Front of the Massachusetts State House on a sunny day.
Front of the Massachusetts State House on a sunny day.
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cmhpictures/11541656803

Over 150 City Officials Call on Legislature to Prioritize Education Spending on the Most Underfunded School Districts

June 23, 2020

TO:
Governor Charlie Baker
Education Secretary James Peyser
Education 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: Chapter 70 Funding for Gateway Cities in FY21

Last year, educational equity in Massachusetts received its biggest win in decades with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Our 26 Gateway Cities have been severely underfunded for years, to the tune of several billions of dollars, and one of the main reasons for passing the SOA was to right this wrong. This year, our Gateway Cities were due to receive a desperately-needed additional $217.5 million, more than 70% of the new aid, but due to the $4–7 billion revenue shortfall we expect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that funding is now at risk. Unless we take drastic action, the promises our Legislature made to our children in the Education Reform Act of 1993 and reaffirmed in the Student Opportunity Act will remain unfulfilled once again. We therefore call on our Legislature to ensure that our Gateway City school districts are properly funded for the FY21 budget cycle.

Our cities had already been experiencing public health crises prior to COVID-19. Out of the top 15 cities with the highest rates of asthma in Massachusetts, 14 are Gateway Cities. COVID-19 has exacerbated these vulnerabilities. Eight of the ten cities with the highest COVID-19 infection rates are Gateway Cities. Twenty of the twenty-six Gateway Cities have infection rates higher than the state average. Many of our adult residents, up to 80% in some of our cities, are essential workers. Our people care for the sick, clean healthcare facilities, stock shelves at grocery stores, and run our transportation system. To keep our economy running, they put themselves and their households at risk, including their school-age children, who have been trying to keep up with their learning in the midst of a pandemic.

Virtual learning made it more challenging for students to progress through their school year. Many of our students don’t have quiet places to study at home. Some families have limited internet access. Some children have Individualized Education Plans that their schools haven’t been able to follow. And for a number of reasons outside of their control, which include grueling work schedules, language barriers, and lack of familiarity with technology, many parents and guardians have not been able to adequately support their children’s education. Experts expect opportunity gaps to only worsen, and so we worry about the disproportionate impact this will have on our students, especially as we consider not only what has already occurred, but what is yet to come in FY21 and FY22.

Even before COVID-19, our communities needed funding for additional wraparound services and mental health supports, which is part of why the SOA was passed in the first place. Our students, compared with those in more affluent communities, face much higher rates of trauma due to poverty and immigration, and due to tragic events like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. Researchers have long known that spending a childhood in deep poverty is a type of prolonged, toxic stress that affects children’s brains the same way, or worse, than acute trauma. Furthermore, many of our students live in fear that their loved ones will be deported, live with trauma memories of their dangerous journey to the United States, or suffer from the effects of intergenerational trauma from their parents’ and grandparents’ hardships.

But now, in addition, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is putting all responsibility for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other required supplies on districts, rather than using the state’s purchasing power to support them. Transportation costs will likely skyrocket in order to ensure safe distancing between students on school buses. School mental health providers will undoubtedly be even more overworked next year than ever before. While there may be additional federal funds coming, it is unlikely they will be enough to cover additional costs related to COVID-19. Our school districts cannot be expected to do extra work next year with even fewer resources than before.

Therefore, we the undersigned Gateway City officials and allies call for the prioritization of education funding to Gateway City school districts in the FY21 budget. The Student Opportunity Act requires that the new funding be phased in over seven years “in an equitable and consistent manner.” This pandemic will hurt all districts, but the pain must be distributed equitably, not equally. Wealthy districts, especially those with low rates of English Learners and economically disadvantaged students, may be experiencing some fiscal stress, but they can mitigate it by leveraging their large property tax bases. In FY18, these wealthier school districts¹ spent almost $1.3 billion on local school funding above what the law requires. Gateway Cities have no such cushion. If we believe in closing opportunity gaps, unless we are to fully fund all districts, state funding must be focused on the most disadvantaged students, who are mostly located in our Gateway Cities. Wealthier communities will need to use their own resources to fund their required spending, so that we can ALL come out of this budgetary crisis having met our required obligations to our students. It cannot be the students in our poorest communities who continue to bear the burden that years of neglect from the state have put on them.

