BOSTON - A compromise reached earlier this week between the Massachusetts State House and the Senate on the 2020 state fiscal budget may result in a significant increase in state public school funding.
The revised $431 billion budget allocates a 5.5 percent increase in state aid to local schools, resulting in a proposed $269.4 million in additional funding to the current budget of $4.9 billion Massachusetts schools are currently receiving. The proposed additional aid is sorely needed, teachers’ associations argue, particularly in economically disadvantaged communities.
"We have curriculum that needs to be updated, books that are falling apart, desks that are defaced or disgusting," Beth Kontos of the Massachusetts branch of the American Federation of Teachers told WBUR earlier this week. "I don't want it to be on our teachers to buy the books they need with a GoFundMe." Kontos called the increase “a significant down payment towards the equitable pre-K-12 school funding that students across Massachusetts so desperately need.”
Kontos’ statement comes after the Massachusetts Department of Education released financial data for 2019, revealing a substantial disparity in education spending between districts. The state average cost spent per student was slightly more than $15,000; of which, well over half comes from required local spending or supplementary local sources. A 2015 foundation budget review from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees previously found the state was disproportionately underfunding schools in low income communities, with some estimates indicating the gap could be as wide as $2 billion annually.
Among the provisions outlined in the 2020 budget include additional spending for special education resources, meal programs and annual incentives to districts for low income students enrolled.
The proposed budget increase is not the first action for school reform suggested by state lawmakers. Earlier this year Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), with backing from Mayor Marty Walsh, introduced the PROMISE Act designed to modernize low-income funding and curriculum and prevent districtwide inequity. According to projections from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the PROMISE Act would result in an additional $1.4 billion in aid to state schools by 2026.
The budget passed the House unanimously 158-0, with a Senate vote of 39-1. It awaits final approval from Governor Charlie Baker, who has the right to veto individual line items.