Beacon Hill did a good thing yesterday.
The legislation, known as the Student Opportunity Act, was announced Thursday and is intended to reshape the formula the state uses to fund schools.
The main focus of the bill is to provide districts with high percentages of low income students and English language learners with more funding and state resources.
“I think it’s fair to say that if this bill passes into law we will have the strongest and most progressive education funding system in terms of how we reflect the needs of low income students,” said state Sen. Jason Lewis, one of the chairs of the Joint Committee on Education
The bill still has to clear the full Senate and the House, but it has the blessing of Senate President Karen Spilka and Speaker Robert DeLeo, who both deserve credit for giving their members on the Joint Committee the freedom and flexibility to craft a solution with strong input from the boots on the ground. Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Alice Peisch also deserve credit for listening to their critics and changing their bill to reflect the real priorities of high need, resource strapped districts like mine. Lastly, Sonia Chang Diaz for being our drum major on the inside of the Hill and Merrie Najimy and Jessica Tang and the entire Red for Ed/Fund our Future campaign for banging outside the walls to get this passed. I door knocked all summer for this bill, and I am so happy to see it pass its first test.
Union approved, DeLeo approved, the ball is now squarely in Charlie Bakers court and the state reps and state senators still on the fence.
“It really appears as if it’s targeting giving the right amount of money to our highest-needs students,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
The Boston Teachers Union shared similar thoughts.
“We applaud the Legislature for hearing and responding to the overwhelming number of voices across the state calling for updates to the statewide funding formula,” said BTU President Jessica Tang
This means my district gets $3.5 million extra dollars this year and even more next year. It means that the formula will now take into account English Language Learners ineligible for free and reduced lunch, it will define ‘high need’ to 185% of the poverty line covering far more kids, and it will bring in more support for special needs students. Additionally, it will recognize that health care costs and social emotional learning needs have drastically gone up since 1994.
I am a frequent critic of Beacon Hill inertia, but this is a win, and I praise DeLeo, Spilka, and my union for making it happen. Now its time for the next phase of the fight.