By Bob Katzen

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) and his House counterpart Rep. Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston) announced an agreement to increase Chapter 70 aid to school districts by $219.6 million, an increase of $21.9 million over the $197.7 million hike proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier this year. The agreement also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund targeted to stabilize school districts adversely impacted by pandemic-related enrollment changes.

“This agreement provides certainty and predictability for our cities and towns, funds the first year of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) and ensures we get back on schedule to fully implement the SOA by fiscal year 2027,” said the pair in a joint statement. “This agreement is reflective of the advocacy of our respective members in both chambers, school districts and education stakeholders, and builds off the $2.6 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding that school districts have received to date.”

They noted the $40 million enrollment reserve fund will help stabilize school districts experiencing higher levels of enrollment and to support district needs, including transportation, instruction and materials, in a flexible way as kids return to in-person classroom learning.

“It is disappointing that the House and Senate are failing to fully fund schools as promised in the SOA and failing to count all students,” said Vatsady Sivongxay, executive director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance. “The funding is a year behind schedule, and instead of ensuring that schools have adequate funds and resources, the Legislature is shortchanging many thousands of Massachusetts students who have had their education disrupted by the pandemic and schools that have been waiting for decades for equitable support. They acknowledge that the funding they are providing will be inadequate by creating a separate pool of money from which some school districts will be allowed to withdraw additional funds.”

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