Pass Foundation Budget Reforms

Apr 10, 2017

State legislators and education leaders from across the Commonwealth gathered at the State House today to name Foundation Budget reforms as their top priority. A diverse array of groups was in attendance, uniting teachers, superintendents, school committees, students, parents, and researchers from the heart of Boston to the outskirts of Western Massachusetts behind the legislation.

Speakers pushed for S.223, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century, introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), which would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) to update the state’s 24-year-old education funding formula.

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 underestimated what it actually takes to educate English Language Learner and low-income students to proficiency levels. 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 green space.

Education leaders and legislators urged the importance of updating the Foundation Budget and called upon the state legislature to make good on Massachusetts’ promise of quality education for all students.

“The 1993 Education Reform Act set a radical and sensible goal: to ensure quality education for all children, regardless of zip code,” said Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, Education Committee Chair and sponsor of S.223. “The Foundation Budget has served Massachusetts – our children, our families, our economy – incredibly well over its first 15-20 years. But it’s no longer working for the demands of the 21st century. For several years now, our schools have been suffering from death by a thousand paper cuts, and it’s long past time we right this wrong.”

Patrick Murphy, President of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, noted, “This bill has substance and follows through on the blue print that targets badly needed financial support to where it is needed most and makes significant adjustments to key areas of expense that have been understated since the original formula was created 23 years ago. We’ve been dealing with mandates, regulations, and new challenges to serve students. The pressure on educators is enormous. Adequate financing of an equitably distributed source of revenue is key.”

“It’s time to move beyond divisive politics that pit parents against each other,” added Julia Mejia, Executive Director of the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network. “We need smart, equitable solutions, not more Band-Aids that continue to shortchange our students.”

Paul Reville, Former Massachusetts Secretary of Education, provided context for the measure, “This bill delivers on the 1993 resource commitment to provide every district adequate resources to implement the strategies necessary to close persistent achievement gaps. We cannot continue to expect schools to achieve nation-leading levels of performance if we fail to provide the basic resources necessary to get the job done.”

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