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    Brockton rallies for increased school budget

    School officials are calling on parents, students, and staff to blitz the State House with appeals for more money for the cash-poor Brockton schools.

    The district faces a $10 million shortfall in the next school year, in large part because of an unanticipated drop in state aid, according to Superintendent Kathleen A. Smith. She said about 80 percent of the school budget comes from the state, and the governor’s proposed changes in the formula for distributing local education aid would decrease Brockton’s share significantly.

    “Brockton lives paycheck to paycheck and we’re very dependent on what happens at the state level,” she said.

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    Smith, who lives in Brockton and has spent her entire 39-year career in the city’s schools, said she decided to reach out to the community to advocate for Brockton’s kids. The first meeting in early April drew more than 400 people, she said.

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    Since then, the school system has distributed almost 3,000 lawn signs and is barely keeping up with the demand for signs, pins, and bumper stickers, according to Michelle Morgan Bolton, the district’s communications director.

    Bolton said neighborhoods are competing to see who can post the most lawn signs, and the schools scheduled activities including a social media day Thursday, April 28 to bombard Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like with “Brockton Kids Count” messages to state officials.

    A crowd estimated at over 1,000 people, most wearing “Brockton Kids Count” T-shirts, jammed the Brockton High School Marciano Stadium field Wednesday for a group photo to use as publicity for the campaign, Bolton said..

    She estimated costs for materials at about $25,000, with about $14,000 donated by local businesses and about $11,000 of city funds used.

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    “The ultimate goal is for the campaign to pay for itself as we work for fair funding for the schools,” she said.

    Brockton public schools have more than 17,000 students, about 70 percent of them Hispanic or African-American. Almost 60 percent of the students are either learning English or speak it as a second language.

    To meet the budget deficit, Smith has recommended cutting $1.5 million from her administrative budget, another $1.5 million from sports and other non-classroom activities, as well as closing the Barrett Russell School which would save $500,000. She said she hoped the state would respond positively so she doesn’t have to cut teachers.

    Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com