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State Sen. Kennedy to Discuss Reforming Criteria for State Aid to Schools at SC Meeting

2015 Study Found Formula for State Aid For Education Underestimates Costs by $1 to $2 Billion Annually

by Robert Stewart

   State Senator Edward Kennedy, who represents Groton in the First Middlesex District, will be attending the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee meeting on March 6 to discuss the new Senate Bill aimed at reforming the criteria the state uses in disbursing education funds to cities and town in Massachusetts. The Bill entitled ‘The Education Promise Act’ is the latest attempt by the State Senate to rework the complicated formula by which state aid is distributed to local school districts. Kennedy, who is in his first term as State Senator, is expected to speak about the bill at the School Committee meeting.

   The Education Promise Act comes out of the ashes of last year’s effort to change and reform the state aid formula which fell apart when no consensus was reached on some of the issues surrounding increases in state aid for education. The new Bill implements some of the findings in a 2015 study which found that the current formula for distributing state aid to local school districts underestimated education costs in the state by $1 to $2 billion annually. The study found that the current state aid formula inadequately accounts for expenses like health insurance, special education costs, and teaching low-income students.

   The Education Promise Act proposes significant increases in state aid to local school districts and a reworked foundation budget formula which better accounts for expenses like health care, special education and teaching low income students. The current formula places emphasis on a school district’s ability to pay (property values) which places Boston’s strapped public schools in the same category with suburban districts like Concord-Carlisle.

   However, the proposal simply to increase state aid funding and rework the state aid formula is not without controversy. Some legislators and Governor Baker want some accountability factor to accompany an increase in state aid. The accountability factor would be aimed at signs of improvement in underperforming schools. While those issues remain problematic for the proposed bill, a reconfigured foundation budget formula could benefit the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District.

   Early in the New Year, the School Committee adopted a Resolution that urged support of an increase in state aid and a reformed foundation budget formula which better accounts for expenses that impact a school district’s budget. The Resolution states that the state’s foundation budget 

formula underfunded schools in Massachusetts by more than $1 billion a year and that the formula underestimated education costs of Special Education, health insurance and Charter tuitions. The Resolution further states that an updated foundation budget formula could bring the Groton-Dunstable School District an additional $563,000 in state aid. The Resolution urges the state legislature to approve and fully fund a new foundation budget formula by May 1. Groton’s Select Board has also signed the School District’s Resolution.

   School Committee Chair Marlena Gilbert is looking forward to the meeting on March 6 and to discussing what the new bill means for the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. “The GDRSC strongly supports an increase of state funding in our district for the various reasons outlined in our Resolution. We look forward to meeting Senator Kennedy and discussing this with him on March 6.”

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