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Massachusetts School Committee Members Call on Legislature to Fix Undercount of Low-Income Students and Provide Adequate Education Funding

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If you are a School Committee member and would like to add your name to this letter, please fill out this form:
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TO:

Governor Charlie Baker
Education Secretary James Peyser
DESE Commissioner Jeffrey Riley
Senate President Karen Spilka
House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues
House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz
Joint Education Committee Co-Chair Jason Lewis
Joint Education Committee Co-Chair Alice Peisch
Gateway Cities Caucus Co-Chair Eric Lesser
Gateway Cities Caucus Co-Chair Antonio Cabral

RE: Low-Income Count and Student Opportunity Act FY21 Funding

Earlier this year, a group of over 150 School Committee members, City Councilors, Superintendents and educator union presidents from across the 26 Gateway Cities sent a letter asking lawmakers to fully fund our schools for FY21. Today, as School Committee members from across the state, we are reiterating the call for fully-funding the first-year implementation of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA), and also demanding that the Legislature fix the low-income count in the foundation formula so our students can receive the resources they need to have a free appropriate public education.

The current fiscal crisis in our school districts requires us to raise revenue from the individuals and corporations that have not only weathered the COVID-19 crisis, but profited from it. Twenty billionaires in Massachusetts have seen a combined net worth increase of $17.2 billion. It is unconscionable that as the wealthy continue to amass wealth, our Governor and Legislature are neglecting our poorest communities, which educate an overwhelming majority of the Commonwealth’s students of color.

Governor Baker, Secretary Peyser, and Commissioner Riley justify delaying the funding of the Student Opportunity Act by saying that districts’ pandemic relief funding, plus the Chapter 70 inflationary increase, is larger than the first-year implementation of the SOA. However, this is an attempt to confuse people into believing that they are funding the law. Pandemic relief funds and the SOA funds are two completely different things, and they address fundamentally different problems. The former targets additional expenses that are directly related to the pandemic; much of it has been provided by the federal government and already been distributed to districts. The SOA, on the other hand, targets inequities that existed long before the pandemic and that have only worsened during COVID times.

One key aspect of the underfunding of our schools this year is the structural undercalculation of low-income students in the foundation budget, which has a catastrophic impact on our school budgets. Just because the formula’s count is broken does not mean that we suddenly have fewer low-income students than last year. Instead, the broken formula undercounts tens of thousands of low-income students across the Commonwealth, erases the challenges these students live through on a daily basis, and underfunds their education by more than $115 million. This is in addition to not fully implementing the rate increment at an appropriate 1/7th step towards the goal. Both of these, of course, are only a fraction of the total underfunding from not implementing the Student Opportunity Act at all for FY21. (For a breakdown of 25 of the most-impacted cities, see the chart below.)

Fixing the funding for low income students isn’t about giving additional resources to these students as a gift. It’s about giving these students the resources they are owed and were promised. It requires raising taxes on profitable corporations and the wealthy. Our students are not the ones who have made millions since March, so why are they the ones bearing the brunt of this pandemic after their communities have been the hardest hit by the COVID pandemic? Investing in these students is not only required by law and the right thing to do; it is an investment in the Commonwealth’s future, one that will likely have a high return on investment when these students enter the workforce. It is also a constitutional obligation that has been enshrined in our state Constitution for 240 years.

As we near the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Student Opportunity Act, many of us are wondering if you truly believe in promoting an equitable future for all our children. With some notable exceptions, it appears that you don’t. As many noted in late 2019, the Student Opportunity Act appropriated a grand total of $0, meaning that the true test would be getting the new formula funded this year. Fixing the low-income count and rate will require tapping into new sources of revenue, and there are many proposals that show the path forward, available from organizations like Mass Budget or the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition. They include restoring the corporate tax rate to 9.5%, increasing capital gains taxes to 8.95%, and closing the tax loophole on GILTI (Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income).

Preparing our children to lead fulfilling lives and become full citizens in our society is one of the foundational objectives of our state government. Our communities and our students need this funding, now more than ever. We demand that you do the right thing and fund our schools.

