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MASC members from across Massachusetts were among those who packed the State House hearing room on July 25 to provide testimony on Senate Bill 223, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century. Joining students, parents, teachers, superintendents, and civic allies, they gave voice to the urgent need for education funding reform.
Josh Amaral of the New Bedford School Committee offered himself as an example, testifying, “I come before you today as walking proof of the effectiveness of McDuffy which was heard the year I was born and implemented by the time I was in kindergarten. I’m a proud New Bedford Public School alum, K through 12, who was afforded a top rate education in a city like New Bedford…My fear is that…we are being stretched too thin, and will reach an untenable situation in which students in urban centers may not be offered the same opportunities I was offered, or that their peers in other communities are offered.”
Jack Foley of the Worcester School Committee echoed this concern, commenting, “The challenge faced by Worcester and all urban districts is in order to fund these budget items without adequate funding from the state, we then need to take resources form other places in the budget. These reductions result in fewer teachers, guidance counselors, and adjustment counselors in the schools; larger class sizes; less money for technology, building repairs, and instructional materials; and cuts in professional development.”
MASC President-elect Beverly Hugo of the Framingham School Committee shared her community’s need for support, saying, “We see stress, anxiety, depression, and at-risk behaviors that require interventions that we are having trouble funding…We rely on the Foundation Budget to support our diverse range and high needs of our students ad we implore our legislators to update the formula with a reasonable and rational response. How we take care of our vulnerable population, our children, our next generation, is a reflection of our values.”
Past MASC President Jake Oliveira of the Ludlow School Committee gave a broader view, testifying, “National context in this school funding discussion is important. With the federal government continuing to explore cuts to Title II and other programs that have a direct impact on school districts, coupled with possible Medicaid cuts to cities and towns, we need state leadership and state funding now more than ever…No legislation, coupled with funding, would do more to dramatically support K-12 education by closing funding disparities than Senate Bill 223.”
Brendan Walsh of the Salem School Committee pointed to the difficult position this places local committees in, testifying, “Salem will be devastated by the proposed federal cuts, particularly to Title I and Title II. If the Foundation Budget Commission’s findings are not implemented, we face financial, and resulting educational, disaster…Salem will not abandon our children, so the money is going to have to come from somewhere. This Committee and this Legislature cannot simply tell us to ‘figure it out.’”
Ellen Holmes of the Ashburnham-Westminster School Committee said, “We will continue to affirm we will not play off one group of children against another. All children are being shortchanged because students with disabilities are being undercounted…The value to improve our future begins with quality public education.”
Katherine Yon, chair of the Pittsfield School Committee, spoke of her community’s experience, saying, “Pittsfield…is keenly aware that our economic future can only be secured by a high quality educational system. We have funded our schools at approximately 16% over foundation. But we have hit our level ceiling.” While Pittsfield has created rich partnerships with community organizations, “these partnerships cannot fill all the gaps. This is why the Chapter 70 formula needs adjustment. 1993 is a far cry from 2017…Securing the future of our young people secures the future for all of us.”
Speaking of the urgency of the need, MASC President Patrick Murphy, member of the Barnstable School Committee, testified, “We need to do this, and we need to do this now. As you’ve seen today, we have a board political coalition o ready to support you in getting this done. Our children cannot afford to wait.”
The Joint Committee welcomes further written testimony. It can be submitted to the chairs of the Committee, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (Sonia.Chang-Diaz@masenate.gov) and Representative Alice Peisch (Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov), referencing Senate Bill 223.