An Act to Revive the Foundation Budget Review Commission

Summary

Reconstitutes the Foundation Budget Review Commission, first established in the Education  Reform Act of 1993, to ensure that the foundation budget is reviewed at least once every 4 years and, if necessary, updated. The bill requires a review of the foundation budget and puts the Legislature in control of the process and outcome. The Commission is chaired by the Education Committee Co-Chairs.  As drafted, the Commission is required to complete its work by December 31, 2013.The charge of the Commission is to determine the educational programs and services necessary to achieve the commonwealth’s educational goals, as well as to determine how resources can be used in the most effective manner.

Co-Sponsors

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz

Representative Alice Peisch

Background

Two decades have passed since the Education Reform Act became law in 1993; over $4 billion in Chapter 70 state aid now goes to cities, towns and regional school districts every year. Yet, there has never been a systematic analysis of whether the schools have sufficient resources to enable students to meet state standards as embodied in the curriculum frameworks. The foundation budget, i.e., the amount set by the Chapter 70 formula that each school district needs to spend to provide an adequate education to its students, has not been updated in any significant way since it was first developed over 20 years ago. The foundation budget was calculated before the content standards of the Education Reform Act were established.  Today, every student is required to meet state education standards in order to graduate from high school, despite our schools still being required to be funded only at pre-framework levels.

Current Status

Joint Committee on Education held a hearing for October 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM in A-1

Testimony:

