WBUR has reported that the State Senate unanimously advanced the Ed Bill back to the House, where it is fully supported by Speaker DeLeo and a majority of members. This bill fixes the Ch. 70 funding formula by adding $1.4 billion to districts that were chronically underfunded by the previous formula. This fix would drastically help close the achievement gap between high and low income districts, an equity gap that also falls along rural/urban/suburban divides and racial divides.
The only holdout so far is Governor Baker, who initially favored a much smaller $500 million package. Unfortunately some of his allies in the charter movement, Pioneer, and the Mass Business Alliance are now crying foul over the removal of so called ‘accountability’ measures by Sen. Pat Jehlen. This is spin for two reasons. First, it is important to note that her amendment was approved by the majority of the Senate and that the final bill including this amendment had unanimous bipartisan support.
Second, I teach in an urban district north of Boston with a high population of special needs and English Language Learners. My building is overcrowded by about 1,000 students. We are chronically short on substitutes, paraprofessionals, bilingual staff, and the kind of state of the art STEM and library facilities other schools have.
We do a lot with a little, the Globe even cited my district for the “most bang for the buck” approach we take to funding. The city was even able to send 20 students to China last year for a Model G20 Summit on Climate Change. Yet this influx of new money would make a huge immediate difference on the ground.
Sen. Jehlen’s amendment removes onerous and arbitrary state mandates, the same kind of flawed top down approach to funding that got us into this mess in the first place. This is not no strings attached money-it is money that will come with conditions that are best determined by local school committees and the citizens who elect them. Local schools democratically accountable to local voters, not top down underfunded mandates from unaccountable administrators. It’s an amendment written by someone with over three decades in education as a teacher, school committee member, and now state law maker. I trust her-not the privatization experts that Pioneer hires.
I hope Gov Baker does the right thing and trusts the teachers. We all want to do our jobs, but we need more resources to do them. State resources that local communities should have the final say on allocating.