Senate Approves Foundation Budget Reforms

On Thursday May 10, students, parents, and teachers filled the State House as the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to pass a key education reform bill to update the state’s 25-year-old funding formula.

The bill, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century (S.2506), was introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and was co-sponsored by 36 senators. The bill would implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) which found that the foundation budget formula is drastically underestimating education costs. This has forced deep cuts to classrooms and critical programs, and one of the worst achievement gaps in the nation.

Today the Senate went on record that we need to do more to support K-12 education in the Commonwealth and that we have a plan to do it. Public schools on the Cape & Islands haven’t received their fair share of state resources. Today’s action is a promise to voters that if they pass the Fair Share Amendment at the ballot this November, we are committed to using those new dollars to fully fund K-12 education.

“In Massachusetts we strive for a fair and equal education system, not as an ideal, but as a reality,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This is an immensely important bill for our schools, large and small. I want to commend Senator Chang-Diaz for her commitment, dedication, and hard work on this legislation.”

“With the unanimous passage of the commission’s recommendations, the Senate is doing its part to make good on our obligation to every child in Massachusetts,” said Sen. Chang-Díaz, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “For years now, our schools have been suffering death by a thousand paper cuts, and it’s long past time we right this wrong. Schools and families shouldn’t have to lawyer up to get a quality education for their children.”

“For far too long school districts and students in our state have lived with the daily consequences of a foundation budget formula that woefully under-funds the actual costs of a kindergarten through high school education,” said Senator Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). “We must take decisive action to close and eliminate that gap, and this bill creates a mechanism to do that.”

“Thank you to Senator Chang-Diaz and all those who worked to shape this important education reform bill,” said Senator Michael D. Brady (D-Brockton), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Revenue. “It is important that we continue to strive to be the number one educational program in the country and that we invest in our children’s education and our children’s future. Schools throughout the Commonwealth, like Brockton, will benefit for years to come from this educational reform. Thank you again to all those who worked tirelessly to make this happen.”

The vote follows months of advocacy by education stakeholders across Massachusetts. More than 50 school committees across the state have passed resolutions supporting the reforms, and Brockton Public Schools announced earlier this year that they are preparing to sue the Commonwealth for failing in its constitutional obligation to properly fulfill its obligations to funding.

“The Senate’s initiative will be welcomed by school committee members and education stakeholders,” said Beverly Hugo, MASC President, Framingham School Committee. “It sets us on the right path to get the full and adequate funding that we’ve been seeking, over a reasonable period of time.”

“While Senate Bill 2506 represents a seven-year fix to the Foundation Budget for school districts across our State it also represents far more,” said Mary Bourque, Superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools. “Senate Bill 2506 more importantly represents who we are as a Commonwealth and what we stand for and what we value. The passage of this bill says that children and their education, children and the opportunities we can provide, children and their future are important to us; we prioritize our children and their education. Senate Bill 2506 is about defining and supporting the future of our Commonwealth; but most of all, passage of Senate Bill 2506 is simply the right thing to do!”

“We are incredibly supportive of the FBRC bill, and have worked to advocate for the bill to equitably fund education,” said a statement from March for Our Lives Boston, the youth-led organization seeking gun reform in Massachusetts and across the country. “We recognize and condemn the ways in which educational funding in Massachusetts supports wealthy communities while leaving behind low-income communities and communities of color. Education is integral in the fight for justice and safety in our streets and in our schools. We must fund education equitably so that future generations of students can learn how to raise their voices and create change in their communities.”

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.

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