The Problem with MA’s School Funding Formula

School Funding | 11/29/2018

Brianna Aloisio
Policy and Government Affairs Manager

Why do Massachusetts public schools work for certain students and not others? This Q&A will help clarify the state’s funding problem and why it’s so important that Gov. Baker and the state legislature act now to fix it!

Q: How are public schools funded in Massachusetts?

A: K-12 public schools receive both state and local funding according to the Chapter 70 formula. The state determines the base level of per-pupil funding for each district (aka the “foundation budget”), then calculates how much each district can reasonably contribute based on the property wealth and the average income of residents. Chapter 70 education aid is then used to fill the gap between the expected local contribution and the foundation budget. (Learn more and see a comparison of how two different school districts are funded at MassBudget.org.)

Q: Why is the state’s funding formula flawed?

A: The current formula was enacted in 1993, and it doesn’t account for how our public schools and student needs have changed in the last 25 years. These changes include a modernized approach to special education, an increase of English-language learning students, and higher enrollments of students of color, especially in low-income school districts. It also fails to address the rising health insurance costs for staff, which devastate local budgets.

Q: How is the current formula affecting students?

A: It’s creating a massive achievement gap between students in affluent and low-income school districts. If you are a student in a well-off district, you have a tremendous amount of additional resources and support compared to students in poorer districts.

Q: How are low-income districts put at a disadvantage?

A: Many wealthier school districts choose to contribute even more in taxes in order to exceed the foundation budget because they want students to benefit from more resources than the state has determined is the bare minimum. Families in low-income districts don’t have that option, so these students are left to make do with far fewer resources. 

Q: What can I do to make sure all kids in Massachusetts receive a high-quality education?

A: Sign the open letter urging Gov. Charlie Baker to make school funding reform a priority now! And RSVP to join us for Advocacy Day on Monday, December 10, when we’ll hand deliver these letters to the governor at the State House.

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