In order to accomplish the proper funding of Gateway City school districts, we will need a strong fiscal commitment from our Legislature and the Executive branch. We believe this can be accomplished through a combination of the recommendations outlined below.

  • Tap into the $3.48 billion “rainy day fund” to maintain the fiscal stability of the Commonwealth. If this isn’t a rainy day, nothing ever will be.
  • Increase taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest to 8.95% so the wealthy will pay their fair share. This would raise $1 billion per year.
  • Return the corporate tax rate to 9.5%, which would raise $500 million per year.
  • Close the tax loophole on GILTI (Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income) to prevent companies from offshoring their patents and trademarks in order to avoid taxes, which would raise over $400 million per year.
  • Halt the implementation of the charitable deduction in 2021, preventing the rich from writing off their large donations, many of which go to well-endowed universities and other wealthy nonprofits. This would save the Commonwealth $300 million. Now is not the time to implement new tax cuts for the wealthy.
  • Gradually decrease state contributions for communities that spend above 120% of required spending and also have rates of economically disadvantaged and English Learner students well below the state average. This includes gradually reducing the minimum state contribution from 17.5% of foundation for the wealthiest cities.

¹ Defined as school districts with FY20 English Learner or economically disadvantaged student rates lower than 75% of the state average that also spent at 120% of required spending or higher on FY19.

Signatories:

Roberto Jiménez-Rivera, Chelsea School Committee

Scott Domenici, Attleboro School Committee
Shannon Johnson, Attleboro School Committee
Diana Holmes, Attleboro City Council
Joseph Amaral, President of Attleboro Teachers Association

Joseph Nystrom, Barnstable School Committee
Debra Dagwan, Barnstable City Council

Robert Sullivan, Brockton School Committee and Mayor
Mark D’Agostino, Brockton School Committee
Joyce Asack, Brockton School Committee
Thomas J. Minichiello, Brockton School Committee
Cynthia Rivas Mendes, Brockton School Committee
Tony Rodrigues, Brockton School Committee
Judy Sullivan, Brockton School Committee
Timothy Sullivan, Brockton School Committee
Jeffrey Thompson, Brockton City Council
Michael P. Thomas, Superintendent of Brockton Public Schools
Kimberly Gibson, President of Brockton Education Association

Yessenia Alfaro, Chelsea School Committee
Rosemarie Carlisle, Chelsea School Committee
Kelly Garcia, Chelsea School Committee
Lucia Henriquez, Chelsea School Committee
Marisol Santiago, Chelsea School Committee
Jeannette Velez, Chelsea School Committee
Henry Wilson, Chelsea School Committee
Almudena G. Abeyta, Superintendent of Chelsea Public Schools
Roy Avellaneda, Chelsea City Council
Calvin Brown, Chelsea City Council
Enio Lopez, Chelsea City Council
Judith Garcia, Chelsea City Council
Giovanni Recupero, Chelsea City Council
Leo Robinson, Chelsea City Council
Yamir Rodriguez, Chelsea City Council
Melinda Vega Maldonado, Chelsea City Council
Damali Vidot, Chelsea City Council
Naomi Zabot, Chelsea City Council
Kathryn Anderson, Vice President of Chelsea Teachers Union

Donald Lamothe, Chicopee School Committee
Bill Courchesne, Chicopee City Council
Laura Demakis, President of Chicopee Education Association

Marcony Almeida Barros, Everett School Committee
Samantha Lambert, Everett School Committee
Dana Murray, Everett School Committee
Frank Parker, Everett School Committee
Gerly Adrien, Everett City Council
Fred Capone, Everett City Council
Rosa DiFlorio, Everett City Council
Anthony DiPierro, Everett City Council
Stephanie Martins, Everett City Council
Michael McLaughlin, Everett City Council

Mimi Larrivee, Fall River School Committee
Linda Pereira, Fall River City Council
Rebecca Cusick, President of Fall River Educators Association
George Ackley, President of Fall River Administrators Association

Sally Cragin, Fitchburg School Committee
Amy Green, Fitchburg City Council
Jean LaBelle-Pierce, Fitchburg School Committee
James M. Walsh, Fitchburg School Committee
Paul Beauchemin, Fitchburg City Council
Michael P. Kushmerek, Fitchburg City Council
Sam Squailia, Fitchburg City Council
Andrew Van Hazinga, Fitchburg City Council

