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Town may get $2M more under 'historic' Student Opportunity Act

Dave RogersRogers

Sean GarballeyGarballey

Arlington's House delegation has joined colleagues in unanimously passing the Student Opportunity Act, legislation they called “historic.”

Estimates, accounting for inflation, show that up to $2.2 billion will be invested in school districts. Early analysis projects that Arlington may receive more than $2 million more in next year’s budget for Chapter 70 funding than if future rates were decided via the status quo.

Voting Oct. 23 were Reps. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) and David Rogers (D-Cambridge). State Sen. Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recorded her vote when the Senate bill passed unanimously on Oct. 3.

Cindy FriedmanFriedman

The bill is the largest update to the education-funding formula since being established 26 years ago, in 1993. It will benefit K-12 students throughout the Commonwealth, regardless of income level or place of residence. The legislation aims to invest $1.5 billion in public schools, update statewide education policy and support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps for students throughout the Commonwealth.

The Oct. 24 joint news release says the legislation “fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission by adequately funding employee and retiree health insurance costs, increasing special-education enrollment cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment, increases funding for English language Learners and addresses the needs of districts educating high concentrations of low-income students by increasing funding and returning low income to 185 percent of the federal poverty level as opposed to the 133-percent level that has been used in recent years..”

The bill goes beyond the recommendations of the commission by increasing foundation rates for guidance and psychological services that will support expanded social-emotional supports and mental health services, fully fund charter tuition reimbursements within a three-year timetable and expands the special education circuit- breaker to include transportation costs., the release says.

“In a victory for all of our public schools in Massachusetts, this legislation invests $1.5 billion into our public schools over the next seven years,” Garballey said in the release. “As a former member of the Arlington School Committee, some of the aspects of the legislation that I am most proud of include returning the definition of low income to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, the inclusion of special-education transportation costs in the special-education circuit-breaker and increasing the foundation rates for guidance and psychological services.

“Ensuring educational opportunities for all students regardless of zip code and strengthening our support to those who learn differently has been and will continue to be one of my most passionate priorities.”

Rogers said: “For several years now, working together with education advocates and like-minded colleagues, we have been calling for increased state funding to our public schools to address structural deficiencies in our funding formula. The Student Opportunity Act answers our call in a great variety of ways, including by investing in communities with the highest concentrations of low-income students across the Commonwealth, while also helping the communities I represent.

“This legislation is truly an enormous breakthrough, and a giant leap forward for those of us who care deeply about social justice and equal opportunity. This historic legislation will invest $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s public education system and make a series of other important positive changes for our public schools.”

Friedman added: “High-quality public education is a fundamental right owed to every student in our Commonwealth, regardless of their socioeconomic background This landmark bill takes an enormous step forward in addressing the achievement gap and ensures that each school district has adequate and equitable resources to provide our students with a high quality education that they deserve.

“I’m grateful for my legislative colleagues who have continually made public education a top priority as well as the students, teachers, parents, administrators and advocates who played an integral role in moving this initiative forward, and I’m eager to see this bill become law.”

The legislation has moved to a conference committee. To track the progress of the bill, click here >> 


This news announcement was published Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019.

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