By Bob Katzen

The House 143-0, approved a bill that is a response to some of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that in 2015 reported that the current school 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

The bill provides some $500 million to school districts over five years to help cover the increased costs associated with special education and the health benefits for employees and retirees.

“This bill implements the findings and recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission by establishing a concrete schedule for the implementation of increases to the special education and employee benefits rates in the school funding formula and by directing the commissioner to submit an implementation plan for the low-income and English learner increment changes identified by the commission’s report, said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), the sponsor of the bill. “As a co-chair of the commission, I strongly support the recommendations and look forward to having a concrete schedule in place for all of the recommended changes as soon as possible.”

Unlike the Senate version of the bill, the House measure did not include plans to immediately address and fund underfunded costs of cities and towns tied to educating English language learners (ELL) and low-income students.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) said that the state created the Foundation Budget 25 years ago precisely to help close the achievement and opportunity gaps. “Those gaps have not narrowed in the quarter century since,” said Chang-Diaz. “Yet, the House bill abandons the commission’s recommendations that would target these gaps, opting for yet another study … How long should poor children have to wait while we continue ‘studying,’ rather than simply giving them the resources they need to learn?”

A House-Senate conference committee will try to hammer out a compromise version of the bill.)

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