Investing $1.5 billion in public schools, supporting effective approaches to close student opportunity gaps.
December 9, 2019 – (Boston) – Recently, Representative Garlick, along with her colleagues in both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature unanimously voted to enact the Student Opportunity Act. This legislation provides an unprecedented $1.5 billion new investment in Massachusetts K-12 public education system.
In 2015, the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) issued a report addressing the shortcomings of the Chapter 70 aid formula. Chapter 70 aid is the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools. In addition to providing state aid to support school operations, Chapter 70 establishes minimum spending requirements for each school district and minimum requirements for each municipality’s share of school costs. FBRC’s analysis indicated the formula drastically undervalued the costs of educating English Learners (EL), low-income, and special education students.
The Student Opportunity Act fully implements the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) in order to support the “educational programs and services necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s educational goals” as stated in the Commission’s mission. The bill provides new funding and supports such as:
- Estimating school districts’ employee and retiree health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collected by the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC).
- Increasing special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment.
- Expanding the special education circuit breaker program, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education costs, to include transportation as well as instructional cost, to be implemented over the next four years; and
- Increasing funding for English Learners (EL) and differentiates funding by grade level to reflect the greater resources required to educate our older EL students.
- Addressing the needs of districts educating high concentrations of low-income students by:
- Providing additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district; districts educating the largest percentage of low-income students will receive an additional increment equal to 100 percent of the base foundation; and
- Returning the definition of low-income to 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, as opposed to the 133 percent level used in recent years.
“The Student Opportunity Act is land mark legislation that takes a thoughtful approach to ensuring that all of our children across the Commonwealth — no matter their race, their family’s socio-economic status, or what neighborhood they live in — are able to succeed in our public schools,” said Representative Garlick. “The importance of addressing the needs of low-income, English Learners, and special education students is paramount – this legislation helps to better meet their needs.”
In addition to new funding and other supports, the Student Opportunity Act establishes the 21st Century Education Trust Fund to provide districts and schools access to flexible funding to pursue creative approaches to student learning and district improvement.
“This bill will help Needham, Medfield (Precincts 1 & 2), and Dover implement innovative strategies for special education transportation costs, address issues of health insurance in a more realistic way in the funding formula not only for employees, but also for our school retirees,” said Representative Garlick. “The Student Opportunity Act will make a difference for our children for years to come.”