Public Education Coalition Seeks $1.5 Billion in MA State Budget
BOSTON – At a rally at the State House this week, a coalition announced its plans for new legislation to ensure more funding for public schools and colleges.
The Fund Our Future coalition says schools have been under-funded for years, and wants the Massachusetts Legislature to increase the public education budget by $1.5 billion.
Zac Bears is executive director of PHENOM, the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, a coalition member. He says people from a variety of backgrounds came to the State House on Tuesday.
“We had a packed room at the State House and we had strong speakers – K-12 students, higher-ed students, teachers, parents, community leaders – all saying the same thing: that we need to fund our future, and we need to do it now,” Bears states.
The $1.5 billion amount is based on recommendations of two state commissions in 2014 and 2015, suggesting even more than that is needed for K-through-12 and higher education.
Coalition members say if the Fair Share Amendment, or millionaire’s tax, had been on the November ballot and had passed, it likely would have made up for the funding shortfall.
The coalition’s goal is to get a funding bill passed this spring, before the state budget is finalized in June.
Charlotte Kelly, executive director of the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, addressed the crowd at the State House rally.
“Over the past two decades, our state officials have created a crisis by systemically defunding our public education system,” she said. “We are here today to outline the urgent crisis we all face here in Massachusetts.”
According to the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Commonwealth has the fastest growing public college costs and the second fastest growth in student debt in the nation.
Bears says the defunding of higher education has been a serious problem for a long time.
“In higher education, we’re asking them to stop the bleeding, essentially – to reverse the budget cuts that have been made since 2001,”
The Fund Our Future coalition includes the Massachusetts Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union and the New England Area Conference of the NAACP.