Amherst Community Protests School Budget Cuts, Seeks College Support

Dozens of community members in Amherst’s public school district assembled yesterday to raise awareness about a proposed $1.7 million budget cut in the district’s budget and demand the college support local schools.

Amherst Community Protests School Budget Cuts, Seeks College Support
President Michael Elliott spoke to the protestors outside of Converse Hall, one of the stops on the march. Photo courtesy of Neil Kapur ’25.

On March 12, dozens of teachers, students, staff, and families from the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District assembled outside Converse Hall to voice their frustration at a proposed $1.7 million cut in the district’s budget, prior to a Regional School Committee vote on the budget later that evening. The proposed budget cuts would eliminate a number of positions, including some school counselors, department heads, and teachers.

The demonstration, organized by Amherst Pelham Education Association (APEA), also called for the college to directly contribute more to the town’s budget and sought to raise awareness about the budget cuts in the community.

The goal of the protest was to “help people understand how damaging these cuts are going to be and how damaging the past cuts have been,” Danielle Seltzer, a high school teacher who spoke at the protest, said. “People just assume that the schools are good because they see nice things in town … but they don’t always know what’s happening year to year and what’s being cut,” she added.

While the college is not directly responsible for these budget cuts, protestors argue that it should play a bigger role in ensuring the school district’s financial security. Under state law, Amherst is not required to pay taxes on most of its property due to its nonprofit status. If the college did pay those taxes, it would likely contribute millions of dollars in additional tax revenue each year.

Demonstrators argue that through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, the college could voluntarily contribute a substantial amount of money to the town’s budget.

The goal of protesting at the college was “to highlight the fact that there is no real, robust PILOT agreement between Amherst College and the local schools. We want to change that. We want to start meeting with and negotiating with Amherst College,” said Seltzer.

She also expressed hope that a new president would mean that the college “will take a more active role as a community member.”

Seltzer noted that “a lot of other colleges and universities have entered into [financial] agreements” with their communities, citing institutions such as Williams and the University of Pennsylvania, which have each pledged millions of dollars toward municipal budgets.

Protestors met at the high school and then marched through town, making stops at the town hall, the college, and Jones Library, three locations that are symbolic of the mechanisms that have contributed to the school district’s financial situation.

Seltzer said that town hall was chosen because it “represents local governments and whether or not they prioritize education in their budgets.”

The demonstration at Jones library was meant to “highlight that it’s possible to put a ton of money towards something,” Seltzer said, alluding to the upcoming expansion at the library, which will cost millions of dollars.  She hopes that this would serve as a reminder that “it’s possible to put money towards schools.”

According to Seltzer and Irene LaRoche, a social studies teacher, the consecutive cuts have had noticeable effects, including increased class sizes and reduced course offerings.

Seltzer also said, “when someone outside my classroom is cut, it affects me in my classroom.” For example, she asserted that proposed measures to reduce department heads, guidance counselors, and restorative justice personnel would have spillover effects in the classroom. On one hand, teachers would be expected to take on additional responsibilities. Moreover, if students have reduced access to guidance counselors when they are in need, “they’re not able to access their learning and then they’re learning less.” LaRoche voiced similar concerns, noting that “any cut happening to any department impacts all of us” and that “everything is intertwined.”

Returning to Converse Hall, after a few minutes of loud chants, President Elliott emerged to meet the protesters. In response to demonstrators expressing their desire to converse with him, he said, “I would love to talk too. You’re always welcome back,” and expressed Amherst’s belief in education for everyone, including those not on our campus. He added, “we want to be great partners to our school system for a long time.”

However, when demonstrators pressed further, including on questions surrounding Amherst’s budget and the sense of urgency, the environment remained tense, with chants such as “a later is a no” and “less talk more action.”

The Student reached out to the president’s office for comment but had not yet received a response at the time of publication.