BOSTON – Wednesday, January 9, 2019 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today joined a statewide coalition in announcing an education equity legislative agenda, the latest of the Mayor’s legislative priorities that the City of Boston will be supporting at the Massachusetts Legislature. The coalition of partners is led by legislators, cities, towns, teachers, students, and advocates who are joining together in proposing one comprehensive education finance bill to reform the Commonwealth’s education funding formula so that it better serves all students throughout the state.
Mayor Walsh’s legislative agenda continues his administration’s work to create greater opportunity for all residents, and serves all people of Massachusetts through its focus on equity and opportunity, ensuring Boston and Massachusetts’ growth benefits all communities in the Commonwealth.
“Every student in Massachusetts deserves a 21st century education and should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter their talent or challenges, family income or background,” said Mayor Walsh. “This bill will give us the tools to make that a reality. Boston is proud to stand with our partners in the Legislature and to join this coalition of cities and towns to advance a system of state aid that supports all of the talented and diverse students of the Commonwealth.”
“Children across our Commonwealth are waiting for us to fulfill the promise we made in our Constitution and in the 1993 Education Reform Act: that zip code should not be destiny,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston), lead Senate sponsor of the bill. “For 25 years, we have failed to live up to that promise-first unknowingly and now, for the past three years, knowingly. Our schools are suffering from death by a thousand paper cuts. This bill isn’t about providing ‘new’ or ‘extra’ funds. It’s about making good on what we’ve already promised.”
The Education PROMISE Act, sponsored by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Representative Mary Keefe and Representative Aaron Vega reforms state education funding by fully implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) recommendations and addressing the underlying inequities within the Commonwealth’s education funding formulas, like Chapter 70. As a result of the bill, Foundation Budgets statewide will better reflect the true cost of educating students, and there will be a renewed partnership between the Commonwealth and all districts in funding those Foundation Budgets.
“This proposal will help districts across the Commonwealth move closer to the spirit of the education reform law and not just the letter,” said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. “Finally, with leadership and support like Mayor Walsh’s, and leaders in the Legislature, we can go from talking about it, to doing it.”
“Every student deserves an equal opportunity to receive a great public education that prepares them for a successful future,” said Medford Mayor Stephanie M. Burke. “I support the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) recommendations to address and create a guaranteed minimum level of funding for all districts schools. In addition, I support Mayor Walsh’s education finance legislation that improves some funding inequities as well as other reforms that will bring additional needed resources to communities that may not gain much under FBRC alone. I am committed to the essential work of providing every child with a quality education and to ensure that ‘all’ means all.”
“The residents of Easthampton have taken significant steps towards greater investment in our public schools, and this is another opportunity for us to ensure that our students are receiving the same support and opportunities as students across the state,” said Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle. “In joining Mayor Walsh in this proposal, mayors statewide are saying, ‘our students deserve better.'”
Boston invests over $1.3 billion a year to educate over 65,000 district and charter public school students, a number that has grown by over $250 million since 2014. During this school year, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) FY19 budget was the largest in the school department’s history. During this time of sustained City-led investment, BPS has continued to achieve its highest four-year high-school graduation rate and more high-ranking Level 1 and 2 schools than ever before. While progress has been made, more work and investment is needed to close achievement and opportunity gaps for all students.
Yet as Boston’s investments in its students, facilities and teacher has grown, state funding has lagged behind. Inequities in the the Commonwealth’s education funding formulas have failed urban school districts, like Boston, that educate the majority of economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners and special education students in the state. The current education funding formulas result in less net state funding every year for BPS students. If the status quo persists and these formulas are not changed, in two years, Boston will receive no state education aid to support the City’s 55,000 BPS students.
To create a more equitable education funding system, Boston is proud to support The Education PROMISE Act that builds upon the important work of the state-appointed Foundation Budget Review Commission by updating and amending the state education funding formula to better reflect the reality of educating complex, high-need students, like Boston. This proposal will also support the high needs of the student populations cities educate and ensure baseline funding levels that guarantee a predictable funding stream for districts.
The Education PROMISE Act provides certainty and sustainability that would enable districts to fund their own education priorities, such as Boston’s desire to implement universal pre-K, close persistent achievement gaps, and provide a 21st century learning environment to all of Boston’s students.