Friday, October 14, 2011

Amendment Boosts School Funding

On Tuesday October 11th I joined with Senator Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and several co-sponsors to amend the gaming bill (S.2015) to direct new gaming revenues toward addressing inequities in local educational funding, and ensuring that all school districts receive a minimum of 17.5% of the amount the state requires them to spend from the state.

We have been working for years to correct inequities in the Chapter 70 education funding formula, and this amendment offers one of our best chances yet to provide financial relief to communities that haven’t been treated fairly.

The amendment directs spending from a new education account created in the gaming bill. That account is slated to receive 14% of the revenues generated by gaming operations. Language already in the bill prohibited those funds from being used to supplant expenditures made through Chapter 70, the state’s primary program for funding local schools. The amendment directs that these new funds will first be used to cause every community to receive its “target aid” share, a minimum of 17.5% of a district’s foundation budget, and to remediate inequities between districts.

Even though problems with the current formula have been long recognized, it takes new funding to correct them while holding all districts harmless. Now new funding is on the table and we are taking advantage of a rare opportunity to do the right thing for our school districts.

Before we spend gaming revenue on new items, we need to make sure we respond to existing needs, problems and commitments. The passage of the amendment won’t solve all of our problems, but it moves us toward significant reforms.

A final vote took place on S.2015 yesterday by a vote of 24-14. The bill will likely proceed to a House/Senate conference committee for reconciliation with the House version of the bill.