Gail Sullivan, Haverhill School Committee
Anthony J. Parolisi, President of Haverhill Education Association

Alex Morse, Holyoke School Committee and Mayor
Rebecca Birks, Holyoke School Committee
Erin Brunelle, Holyoke School Committee
Irene Feliciano-Sims, Holyoke School Committee
Mildred Lefebvre, Holyoke School Committee
Devin Sheehan, Holyoke School Committee
David Bartley, Holyoke City Council
Todd A. McGee, Holyoke City Council
Michael Sullivan, Holyoke City Council
Steve Zrike, Superintendent of Holyoke Public Schools

Dan Rivera, Lawrence School Committee and Mayor
Jonathan Guzman, Lawrence School Committee
Kimberly Barry, President of Lawrence Teachers Union
Marianela Rivera, Coordinator of Greater Lawrence Education Justice Alliance

Isabelle Alera, Leominster School Committee
Melissa Bible, Leominster School Committee
Eileen Griffin, Leominster School Committee
Peter Haigis, Leominster School Committee
Ronald Houle, Leominster School Committee
Suzanne Koehler, Leominster School Committee
Brandon Robbins, Leominster School Committee
Michael Stassen, Leominster School Committee

John Leahy, Lowell School Committee and Mayor
Hilary Clark, Lowell School Committee
Andre P. Descoteaux, Lowell School Committee
Michael Dillon Jr., Lowell School Committee
Jaqueline Doherty, Lowell School Committee
Robert J. Hoey Jr., Lowell School Committee
Connie A. Martin, Lowell School Committee
Joel D. Boyd, Superintendent of Lowell Public Schools

Brian P. LaPierre, Lynn City Council
Sheila O’Neil, President of Lynn Teachers Union

Gary Christenson, Malden School Committee and Mayor
Adam Weldai, Malden School Committee
John Oteri, Superintendent of Malden Public Schools
Deborah Gesualdo, President of Malden Education Association
Peter J. Cushing, Assistant Superintendent of Medford Public Schools

Karen Hallbauer, Methuen School Committee

Joshua D. Amaral, New Bedford School Committee
Joseph Lopes, New Bedford City Council

Beverley Ann Griffin Dunne, Peabody School Committee

Mark Brazeau, Pittsfield School Committee
Alison McGee, Pittsfield School Committee
Katherine Yon, Pittsfield School Committee
Nicholas J. Caccamo, Pittsfield City Council
Anthony Maffuccio, Pittsfield City Council
Helen Moon, Pittsfield City Council

Emily Lebo, Quincy School Committee
Ann Mahoney, Quincy City Council

Michael Ferrante, Revere School Committee
Susan Gravellese, Revere School Committee
Stacey Rizzo, Revere School Committee
Carol A. Tye, Revere School Committee
Jessica Giannino, Revere City Council
Steven Morabito, Revere City Council
Dianne K. Kelly, Superintendent of Revere Public Schools
Gina Garro, President of Revere Teachers Union
Matthew J. Costa, President of the Revere Administrators Association

Amanda Campbell, Salem School Committee
Ana Nuncio, Salem School Committee
Kristin Pangallo, Salem School Committee
Kathleen Smith, Superintendent of Salem Public Schools
Ann Berman, President of Salem Teachers Union

Andre Green, Somerville School Committee

Chris Collins, Springfield School Committee
Denise Hurst, Springfield School Committee
LaTonia Monroe Naylor, Springfield School Committee
Maria Perez, Springfield School Committee
Malo Brown, Springfield City Council
Adam Gomez, Springfield City Council
Justin Hurst, Springfield City Council
Catherine Mastronardi, President of Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals
Maureen Colgan Posner, President of Springfield Education Association

Greg DeMelo, Taunton School Committee
Jordan H. F. Fiore, Taunton School Committee
Barry Sanders, Taunton Municipal Council
John Cabral, Superintendent of Taunton Public Schools
James Quaintance, President of Taunton Education Association

Jonathan Paz, Waltham City Council

Timothy O’Connor, Westfield School Committee
Bridget Matthews-Kane, Westfield City Council

Andrew Lipsett, Woburn School Committee

Laura B. Clancey, Worcester School Committee
Molly McCullough, Worcester School Committee
John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
Tracy O’Connell Novick, Worcester School Committee
Gary Rosen, Worcester City Council

Written by

Chelsea School Committee Member

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