Educators, advocates, and legislators rally for 2019 passage of comprehensive education funding reform bill

Jan 09, 2019

Educators, local leaders, and state legislators united at the State House today to call for passage of the Education PROMISE Act in 2019. The bill is backed by a broad coalition of students, teachers, parents, superintendents, school committees, legislators, and experts from the heart of Boston to the outskirts of Western Massachusetts.

The bill, filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and Reps. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) & Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), will implement all five recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) to update the state’s education funding formula – including long-overdue equity provisions for low-income and English learner students.

The 2015 commission of experts found that the state has drastically underestimated the resources necessary to close achievement gaps since the creation of its education funding formula 25 years ago. It also found that the state has failed to update the formula to keep up with rising health care and special education costs. Together, these underestimates have led to wide inequities and severe cuts to classrooms.

Last session, the House and Senate both passed education funding reform bills – but were unable to negotiate a final education funding reform package with limited time at the end of the session. Education leaders and legislators emphasized the importance of passing all five FBRC recommendations into law this year, especially the equity provisions.

“Children across our Commonwealth are waiting for us to fulfill the promise we made in our Constitution and in the 1993 Education Reform Act: that zip code should not be destiny,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), lead Senate sponsor of the bill. “For 25 years, we have failed to live up to that promise—first unknowingly and now, for the past three years, knowingly. Our schools are suffering from death by a thousand paper cuts. This bill isn’t about providing ‘new’ or ‘extra’ funds. It’s about making good on what we've already promised.”

“For too long cities like Holyoke have been underfunded and short-changed, often by the State's own formulas, when it comes to funding public school education,” said Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke), co-lead House sponsor of the bill. “This while we all know that properly funding and investing in education is a pillar of what State Government is expected to do. We can do better, we have to do better, for all our children.”

“Let’s recognize that the state of Massachusetts ranks 33rd in terms of what we spend and dedicate to public education, and with that comes the palpability of inequality, the urgency of need, and the understanding that we can’t wait any longer,” added Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), co-lead House sponsor of the bill. “We, as a state, need to do better. For Worcester, this could mean tens of millions of dollars that we are owed to meet our Constitutional responsibility to the students of our state. The time to act is now.”

Dr. Marianela Rivera, a parent from Lawrence and member of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network, said, “Our educational system is inequitable, and it is predominantly affecting poor students of color. It’s about time we stop calling it an achievement gap and address the root source of the problem. It’s time we update the foundation budget formula to ensure that ALL children receive resources and tools they need for a well-rounded education and future filled with endless possibilities.”

“It is the moral imperative of our generation, of our leadership here in Massachusetts, to meet the financial needs of our school districts,” noted Mary Bourque of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. “We must have the courage to not just acknowledge the severe underfunding of public education, but we must have the courage to take action. This bill provides us with a plan to implement the 2015 Foundation Budget Reform Commission’s recommendations. The time is now to reform the foundation formula and thereby support and value public education for the students in our schools today and for those who will be in our schools tomorrow.”

“Talent is distributed evenly in populations, but opportunities are not,” added Tom Hopcroft, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. “The Education PROMISE Act is leading the way in tackling achievement gaps and modernizing the Foundation Budget. It’s an important step towards bringing people off the sidelines and into an economy that needs their skills.”

“Pervasive and persistent racial and ethnic achievement gaps are constant reminders of the impact economic inequality has on our education system,” said Tanisha Sullivan, President of the Boston NAACP. “The lack of resources to meet the educational needs of all of our children directly impacts educational outcomes for low income students and those taking on the challenge of learning English. We have the best educational system in this country, but we need it to be better, and better starts with appropriate, equitable funding.”

A broad array of groups and organizations attended the press conference, including Massachusetts Teachers Association, Boston Teachers Union, Massachusetts Association of School Committees, Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators, Boston NAACP, Massachusetts Mentoring Partnership, Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network, Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials, Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts, Boston Higher Ground, Chelsea Collaborative, Boston Student Advisory Council, Progressive Massachusetts, and TeachPlus Massachusetts.

Find out more details about the bill at http://tinyurl.com/EducationPROMISE

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Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, a former Education Committee chair and a leader on education funding reform, said, “This bill stands as our commitment that, in Massachusetts, zip code must not be destiny.”

"Our session today continues nearly a half-century of work for educational equity. And this bill would not exist without the generations of Bay Staters who tirelessly and passionately kept the cause alive. Who saw the work ahead and never gave up, even when political insiders believed the issue was dead."

Fulfilling the promise of public education as the great equalizer is our next big goal. Bay Staters believe in it. It’s a goal our constitution anchors us to. Now, that collective effort in advocating, crafting policy, and working together has given us a chance to deliver on it.

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Office of State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

MA State House, Rm 111

24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133

(617) 722-1673 | sonia.chang-diaz@masenate.gov