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Signatories:

Roberto Jiménez-Rivera, Chelsea School Committee
Tracy O’Connell Novick, Worcester School Committee
Laura Clancey, Worcester School Committee
Molly O. McCullough, Worcester School Committee
John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
Marisol Santiago, Chelsea School Committee
Thomas J. Minichiello, Jr., Brockton School Committee
Andrew C. Lipsett, Woburn School Committee
Irene Feliciano-Sims, Holyoke School Committee
Nancy “Nes” Correnti, Hingham School Committee
Judy Sullivan, Brockton School Committee
Tony Rodrigues, Brockton School Committee
Stacey A Rizzo, Revere School Committee
Paul Ruseau, Medford School Committee
Samantha Lambert, Everett School Committee
Adam Weldai, Malden School Committee
Karen Hallbauer, Methuen School Committee
Ellen A. Crowley, Esq. Woburn School Committee
Jennifer Aborn Dolan, Braintree School Committee
Dana Murray, Everett School Committee
Marcony Almeida Barros, Everett School Committee
Frank Parker, Everett School Committee
Jason Fraser, Plympton School Committee
Cynthia Rivas Mendes, Brockton School Committee
Denise Spencer, Franklin School Committee
Manikka Bowman, Cambridge School Committee
Andre Green, Somerville School Committee
Eileen Griffin, Leominster School Committee
Ellenor Barish, Somerville School Committee
Emily Ackman, Somerville School Committee
Michael A. Ferrante, Revere School Committee
Diane M. Mayhew, Westfield School Committee
Gary Christenson, Malden School Committee
Brandon Robbins, Leominster School Committee
Peter Haigis, Leominster School Committee
Kelly J. Cobb-Lemire, Braintree School Committee
Joshua Amaral, New Bedford School Committee
Ilana Krepchin, Somerville School Committee
Mildred Lefebvre, Holyoke School Committee
Susan Gravellese, Revere School Committee
Lorna Rivera, Boston School Committee
Devin Sheehan, Holyoke School Committee
Martha Simon, Burlington School Committee
Kari Denitzio, Walpole School Committee
Rachel Weinstein, Cambridge School Committee
Ayesha M. Wilson, Cambridge School Committee
Sarah Phillips, Somerville School Committee
Jeanette Velez, Chelsea School Committee
Paul Goldner, Triton School Committee
Henry Wilson, Chelsea School Committee
Sara Cuthbertson, Lexington School Committee
David Weinstein, Cambridge School Committee
Kathleen Lenihan, Lexington School Committee
Rebecca Shangraw, Weymouth School Committee
Liz Exton, Arlington School Committee
Lily Rayman-Read, Watertown School Committee
Charise Rohm Nulsen, Topsfield School Committee
Augustin Serino, Topsfield School Committee
Jonathan Guzman, Lawrence School Committee
Sally Cragin, Fitchburg School Committee
James M. Walsh, Fitchburg School Committee
Jessica Andors, Lawrence Alliance for Education
Kelly Garcia, Chelsea School Committee
Colleen Cormier, Woburn School Committee
Frederick Sannella, Revere School Committee
Denise M. Hurst, Springfield School Committee
Rebecca Birks, Holyoke School Committee
Barbara Davis, Holbrook School Committee
Timothy Sullivan, Brockton School Committee
Mark D’Agostino, Brockton School Committee
Zeina Marchant, Winchester School Committee
Beverly Hugo, Framingham School Committee
Carl Foss, Burlington School Committee
Jared C. Nicholson, Lynn School Committee
Millie Cardello, Everett School Committee
Yessenia Alfaro, Chelsea School Committee
Jackie Doherty, Lowell School Committee
Lucia Henriquez, Chelsea School Committee
Ana Hernandez, Chelsea School Committee
Andrew Prazar, Topsfield School Committee
Allen Panarese, Everett School Committee
Tom Abruzzese, Everett School Committee
Cynthia Sarnie, Everett School Committee
Hilary Clark, Lowell School Committee
Kendra Foley, Watertown School Committee
Kristin Pangallo, Salem School Committee
Jenny Graham, Medford School Committee
Joseph N. Nystrom, Barnstable School Committee
Katherine Yon, Pittsfield School Committee
David Schryver, Chicopee School Committee
Melanie McLaughlin, Medford School Committee
Anthony D’Ambrosio, Revere School Committee
Heather Sullivan, Westfield School Committee
Laura Often, Grafton School Committee

Written by

Chelsea School Committee Member

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