Troubling provisions included in governor’s education plan

 The Massachusetts Teachers Association and its allies have been arguing for years that public education, from prekindergarten through higher education, is deeply underfunded. We are glad that Governor Charlie Baker is finally responding to the advocacy of educators, parents and local education officials across the state and has agreed to update the school funding formula.

His school funding plan is a small step in the right direction.

However, the governor’s school funding proposal falls far short of what is needed, takes too long to implement, and — through his accompanying education bill — gives the state new weapons with which to force districts to implement changes against the wishes of the community. In addition, his budget proposal makes only insufficient one-time investments in public higher education funding.

The governor has said that his plan would, over seven years, increase state and local foundation budget spending by $1.1 billion. Rather than approve the governor’s plan or a different bill released by members of the House last week, we are urging the Legislature to enact the Promise Act, which would update the foundation budget formula and substantially increase state aid to public schools. If it were fully implemented this year, the state increase would be $1.3 billion.

We also support the Cherish Act, which would increase funding for public higher education by more than $500 million a year once fully implemented. That would restore funding to the level achieved in fiscal year 2001 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

We are deeply troubled by provisions in his education bill that would allow the commissioner of education to withhold funds from a high-need district that the state deems has not made sufficient progress. This appears to be a lever the state could use to demand that districts implement the detrimental policies — perhaps even privatization schemes — that officials such as Education Secretary Jim Peyser have long supported. These could include forcing districts to accept new charter school seats or establishing takeover zones, rather than implementing changes that educators and parents in the district believe are needed.

To keep the promise made by the founders of our state, we urge the Legislature to take the bold step of fully funding our public schools and restoring funding for public higher education to the levels achieved nearly two decades ago. This increased funding should not come with increased bureaucratic red tape and mandates from the state, but instead should respect the wisdom and ability of the educators, residents, and elected officials in our local communities to institute the improvements they know are needed.

The Fund Our Future campaign was formed in 2018 and has been endorsed by the MTA and the following organizations: American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, Citizens for Public Schools, FairTest, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, NAACP New England Area Conference, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts and SEIU Local 888.

For more information on the Promise Act and the Cherish Act, go here.

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