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State Sen. Ed Kennedy hosted a presentation on Wednesday, April 24, presented by Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Chairman of the Joint Committee on Education, regarding the future of education funding in the Commonwealth, at Groton Town Hall.
Lewis explained the foundation budget formula for Chapter 70 education aid in the state, created in 1993, is outdated. It does not reflect the true costs of educating children due to several factors including rising healthcare costs, greater special education needs, and under-estimating the challenges faced by low-income students and non-native English language learners, he said.
The Foundation Budget Review Commission’s 2015 report estimated the Commonwealth is shortchanging public schools by $1-2 billion annually, with the greatest harm being done to our poorest communities, Lewis said.
There were several elected officials, municipal administrators, parents, and teachers at Wednesday night’s event including Pepperell Town Administrator Andrew MacLean, Tyngsboro Assistant Town Administrator Justin Sultzbach, Groton Select Board Members John Giger, Becky Pine and Alison Manugian, former Groton Select Board Member Peter Cunningham, and Westford School Committee members Megan Eckroth and Alicia Mallon.
Kennedy and Lewis are both co-sponsors of the PROMISE Act, filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), which would implement recommendations made by the Foundation Budget Review Commission, reforming the current formula by which school districts receive state funding, making it more equitable across the board.
Under the PROMISE Act, Massachusetts school districts would see an infusion of $1 billion in additional funding annually. It is expected to take five years to implement. Under the proposal, Groton-Dunstable would receive an additional $563,200; North Middlesex (Pepperell) $723,700; Tyngsboro $393,750; Westford $1,199,000; Greater Lowell Regional Technical High School $4,470,729; and Lowell $42,402,840.
As Mayor of Lowell in 2016-2017, Kennedy chaired both the City Council and School Committee, two bodies often at odds regarding school funding, with the School Committee requesting more funding the from city and the City Council stating they could not afford to give more.
“The daunting reality in Lowell, and for communities around Massachusetts, is that both sides are correct,” Kennedy said. “That will remain the case until we succeed in enacting reform that implements each of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.”
In the First Middlesex District the following elected bodies have passed resolutions in support of the PROMISE Act: the Lowell City Council, Lowell School Committee, Groton Select Board, Dunstable Board of Selectmen, Pepperell Board of Selectmen, and the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee.
“The broad consensus around the need to enact reform to the foundation budget during this legislative session within the legislature and the executive branch provides us with a rare opportunity to finally correct major shortcomings that have jeopardized the futures Massachusetts students for too long,” Kennedy, a Lowell Democrat, said. “This is a moment that we cannot afford to squander by passing legislation that misses the mark on reforms determined necessary by the FBRC.”