Massachusetts Funding Reform Efforts Continue
November 1, 2019

In Massachusetts, an education funding bill that would overhaul the state’s funding formula has stalled as legislators debate the role of state oversight. This bill would grant districts an additional $1.5 billion over seven years, with an emphasis on closing achievement gaps for English language learners and students living in poverty.

A committee of lawmakers from the state House and Senate must now reconcile the different versions of the bill that emerged from each chamber. The House bill strengthened the state’s authority over district spending, requiring districts to submit their plans to the state education commissioner for approval. Districts would have to establish performance targets that are consistent with state targets, identifying strategies to achieve these targets from a menu of evidence-based practices. 

The Senate version of the bill would weaken the state education commissioner’s authority and put more power in the hands of local school committees and parents. Districts, rather than the state, would set their own performance targets and would have more flexibility to choose strategies to meet these targets. While the state commissioner can recommend changes to districts’ plans, districts are not required to implement those changes. 

As negotiations continue, PIE Network members across the Commonwealth are leading grassroots efforts to protect and strengthen accountability. Read below for several members’ latest updates: 

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education: “We felt [the House version of the bill] made a good faith effort to include accountability measures that ensure substantial new funding is used effectively to close persistent, debilitating racial and socio-economic achievement gaps…The significant alterations made by the Senate risks leaving our system without the tools to prepare students for participation in our high-skill economy.” Read more from their latest statement here. MBAE also recently created a School Spending Explorer, which allows users to compare school-level spending with student outcomes. 

Massachusetts Parents United: “We represent thousands of parents from across Massachusetts, and it’s our children who are directly impacted by the achievement and opportunity gaps…There is still much work to be done. Money is not enough. It’s time to do the hard work of using this money to produce tangible outcomes for our children.” Read more from their latest statements here and here.

Educators for Excellence-Boston: “Educators for Excellence-Boston stands in support of the Student Opportunity Act and its $1.5 billion investment in public education in the Commonwealth. E4E-Boston teachers are heartened to see the Act’s new allotment for guidance and psychological services, which will result in more equitable access to mental health services for students.” Read more from their latest statement here. E4E-Boston has also recently advocated for the passage of a comprehensive mental health bill that would establish student-to-school counselor ratios and require schools to report on their mental health plans. 

Interested in learning about other states’ work on funding reform? Find more information in the new Member Advocacy and Policy MAP, or reach out. 

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Hannah Oakley

Hannah is PIE Network's Policy Fellow

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