LETTER: Greenwich Schools vs Neighboring Schools

Letter submitted by John McShea, Greenwich

During the debate about school funding for the 2020-21 school year I have read more than once that Greenwich is falling behind our peer group in both school spending and performance.

The claim is made that the budget freeze for 2020-21 is just the latest example of a long-term pattern of underfunding our schools, and as a result performance has suffered compared to our peer group.

However, when I checked these “facts” I found the opposite to be true. Greenwich is continually among the highest in spending per-pupil compared to our peer group. Performance at our schools is strong, as evidenced by our High School ranking among the best in the state.

And a check of the news shows that our neighboring school districts are also freezing budgets for the 2020-21 school year in response to the pandemic (pending final budget approvals).

Spending Per-Pupil. As noted earlier in an excellent post on GFP, spending per-pupil is not an apples-to-apples comparison because each district has their own rules. However, all the sources that I checked showed Greenwich as either first or second in spending per-pupil within Fairfield County schools. CT School Finance Org is a reliable source for spending data:

School Performance. Again, there are multiple sources for rankings, all of which use different formulas. All the rankings that I saw show Greenwich High School among the best in the state.

For example, Niche shows GHS ranked #5 in CT, and while New Canaan (#2) and Darien (#3) are ranked higher, all three are in the A+ category. Moreover, while Greenwich has 2x the student population of New Canaan and Darien, we have the same student-teacher ratio, which is an indicator of school funding. Also note that Greenwich ranks the highest in the Diversity category among our peers, showing we have a more diverse student population.

See the Niche rankings here: https://www.niche.com/k12/greenwich-high-school-greenwich-ct/

2020-21 Education Budgets. Like Greenwich, most of our neighboring BET’s are decreasing the 2020-21 school budgets from requests made pre-pandemic. Budgets have not been finalized yet, but we can see that the response to the pandemic is right in-line with the Greenwich BET decision.

Darien: options range from 0% to 2.4% increase, YOY. Source: link
Fairfield: $2.29M decrease to original BOE budget. Source: link
New Canaan: Options range from 0% to 0.4% increase, YOY. Source: link
Stamford: $12.5M decrease to original BOE budget. Source: link
Westport: $1.3M decrease to original BOE budget. Source: link

Conclusion. Excellent schools are the result of long-term planning done in partnership by the BET, BOE, RTM and all concerned parties here in Greenwich. Our schools are among the best funded, and best performing in the state, even when compared to our elite peer group. The BET has consistently provided financing for our schools through good times and bad, through up markets and down markets. We should all be thankful for the level of dedication, expertise, and foresight the BET consistently displays on our behalf.

Reasonable people may disagree with the recent decision by the BET to freeze the BOE budget for the 2020-21 school year. However, to question the character of BET members, or to denigrate the quality of Greenwich schools, is both factually incorrect and counterproductive.

John McShea
Old Greenwich (District 6)