October 28 2019

Rep. Gordon and Sen. Friedman Support Education Funding Legislation

By: BNEWS

Burlington representatives in the State House announced that they are pushing for a big change in how the state funds local education. 

“Representative Ken Gordonand Senator Cindy Friedman joined their colleagues in the Legislature in support of historic legislation to invest $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s public education system,” a joint-release from their office states. “Known as The Student Opportunity Act, the legislation invests funding to support the needs of English learners and school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students in order to help address persistent disparities in student achievement.” 

The House unanimously passed its version of the bill last week.

The release says that school districts such as Burlington will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as transportation, guidance and psychological services, school buildings and special education.  

 

“I am extremely proud of the work done by the Legislature to ensure that every student in the Commonwealth has the tools they need to succeed, especially those who are most vulnerable” said Rep. Gordon. “This legislation is a signal of our commitment to investing in each and every child’s future”.

 

“High-quality public education is a fundamental right owed to every student in our Commonwealth, regardless of their socioeconomic background,” said Senator Friedman, who voted for the Senate version of the bill. “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.”

According to the release, the legislation couples new investments with policy updates designed to monitor and measure progress and support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps. The bill fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) to ensure that the school funding formula provides adequate and equitable funding to all districts across the state. It provides an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the next seven years. The foundation budget is updated as follows:

 

- Estimates school districts’ employee health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collected by the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), and includes for the first time an amount for retiree health insurance costs.

 

- Increases special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment and costs

 

- Increases funding for English learners (EL) differentiated by grade level to reflect the greater resources required to educate our older EL students.

 

- Addresses the needs of districts educating high concentrations of low-income students by:

- Providing additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district; districts educating the largest percentage of low-income students will receive an additional increment equal to 100% of the base foundation;

-Returning the definition of low-income to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, as opposed to the 133% level used in recent years.

 

The bill provides additional state financial support to help public schools and communities deliver a high-quality education to students. Its updates include increases to foundation rates for guidance and psychological services, full funding for charter tuition reimbursements, expansion of the special education circuit breaker for districts with extraordinary special education transportation costs.  

 

After passing the House of Representatives on Wednesday, the bill moves to a conference committee and if amendments are agreed, back to the Senate for final passage.


 

 
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