New Revenue Needed to Fully Fund the Student Opportunity Act, Invest in Public Colleges and Universities

 In Press Releases

BOSTON – The Fund Our Future campaign today issued the following statement regarding the revenue hearing being held by the Ways and Means committee today:

“Last year, Massachusetts made a commitment to fully and equitably fund our public schools. We made a promise to low-income students, students of color and English learners, who had been left behind for years by an outdated school funding system. We said we would make a major investment to significantly increase their access to high-quality public schools, the kind enjoyed by their peers in wealthier communities. As the COVID-19 pandemic creates new challenges for our schools and our communities, the legislature must stand by that promise by fully implementing the Student Opportunity Act. State budget cuts, or the failure to deliver the resources promised by the Student Opportunity Act, would pour salt on the wounds of students who need even more support during this generational crisis.

“At the same time, our public colleges and universities are a lifeline for current students, providing food, shelter, and a safe learning environment during this uncertain time. They’re especially important right now for new, nontraditional students who need a new career path after losing their job during the past few months. But severe budget cuts at our community colleges, state universities, and UMass campuses are leading to layoffs and furloughs when they should be offering more support to students, not less. It’s nonsensical for governmental institutions to lay people off instead of pumping more dollars into our local economies. Now more than ever, we desperately need to invest in public higher education to support a speedy and equitable economic recovery.

“Massachusetts has traditionally raised taxes in past recessions, and it’s only right and fair for those who can most afford it – especially the large corporations and wealthy investors who are accumulating sky-high profits during the pandemic – to pay more. New needs that have emerged due to COVID-19, and pre-existing needs that have not gone away, cannot be sacrificed because of a lack of revenue. It’s time for the legislature to raise the new revenue needed to keep their past promises and fund our future!”

 

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The Fund Our Future campaign was formed to end the generation-long underfunding of local public schools and public colleges and universities in Massachusetts and is endorsed by the following members: Act on Mass, AFT Massachusetts, Alliance for Brookline Schools, Asian American Resource Workshop, Boston Democratic Socialists of America (BDSA), Boston Education Equity Coalition, Boston Education Justice Alliance, Boston Teachers Union, CEPA at UMass Amherst, Citizens for Public Schools, College Dems of MA, Hampshire Franklin Labor Council, Interfaith Worker Justice, Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), Jewish Labor Committee, La Communidad, La Voz de la Comunidad – Framingham, Local 26 Unite Here, Lowell Education Justice Alliance, Mass COSH, Massachusetts Communities Action Network , Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Voter Table, Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council, MNA, NAACP New England Area Conference, North Shore Labor Council, Pioneer Valley Labor Council, Pioneer Valley Street Heat, Progressive Massachusetts, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), PUMA Parent Union of Mass, QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student), Revere Youth in Action, SEIU 888, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Tikkun Olam Congregation Bnai Israel Northampton, Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Women Encouraging Empowerment, and Youth on Board.

 

After months of aggressive campaigning by the Fund Our Future campaign, the Student Opportunity Act, which commits the state to increasing annual K-12 education funding by $1.5 billion over inflation over a seven-year phase-in, was signed into law on November 26, 2019. The legislation updates and modernizes the state’s foundation budget formula for school spending, provides millions of dollars more for the highest-poverty districts whose students have the greatest needs, expands the state’s special education reimbursement program (circuit breaker) to include out-of-district transportation funding, and increases the annual spending cap for Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) projects. The primary beneficiaries of the law, the most significant update of the state’s education funding system since 1993, will be low-income students, students of color and English learners who have been left behind for years by the old, outdated school funding system. The Fund Our Future campaign continues to hold lawmakers accountable for fully implementing the Student Opportunity Act over the coming years.

While the Student Opportunity Act addresses the underfunding of K-12 schools in Massachusetts, sixty percent of public high school graduates who go on to college enroll in state colleges and stay in Massachusetts after graduation. The graduates of our high schools are still entering public colleges and universities that are deeply underfunded and increasingly unaffordable. As a result, Massachusetts has the fastest-growing public college costs and the second-fastest growth in student debt in the nation. At the same time, full-time tenured faculty members are being replaced by part-time instructors who are paid much less, have no job security, and often do not receive health insurance coverage, forcing them to teach classes on multiple campuses and hurting their ability to serve students. Buildings are crumbling after years of disrepair as campus budgets fail to make up for the state’s disinvestment. The Fund Our Future campaign is working to reinvest in our public colleges and universities to reclaim what we once had: a high-quality public higher education system where all students can graduate without debt.

 

Contact: Andrew Farnitano, 925-917-1354, andrew@crawfordstrategies.com

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