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Monfredo: House Members Need to Step Up & Support Funding for Education

Saturday, June 16, 2018

 

Senator Michael Moore

“There is a place in America to take a stand: it is public education. It is the underpinning of our cultural and political system. It is the great common ground. Public education, after all, is the engine that moves us as a society toward a common destiny. It is in public education that the American dream begins to take shape."—Tom Brokaw

Perhaps this quote needs to be sent to our state legislatures  for three years ago a bipartisan commission made of up legislative and executive branch appointees  issued a report on the Foundation Budget calling for meaningful, attainable adjustments to  our public school funding that take into account the true costs of education for our most disadvantaged students and districts.

Finally, the Senate, this year, did agree on a bill – An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century (S.2525)…  Thank you, Senator Chandler and Senator Moore, for your support!  The Bill isn’t perfect but it’s a start, HOWEVER, passage by the House is still pending.  If the bill becomes law it would implement some key corrections to the foundation budget and affect state funding for public education over a reasonable period of time.  No one expects the bill to be fully funded but the process in phasing in funding needs to start now. Here are some changes…

Increasing the state- established enrollment rate for students in special education to a more realistic accurate estimate for both in-district and out of district students. This is likely to generate significant additional revenue.

Updating the way we estimate costs for economically disadvantaged students and English Language Learners (ELL) which will support the cost of modern and effective strategies to educate students at risk.

Accounting realistically the normal and inflationary costs of employee health care by using real data from the Group Insurance Commission.

Setting up a Data Advisory Task Force so that in the future the legislators can plan for and obtain accurate and timely data to make key budget decisions.

The House has not taken this bill up and there is some uncertainty that they will this session, thus, killing the bill and preventing districts from receiving additional funding. Already this week there has been push-back from House Chair on Ways and Means Jeffrey Sanchez and House Chair of the Committee on Education Alice Peisch. I guess they don’t consider education in this state a priority!  Will our elected officials in House step up on this issue?

Many readers may not know that 70% of our budget is funded by Chapter 70 state aid.  It’s fair to say that, how the state budget for education goes, goes the budget for the Worcester Public Schools.  The schools rely on the 1993 Chapter 70 law which in the general laws contains the formulas that determine how much state education aid each community receives and how much each community must contribute towards its schools from local resources.  The concept was to ensure adequate funding for all students in Massachusetts.

The Foundation budget is what the state determines is the minimum level of spending that is required to educate all of the students in each district.   The state sets a minimum required local contribution for each community.  These amounts were initially calculated in 1993 by a formula that was intended to reflect a locality’s resources.  The formula was based on local property, values, local incomes, and historic education funding levels.  It aimed to require in general, that each community would contribute the same share of local resources to its schools.

However, the formula became outdated in 2000 and our state legislators after hearing from school districts across Massachusetts did establish a “Foundation Budget Review Commission”. The Commission did an outstanding job in their research and released a final Foundation Budget Review Commission report in October 2015.  The report showed that the actual costs of health insurance and special education have far surpassed the assumption built into the formula for calculating the foundation budget.  As a result, those costs have significantly reduced the resources available to support key investments. They also found that the ELL and low-income students are not getting enough resources to support their needs.

Isn’t it time that education becomes a priority?  This process is all about the three R’S… Getting RELIEF for this year… getting REFORM MOVING… and most of all getting REVENUE NOW and in the future. For the sake of the children we need to have funding that is ADEQUATE, EQUITABLE AND PREDICTABLE…  At the present time, it is inadequate, inequitable and very unpredictable.

Organizations such as the Massachusetts Association of School Committees is advocating for everyone to send a letter to our House legislators and to the House chair asking them to move the bill forward.  As Superintendent Binienda stated recently, “Just think about what Worcester Schools would be like if we got the money that was due to us, somewhere between $64 to $94 million… we could hire 400 teachers, have strong after school and summer school programs, more school adjustment counselors, and everything that is in the strategic plan could be addressed.”    

Is it possible that our state representatives can make education a priority? We’ll see! Please contact your House Representative and demand action on S2525 now.

 

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