Thursday, February 2, 2023

Dozens gather in Easthampton to protest mayor’s proposed education budget


EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -Dozens gathered in Easthampton to rally against the mayor’s proposed education budget Thursday night. This came just before the city council’s finance committee met to discuss that budget.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle told Western Mass News that she wants to be clear, she isn’t cutting the budget. But, the school committee would be receiving about half a million dollars less than what they asked for, which school community members tell us they’re worried about.

Teachers, parents, and students all gathered outside the Easthampton City Hall on Thursday, urging the Easthampton City Council’s finance committee to reject the mayor’s proposed education budget.

“It’s affecting teachers, and it’s affecting us,” said fourth-grader Brennan Taylor.

Many told Western Mass News they’re worried that without all the money they asked for, teachers will lose their jobs.

“If this budget goes through we’re looking at an additional seven to eight positions cut,” said first grade teacher Diane Niedzwiecki.

“Without teachers, we won’t have anything. We wouldn’t have lawyers. We wouldn’t have mayors. We wouldn’t have doctors. We wouldn’t have the people who save lives. The people who educate us are the people who create all of these positions and create everything for us,” said ninth grader Devin O’Brien.

“Our teachers have worked so hard through the pandemic. they’re exhausted and burned out. To cut them while our kids need them even more?,” asked parent Evin Ziemer.

Ziemer has three kids in the Easthampton public school district and is concerned about the potential for larger class sizes if there are fewer teachers.

“They’re already having trouble catching up, all the kids are. They have a lot of learning to do,” explained Ziemer.

Western Mass News took their concerns to Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, who told us she wants to clear up any confusion.

“I didn’t cut the budget. The school budget was increased by 4.63% in my proposed budget,” said Mayor LaChapelle.

She acknowledged that falls short of the more than seven percent the school committee asked for, but said she has to balance the needs and resources of the entire city.

“And as far as cutting staff and making those decisions, I can’t…It’s the superintendent, the school business manager, and the school committee that look at, “okay, this is the bucket of money we have this year, these are the grants that have come in, enrollment changes between now and the fall” and they decide if there are cuts,” said Mayor LaChapelle.

On June 8, the finance committee is set to vote and will then make recommendations to the full city council on June 15, when the council will vote on the entire budget.

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