Gov. Charlie Baker's State of the Commonwealth speech "ignored the central issue facing all schools" in Massachusetts, according to the Senate chair of the Legislature's Education Committee.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat, said Baker's proposed increase in aid to local school districts -- known as Chapter 70 aid -- in next year's budget is "just plain inadequate for the job."
"As an acclaimed manager, the Governor should know that," Chang-Diaz said in a statement. "I'm certain the Governor is aware of the economic concept of inflation – and his proposal barely keeps up with healthcare inflation alone. In fact, his budget proposal would leave K-12 funding down more than 5% since 2002, when adjusted for inflation. That means more cuts to classrooms, in reality. We need to have higher expectations for ourselves."
Baker plans to fully unveil his fiscal 2019 budget proposal, likely the largest annual spending plan in state history, in a Wednesday afternoon press conference. In his address on Tuesday night touted this year's investment of more than $4.7 billion in funding for K-12 schools, calling it "the highest level in history."
"Tomorrow’s budget submission will boost that number by more than $100 million, representing an increase of nearly half a billion dollars since we took office," Baker said.
The Republican governor teased details of his education aid plans before the Massachusetts Municipal Association last week, saying he would propose $118.6 million increase that would bump the total to $4.865 billion. The hike includes $15 million in additional aid for districts that have seen an influx of students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after last year's hurricanes, and $24.3 million toward addressing rising costs of health care for retirees, which Baker called a "significant investment."
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“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Massachusetts to take a quantum leap or two on some of the things that voters have been telling Beacon Hill for a long time that they want to see us do,” Chang-Díaz said.