Rep. Gordon, Kenneth (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
The children on the base attend schools in Lincoln and then come into Bedford High School to be educated. There are 130 students that live on the base. This is an issue because those who live on the base do not pay real estate taxes, and Bedford has to pay. The cost is $14,000 per student. Ch. 70 funding only allows for 70% of funding. In 1959, the federal government said it would contribute to the cost of the construction of Bedford in exchange for educating the students. Cost of students has not kept up with the percentage of funding from the federal government. The funding is now at about 10%. Bedford received some assistance through pothole funding. Bedford has received some assistance from the state but it has not been consistent. Hanscom benefits the region it is an economic engine that drives the region. Line item 7061-0033 - funds 1.3 million which Bedford splits with Bourne. Testifying to codify this, make the budget line item more predictable not based on the budget.
Jon Sills Superintendent
Bedford Public Schools
We are committed to educating the kids from Hanscom, as this provides a diverse community. Bedford has been subsidizing this for over 58 years. This presents unique challenges, for example parents who are on active duty or overseas. Also, students who are members of transit families, they come in the middle of the year and stay for only 1-2 years. This present challenges socially and academically. MCAS are 45% lower than the Bedford educated schools and 9 times the failures. Bedford needs additional resources for these students. The Bedford school system has hired guidance counselors and MCAS tutors to address the social and academic problems. In fiscal year 13, the school system spent $151,000 to send 8 students from Billerica to Shawshank tech. 1.1 million are the necessary funds to educate the students from Hanscom. There was fiscal year 13 shortfall of $1 million. There are only 2,400 students, so the students from Hanscom make up a large portion of the student population. Rep. Roy: What is the total per pupil from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education? Superintendent Sills: From Ch. 70A, it is about 10-13% expanded, which is in the upper $100,00 to $200,00 total per year. This is about $14,000 total per pupil expenditure.
Sgt. Gonzalez  
As a parent, the schooling in Bedford is wonderful and accommodating. My son graduated and is in college, and my daughter is in advanced placement classes at the high school. I can vouch for the contributions that the high school has for federal employees and retirees.
Sen. Barrett, Michael (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
My district is generally wealthy. Hansom has contributed to a regionally diverse population. Bedford has the highest rate of minority and Latino and Hispanic kids. The payroll represents a regional contribution as well. We have 8,200 kids and $550 million dollars. 5.6 billion dollars in research and development contracts. The entire district lives on the economic engine of Hanscom, but the school is based off of local property tax. One town has to bear the full cost. Military looks to local states and asks who supports when the military budget has to be reduced? We must fight to keep this base open. Since the economic contribution is regional, the state and the region should help us educate the children. I think the Department of Defense will be impressed in the BRAC process if the state steps forward in this. Diversity is at stake, and economic vitality.
Rep. Garry, Colleen (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
I know that there are limited funds. Charter and vocational schools get their money, and the public schools get what is left over. My community does well with Ch. 70, but it is not enough. This results in increased sports, bus, extracurricular fees in public schools. Funding is being drained from public schools, which results in a brain drain. It is devastating what traditional public school has become. Music and art is only offered every other week and being taught by paraprofessionals. Music is being cut out because people aren't paying the fees for students to take music. We went to a 2.9 override and failed. Do not have much commercial base in this area (Dracut). The vocational schools have the ability to provide Ipads and tablets while the public school has such a low bandwidth that the administration cannot get online. I am concerned about the money that is being drained away. Why should vocational schools get a 5% increase, while the public schools get 1%? I understand that vocational schools cost more to educate but the % increase each year should be equal. The area that I represent is 22% low income, and there is a very limited mixed population, so it doesnâ??t qualify for a lot of extras. They are all our kids and we should be in it together. We need to help the â??what's left overâ?? communities.
Tim Sullivan Vice-president
Massachusetts Teachers Association
20 years have passed since the education reform act. We are long overdue for analysis for whether school funding in Massachusetts is adequate and effectively meets the needs of the students. Massachusetts completed a study in 1993. Over 50 studies have been completed since 1993. Despite a state for regular review, the foundation budget has never been updated in a systematic manner. 2007 Readiness Plan by Governor Patrick, a long-term financial subcommittee report, recommended a study on the level of resources for all children. These bills ask a commission to review the foundation budget every two years and put the legislature in control of the process and the outcome. The goal will be a Common Core standard and the best use of resources, examining specific issues and ways to reduce cost. There is no appropriation required.
Steve Finnegan Massachusetts Association of Schools Committees
The commission has been in law for over 20 years. It was two years in the statute; it will be four if the bill is passed. It will focus on special education and assumed amount for those programs. The last report was in 2001. I think this is because this is when the Hancock case was heard before the Supreme Court. They were in the middle of litigation and they stopped working on the reports. The commission is evenly split 10/10 between government support and association appointees. Without reasonable progress, there wonâ??t be unanimity.
Rep. Lewis, Jason (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
In 1993, Massachusetts led the nation in how we think about funding the public schools, making sure every child has access to a public education. This budget is the foundation of the whole structure, but as we know things change. Schools and their dynamics have changed. Back in 1993, we hardly knew about Autism, and there was no understanding of the internet, or how to provide a good education, especially in underprivileged children for example extending the school day. Also, there was no idea that the cost of health care would explode. The assumptions that underlie the foundation budget have not kept up with the times. I did not refile the adequacy study legislation because I feel this legislation is the right way to move forward. This legislation has an understanding of what needs to change in the budget and can move forward from there.
Rep. Kaufman, Jay (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
I echo his statements.
Rep. Chan, Tackey (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
I would like to remind the committee of the large number of students who do not have English as their first language.
Luc Schuster Deputy Director
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
A commission would do several kinds of research. We have had major findings in recent years. 20 years ago the state made an important commitment that regardless of the property values there would be a fair baseline for students. 1993-02 saw a doubling in state aid. There was a great progress in the 90's, but this has eroded since 2002. Adjusting for inflation, the budget held up in the first decade. In the second decade, there has been decreased state aid by 600 million. Employee health insurance is understated by 1 billion. Special Education is understated by 665 mil and outplaced services for special education students who cannot stay in the public school is understated by 500 million. This is 2.2 billion in understatement in total. This can be accounted by national changed and the inflation factor. But if you factor in actual costs, there is very little local school districts can do to cover these insurance and benefits, and also special education where they have a legal mandate to meet. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of special education students. This results in cuts in regular education teachers. The least wealthy 20% are spending 1/3 below adequacy, resulting in larger classes and fewer prep periods for teachers. The middle is also spending well below foundation budget. Only in the wealthiest communities in the state are they able to meet the foundation budget. Questions: Sen. Chang-Diaz: Is this the official position of Mass Budget? Schuster: No, testifying with information that the committee might look into. Rep. Roy: Is there any more information about the 3rd slide, or is that information coming directly from the Cutting Class study? Schuster: It comes directly from the Cutting Class study, with some updates for health care costs.
Dave Ritolino Assistant Superintendent
Medway Public Schools
We have needed to address this issue since 2006. In 208, there were position papers advocating for changes. The formula is almost 25 years old, it is not appropriate anymore. Technology is not accounted for, nor energy cots or health insurance. The great recession has stopped our momentum. The formula is outdated and illogical. Some schools spend 115-120% of their budget. The formula shortchanges students because teachers are squeezed and lower income districts who canâ??t afford to pay the difference. There is a widening economic gap in the economy and in Massachusetts, and this gap cannot be closed because the gap is mirrored in how education is delivered.
Titus DosRemedios Direct of Research and Policy
Strategies for Children
We work to ensure kids have access to quality education and are proficient readers by 3rd grade. Massachusetts is lauded for education achievement, but we have a crisis. 43% of 3rd graders are below proficient in reading, 68% of kids in Boston, 73% in Brockton and 83% in Holyoke. Low early reading skills are a key indicator of future success. It is a persistent gap. 3/4 of kids who struggle with reading will continue to struggle in school and will not graduate. We won't close this gap without more resources for early learning. We need to apply a new research to the current system. Several intersecting studies show the importance of early education. Investing in early education yields a 10-16% return. The budget policy remains silent on this issue. The achievement gap is persistent and we are not making progress, we need to follow the research. Obama proposed preschool for all and in 2003 early education was in the adequacy lawsuit. The Supreme Court said we are not meeting our goals for education reforms. We need to keep up with the times. Rep. Roy: Do you have an updated version of Cutting Class? Titus DosRemedios: Yes, I can send it to you.
Sen. Keenan, John (D) State Representative
MA House of Representatives
The language in the bill details what the commission will review. All of them are things that have changed dramatically since the 1990's. It's timely and overdue. I support this bill.
Marilyn Segel  
The formula being used is outdated. The two line items that are the most important are health insurance and special education. The education reform act did not intent to pit special needs parents against regular kids, but this is what ended up happening in communities. In 1993, no one thought about computers as necessary items for children. These expenses are taken off the top; they are taken out of the classroom. This results in larger class sizes, less planning an meeting time for teachers during the day. The achievement gap is also an opportunity gap. The low income students are the ones not getting direction because of a redirection of funds. We have made progress, but out work is not done.
Lisa Zimmerman Retired Principal
This bill is not just about adequacy but efficiency. I want to stress the importance of the line item for technology. When the foundation budget was released, there was no mention of technology. When you buy tablets in bulk it is inexpensive, but it is something that needs to be in the budget. It is not just a toy, but a tool for learning. It is a necessary life skill for children to learn at an early age.
Julie Brazil Child Endeavor
Arlington has a dense population with a mostly residential tax base. There have been overrides and services cut because the amount of money raised by property taxes are not enough. There is high athletic fees and buss fees among others and we have t chose between hiring administration staff or teaching staff.
Jim Stockless Stand for Children Massachusetts
In Framingham from 2011 to 2012 the poverty index in schools went from 33% to 40%. One third of the students speak English as a second language. Expenses and needs have increased dramatically and revenues have not kept up. This results in damaging cuts to schools.
Ranjini Govender Government Affairs Director
Stand for Children Massachusetts
This legislation has an effect on diverse towns. It is a common sense approach to ensure states resources are used in the most effective manner.
Neil Clark Teacher
Town of Mansfield
Today, the average child has the same anxiety as a psych patient in the 1950s. The top ten in demand jobs today did not exist in 2004. Need to teach students to be prepared for problems that are not problems yet, technology that is not technology yet and jobs that arenâ??t created yet. Children today are 40% more desensitized to violence. The pace of technology is changing. It is important to be resilient to change, not resistant.
Julie Faro Board of Selectman
Town of Templeton
The municipality is affected by cuts. In June 2013, the town chose the nuclear option to fund their budget. The budget cut $551,000 from the Templeton budget, from the operating budget. This override failed.

