get the facts
A Great Public Education Is Every Student’s Right
Public education is why Massachusetts is a great place to live and work. But our future is put at risk when some communities and students have access to a great public education, while other communities and students don’t.
This fundamental lack of fairness, and the risk it presents to our Commonwealth’s future, has happened because the state has not lived up to its promise to fund our public schools and colleges, as the state’s 2014 Higher Education Finance Commission and 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission reports show.
We know what to do. We need to fund our public schools and colleges by passing these bills this spring – in time for local communities to include the funding in the next academic year’s budget and in time for public college students to avoid tuition and fee hikes this fall. Students can’t afford to wait.
The 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission found that the Commonwealth’s public school funding formula is outdated — and that the foundation budget is too low by more than $1 billion.
The Promise Act, filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and by Reps. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) and Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), would over a period of time implement the four core recommendations of the commission to increase the foundation budget, resulting in more than $1 billion in new state funding. The bulk of those funds would go to districts with the greatest need and fewest resources. The formula would be changed to:
- Realistically account for districts’ health care costs by using actual data to set insurance costs and inflation rates in the foundation budget.
- Modernize the formula to provide adequate support for English learners and low-income students.
- More accurately account for special education costs to better reflect actual SPED enrollment and the total costs that districts bear for out-of-district students.
- Increase state aid to certain districts to mitigate losses to charter schools.
- Guarantee minimum annual state aid increases to all districts of $50 per pupil.
A recent report found that, accounting for inflation and changes in student enrollment, public higher education in Massachusetts has been cut by 31 percent since FY01.
The same report found that the share of higher education costs borne by students and their families shifted dramatically over this same period, from approximately 30 percent in FY01 to approximately 55 percent in FY16.
The impacts of this chronic underfunding are keenly felt by both our students and our dedicated faculty and staff. The Cherish Act, filed by Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) and Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and Paul Mark (D-Peru), would reaffirm the state’s commitment to public higher education by:
- Implementing the core finding of the 2014 Higher Education Finance Commission, resulting in more than $500 million in additional funding for public higher education. These new funds must supplement — not supplant — existing funding.
- Establishing in statute a fair and adequate minimum funding level for public higher education at no less than the FY01 per-student funding level, adjusted for inflation.
- Freezing tuition and fees for five years, as long as the Legislature appropriates the funds required to reach FY01 per-student funding levels in five years.