Modest growth for education in SWM budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee presented a $36.2 billion budget plan for fiscal 2015 on Wednesday, May 14, that modestly increases funding for public education in the Commonwealth.

Early education and care would see an increase of 5.6 percent in the Senate committee’s version, more than the House version but less than the governor’s proposed budget.

Higher education funding would see a more than 3 percent increase over last year’s allocation, but the amount is $31.3 million below what the House budget proposes. Funding for K-12 education would also rise 3 percent overall.

Chapter 70 education aid would increase by close to $100 million in the Senate version, as it does in the House version. The increase keeps every school district at its required foundation level.

MTA President Paul Toner said the MTA will be advocating for higher education funding closer to the House’s budget figure and early education funding closer to the Senate committee’s. Overall, he said, “We’re pleased to see gradual improvement in education funding, and we hope the Senate will follow the House’s lead in including the Foundation Budget Review Commission.”

The commission, priority legislation for the MTA, would be tasked with regularly reviewing and recalculating the Foundation Budget formula, which has not been thoroughly reviewed in 20 years. Toner said the commission “would help every child succeed.”

Reviving the commission was not included in the Ways and Means budget, but an amendment identical to one included in the House budget is set to be introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education.

The Ways and Means Committee’s proposal was unveiled in anticipation of full Senate debate next week. Senators have until Friday afternoon to review the plan and offer amendments.

The House passed its version of the spending plan — also amounting to $36.2 billion — on May 1.

After the full Senate debates the Ways and Means proposal, the budget moves to a House and Senate conference committee, where negotiators will work out a final version to present to Governor Deval Patrick.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.