This town meeting season we are collectively being asked to appropriate $47 million to educate our 2,133 public school students. That is many millions more than other Massachusetts communities are spending to educate about the same number of students.

The statistics are really quite startling: according to the Massachusetts Department of Education, the average per pupil expense in Massachusetts for the 2013-2014 school year — the last year fully reported — was $14,518; the Martha’s Vineyard average was $22,989. (To obtain Island averages, I took the figures reported to the state by Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, the Up-Island Regional School District and the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, added those numbers together and then divided by five.) Why is there such a gap in per pupil expenses? For one, we pay our teachers more. The average teacher salary in the commonwealth was $73,908; on Martha’s Vineyard the average teacher salary was $83,717. Also, we have a lot more teachers per student and smaller than average class sizes. The average commonwealth student/teacher ratio was 13.3 to 1; our ratio was 9.04 to 1. Average class size across the state was 18.1 per class. Our average was 13.6.

In many ways, comparing ourselves to the state as a whole is not particularly helpful. We are not like most of the communities in the commonwealth; we are an Island. And unlike that other Massachusetts island, Nantucket, we are not one town; we are six. Perhaps, however, we can learn from other Massachusetts communities which, like ourselves, educate roughly 2,100 to 2,300 students.

The portraits of 21 other such communities can be found on the Massachusetts Department of Education website. In looking at the data from those districts, one thing jumped out at me immediately: no one else had 240 full time teachers on the payroll. Weston, which of the 21 schools I researched came closest to the Vineyard in terms of per pupil costs, had 207 full time teachers for its 2,363 students. The remaining districts had teacher numbers ranging from 128 to 182. That’s because most of the other districts operated two or three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. We, meanwhile, have five elementary programs, four middle school programs and a high school — not counting the charter school.

Why do we have so many school programs for so few kids? I know why we have five elementary programs — we think it is in the best interest of our youngest children to provide neighborhood schools with small class sizes. I’m sure that’s true. But why do we have four middle school programs, with the necessary specialty teachers and specialty classrooms, when we only have 433 students total in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades?

The answer, of course, is politics. We may be one Island but we are most comfortable thinking about ourselves as six towns. We like local control. Every year at my town meeting someone stands up and fusses about the regional high school budget and our town’s inability to dictate its specifics. What people do not stand up to discuss is how the only reason we are able to offer our 655 high school students a comprehensive high school education is because we collectively pool our money. Our high school offers everything: full academics, arts, athletics and vocational programs. Such a broad range of offerings is expensive but we are able to swing it because we all pitch in to foot the bill.

The other thing not discussed, or at least not put before voters to ask whether they mind, is the millions-of-dollars-a-year-premium we pay for our current kindergarten-through-eight town school model. Actually, that’s not quite true. In 2014, then superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss and former superintendent Dr. Peter Palches went before the Martha’s Vineyard League of Women Voters and asked the group to spearhead a study regarding regionalization of all Island schools. Mr. Weiss and Mr. Palches understand the math — but town leaders balked at the mere idea.

I think it is time for town leaders to reconsider. We are about to collectively appropriate $47 million for education for one year. That’s $8.3 million more than the Weston superintendent is requesting for about the same number of students and upwards of $16 million more than some of the other comparably-sized communities. It’s real money.

It’s time to embrace the idea of a regional middle school.

Rachel Orr lives in Vineyard Haven and has two children attending Vineyard public schools.