SENATE APPROVES CHANGES IN PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING

By Bob Katzen

The Senate 38-0, approved and sent to the House a bill that would make changes to the way public schools are distributed funds by the state. The bill is a response to the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that in 2015 reported that the current funding formula and system underestimates the cost of education by $1 billion to $2 billion every year.

The 1993 Education Reform Act established a “Foundation Budget” to make sure all school districts could provide their students with a quality education.

This current proposal requires the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means to hold a public hearing and then meet annually to determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations of the commission. Another provision permits the implementation schedule to be changed by the Senate and House Committees on Ways and Means chairs to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that may affect the remaining costs in the schedule.

Supporters of the bill said that the 1993 formula is outdated and failed to consider the costs of skyrocketing health care and special education, and understated the funding to provide the resources necessary to close achievement gaps between affluent and poor students.

“This is an historic day for Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Teacher’s Association President Barbara Madeloni. “We are hearing from a growing number of school districts that the lack of funding is taking a toll on our students. It’s time to update the funding formula to guarantee students in our low-income urban and rural districts the same opportunities as students have in our affluent suburbs.”

“Every year, schools are being forced to cut critical programs and our state has one of the worst achievement gaps in the country — one of the core problems the Foundation Budget was supposed to address when we first created it in 1993,” said Sen. Sonia Chang Diaz (D-Boston), the sponsor of the bill, on her Facebook page. “This bill will repair our 25-year-old education funding formula — to give schools the resources they need to give every student a quality education. Thanks to my colleagues for standing behind these important reforms, and all of the students, teachers, parents, administrators, school committees, education experts, and concerned community leaders who have pushed for these reforms year after year.”

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