 

How Does Chapter 70 Funding Work? (From Mass Budget and Policy Center) 

Chapter 70 education aid is the Commonwealth’s primary program for distributing its portion of K-12 public education funding to the state’s 328 local and regional school districts. 1 The Chapter 70 formula aims to ensure that each school district has sufficient resources to provide an adequate education for all of its students, taking into account the ability of each local government to contribute. In short, the formula is designed to have an equalizing effect, with less wealthy districts receiving more state aid than wealthier ones.  Calculating the funding requires four steps:

STEP1: CALCULATE FOUNDATION BUDGET

The Massachusetts State Constitution requires that total K-12 spending in each district never falls below the amount needed to provide an adequate education to its students. Lawmakers developed the “foundation budget” as a way to calculate this funding level. A district’s foundation budget is determined by multiplying the number of students at each grade level and demographic group (e.g., low-income and limited English proficiency students) by a set of education spending categories (e.g., teacher compensation, professional development, building maintenance), and then adding together those total dollar amounts.

STEP2: CALCULATE REQUIRED LOCAL CONTRIBUTION

Once the total foundation budget is established, the state calculates each city and town’s ability to contribute local revenue towards the operation of its schools. Local ability to contribute varies widely based upon the incomes and property values of different cities and towns. The state expects that each municipality can contribute the same share of local resources to the foundation budget by setting uniform contribution rates. In FY 2011, for example, local contributions were determined by adding 0.3 percent of each town’s total property values to 1.4 percent of the income earned by residents of the town.  The required local contribution is basically a measure of how much local tax revenue a city or town can reasonably raise and dedicate to the operation of its schools.

STEP3: FILL THE GAP WITH CHAPTER 70EDUCATION AID

Chapter 70 education aid is then determined by filling the gap between a district’s required local contribution and its foundation budget. Calculating state aid from the difference between steps 1 and 2 ensures that every district can fund the total baseline education determined appropriate by the foundation budget.

STEP4: AFTER CHAPTER 70AID IS DETERMINED,DISTRICTS MAY CONTRIBUTE MORE

The required local contribution is only a minimum amount that cities and towns must contribute to their school districts, and many wealthier communities opt to contribute significantly more. For this reason, the Chapter 70 formula provides a baseline school budget, but it does not ensure equitable total funding across the state.

Read more about how Chapter 70 funding formula creates inequities across the state.

Check out your own town where it stands.

 

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