BOSTON, MA — With a crowd so large that left the State House’s largest hearing room, the Gardner Auditorium, packed and several hundred advocates lined up outside the room waiting to enter, Representative Robertson joined many of his colleagues in testifying to the Committee on Education on a slew of bills aimed at changing education funding dispersion across the state. Also in the crowd were a number of superintendents (including Tewksbury’s Chris Malone), Governor Charlie Baker, and Patriots players Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, Matt Slater and Duron Harmon, all who testified on their vision of an updated formula for state aide to elementary, middle, and high schools.
“What is key to understand is that the state has asked more and more from our schools, which most have delivered,” said Representative Robertson. “The workloads of our school systems have grown since the last time methods of funding were examined and chosen twenty five years ago. We now have greater special needs programming available to students who need it, more specialized classes available to students, and a broader spectrum of Advanced Placement classes than even ten years ago, let alone twenty-five. What the state hasn’t done is kept up its end in allocating funding toward while the mission of our schools has steadily broadened, resulting in a greater local burden.”
There are several different bills which set forth proposals to support local education funding levels. Governor Baker’s proposal seeks use the yearly budget to implement changes, including allocating $200 million dollars in the first year with increased funding over a seven year period. The first year would place $130 million towards mitigating inflation, contribute $30 million to cover rising healthcare costs, and approximately $5 million towards reducing special needs spending by local municipalities. The most popular alternative proposal, known as the PROMISE Act (not to be confused with the federal Youth PROMISE Act), seeks to address education shortfalls by changing formula calculations to better reflect the costs of resource-intense student population subsets. Such examples of changes to the formula include the increase of assumed students on special education plans to 16% of the student population, lowering the threshold for state reimbursement of these services to towns, and addressing the costs associated with homeless students. In addition the PROMISE Act adjusts the portion of the state formula that considers wage and healthcare cost, as current reports suggest that Massachusetts underestimates such costs by over 50%.
“Education is one of the three largest factors in achieving self-sufficiency and independence. I believe that the states commitment to redeveloping the formula is not just a win in the short term for local residents, but also in the long run, as a well-educated population is self-sustaining,” concluded Representative Robertson after the hearing. “I will continue to push for greater relief from the state for Tewksbury and Wilmington, because after all if our next generation isn’t better off than we are there is a serious problem to be had.”
(NOTE: The above press release is from State Rep. Dave Robertson’s Office.)
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