The S.211 legislation I blogged about on Friday is not the only attempt to give additional local aid funding to the wealthiest towns. There was also an attempt to do this in the initial FY14 budget proposal, released by Governor Patrick on January 22, 2013.
Sen. Will Brownsberger wrote about this proposal on his own blog, expressing joy that an additional $631K in Chapter 70 would go to Belmont (11% increase) and $1643K to Watertown (a 49% increase). Both are towns in his district. That budget never came to fruition, but if it did $104 million had been allocated to give the 76 wealthiest towns in MA an increase of 10% or more in Chapter 70 aid. A large number of struggling towns that did not meet the same criteria used in S.211 received small increases of 1% or less. These include East Bridgewater, Maynard, Peabody, Marshfield, Westford, Tewksbury, Hull, Somerville, Weymouth, Orange, Billerica, and North Reading.
To her credit, Karen Spilka saw a problem with this. Her campaign manager responded to my previous post that this move would “direct money to communities that have previously received the smallest amount of state aid regardless of whether their need is greatest.” As the rich towns continue to get richer and outlying communities on or outside Rt. 495 continue to get poorer, I believe it makes sense to revisit the 2007 promise of more Chapter 70 money for the towns who need it least. I hope that Mr. Brownsberger can at least see that, but unfortunately, his public position on this issue is just as bad as Clark’s.
I could have supported many of the Governor’s tax increases (not a popular position in Dracut) but when I actually saw where the education money was going, it made it impossible to try to sell the Patrick budget to anyone in the Merrimack valley. (Except perhaps in Andover which was initially slated to receive a $2.2 million increase.) This is a fundamental issue for me, a deal breaker. It is going to be difficult for liberals to gain majority support for our economic agenda if middle class communities are not the primary beneficiaries of what government does.
Again, here is the same list of the 11 wealthiest school districts in the 5th CD, with Weston getting the least chapter 70 aid. I am from a town that the DESE said only provided $9,056 in net school spending dollars per student in FY13 and was less than 1% over foundation budget. The state has a Constitutional obligation to provide adequate education. Should Cambridge and Weston get the largest Chapter 70 funding increases (the Clark/Brownsberger view) or should some of that money be directed to towns like Lowell, Haverhill, Weymouth, Brockton, Lawrence, East Bridgewater, and Fall River that have trouble meeting the state’s Net School Spending requirement?
Net School Spending, per student
Weston – $17,831 (85% over foundation)
Cambridge – $25,594 (105% over foundation)
Lincoln – $19,391 (103% over foundation)
Lexington – $15,757 (64% over foundation0
Wayland – $14,793 (53% over foundation)
Watertown – $14,933 (34% over foundation)
Waltham – 17,562 (54% over foundaton)
Sherborn – $18,246 (70% over foundation including Dover-Sherborn)
Woburn – $12,689 (39% over foundation)
Stoneham – $11,685 (21% over foundation)
Belmont – $11,133 (21% over foundation)
Winchester – $11,694 (31% over foundation)
All Data from FY14 School District Profiles spreadsheet, from DESE: