FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 26, 2017
CONTACT: Rep. Natalie Higgins, Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov, 978-602-3772
Diverse education stakeholders set aside differences to push for Foundation Budget reforms
BOSTON – A wide array of education leaders from across Massachusetts gathered at the State House on Tuesday to testify in favor of Foundation Budget reforms before the Joint Committee on Education. The bill, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century (S.223), introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) to update the state’s 24-year-old education funding formula.
The hearing follows months of advocacy by educators, school officials, parents, and students from the heart of Boston to the hills of Western Massachusetts. More than 40 school committees across the state have passed resolutions supporting the reforms, and in April, diverse stakeholder groups met in a packed room together at the State House to push for the legislation.
“The consensus shown today in support of fixing the FBRC is unprecedented,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, Education Committee Chair and sponsor of S.223. “It’s not every day you see the Boston Teachers’ Union, the Boston Superintendent’s office, and Boston School Committee on the same side of the table, let alone Democrats for Education Reform and the teachers unions.”
Speaking to the members of the Joint Committee on Education, Pat Murphy, President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said: “We need to do this, and we need to do this now. As you’ve seen today, we have a broad political coalition ready to support you in getting this done. Our children cannot afford to wait.”
“Municipalities across Massachusetts budget an average of 20% above Net School Spending, so we do not have many examples of how the Foundation Budget Formula is impact our school districts,” said Representative Natalie Higgins. “Unfortunately, we are seeing the inadequacies of the Foundation Budget play out in the Leominster School District right now. After three consecutive years of budgeting less than 1% over Net School Spending, at the end of the 2016/17 school year our district was facing nearly 200 staffing cuts, additional cuts to programming, and extracurriculars, if we maintained a Net School Spending Budget. Rising health insurance costs, special education needs, and transportation costs are devastating our school districts, and gateway cities like Leominster deserve a funding formula that works for our students.”
Established by the 1993 Education Reform Act, the Foundation Budget was designed to ensure every Massachusetts student was provided a quality education. However, the formula has failed to keep up with rising fixed costs like health care and special education that have outpaced initial estimates. It also underrated what it actually takes to educate English Language Learners and students living in poverty. The FBRC found these combined costs have led the Commonwealth to underestimate the cost of education by $1-2 billion every year – reinforcing the achievement gap between wealthy and low-income districts, and forcing many districts to cut critical classroom services or to divert funding from other local investments like public safety, transportation, and affordable housing.
Sen. Chang-Díaz added, “This hearing showed that if we are serious about providing quality education to all children, regardless of zip code, we can’t continue to wait as our schools lose more and more of what makes them successful. It’s long past time we right this wrong and pass these reforms.”