Senate passes FY 2015 budget

The Massachusetts Senate has passed a $36.4 billion budget for fiscal 2015 that increases funding for early education, K-12 and higher education and revives the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

MTA President Paul Toner called inclusion of the commission “a big step forward for students and school districts” across the Commonwealth. “Reviving this commission is long overdue,” he said. A thorough recalculation of the foundation budget formula will “put us on the path toward adequate funding so all students can succeed. It’s the right thing to do,” Toner said.

The commission, filed as an amendment by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston), passed unanimously on a 39-0 roll-call vote. The commission is also included in the budget plan passed by the House and in Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed budget.

 In the Senate version, which passed late Thursday, May 22, Chapter 70 education aid increases by close to $100 million, as it does in the House version. The boost would keep every school district at its required foundation level and provide each district with a minimum increase of $25 per student. The Senate version also fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker and allocates $70.3 million, or 90 percent, of the cost for regional school transportation. Funding for K-12 education would rise 3 percent overall.

The University of Massachusetts would receive a 7.7 percent increase over what was allocated in the fiscal 2014 General Appropriations Act. The increase, similar to that proposed in the governor’s and House budgets, allows for a freeze in tuition and student fees for a second year.

State universities would see an increase of 2.4 percent over 2014. The House and governor‘s budgets would add $8 million in incentive grants, but the Senate did not include these in its budget.

Community college campuses would receive increases of 1 to 2 percent over 2014. The governor and House added $13 million as “funding reform” for community colleges in their budgets, but the Senate did not.

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

The House and Senate versions now move to a conference committee, where negotiators will work out a final version to present to the governor. The new fiscal year starts July 1.