show, the allegedly runaway costs of administration at Worcester Public Schools has become a talking point of Binienda, Biancheria, and other detractors of Monárrez.

Comparison of Administrative Costs

All data compiled within this piece are publicly available from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The figures come from DESE reports on “Compliance With Net School Spending Requirements” for every school district in Massachusetts.

Monárrez’s first day as superintendent was July 1, 2022, the first day of the fiscal year. She had no part in creating the 2022-23 school budget. The budget proposal for the 2023-2024  school year ennacted by the school committee was her first.

DESE completes an audit of the figures it produces, which it has completed through 2022-2023. The 2023-24 figures are projected, based on the budget passed by the school committee of each district. The figures for the upcoming school year are not yet reported.

These reports from DESE do not have updated information on the budget of Brockton Public Schools. For this piece, Weymouth, the 21st largest city by population in Massachusetts, is included to compare the costs of administration of the 20 largest cities by population in Massachusetts, excluding Brockton.

Readers should note that this DESE classification includes administrative costs, not only salaries.

Education Spending in Worcester

The graph below shows the size of the total budget, administrative costs, and cost of instruction as presented by DESE from FY 2020 to FY 2024.

Administrative costs increased in FY 2024 to $15.5 million, from $11.1 million in FY 2023. As a percentage of the total budget, that represents an increase from 2.56 percent to 3.17 percent in 2024.

Administrative Costs as a Percentage of Budget

The number of students and the size of the budget of different school districts can vary widely. For example, the total budget of Boston Public Schools reaches three times that of Worcester Public Schools.

The graph below shows the administrative costs as a percentage of budget for all 20 included cities from 2020-2021 to 2023-2024, the latter being Monárrez’s first.

The order of the cities on the right shows the highest at the top to the lowest at the bottom for the most recent year.

Readers can use the dropdown at the top of the graph to select cities they want to appear in the graph.

It is difficult to see the line representing Worcester, as it sits in the middle of the pack, even after the recent year’s increase.

Administrative Costs Ranking

The below graph shows the ranking of each city from for each of the five years, with “1” the highest percentage of administrative spending and “20” being the lowest.

In the last two years Binienda served as superintendent, Worcester Public Schools incurred the 16th highest administrative costs of the top 20 largest cities by population, excluding Brockton.

In the first budget Monárrez proposed, those costs rose to 12th highest according to projected totals by DESE.

That’s what we are talking about here: a 0.61 percent increase of the total budget, based on data from DESE.

In a future piece, This Week in Worcester will cover the efforts by Binienda and Biancheria to eliminate the job of someone at Worcester Public Schools, at a salary of $52,000, paid for through revenue generated by the school system, not state or local taxes.

That piece will also look at how Binienda advocated for more resources for students at certain schools, and how policy held over from her time as superintendent appears to have limited the ability of the school system to generate revenue.

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