K-12 Budget Priorities
FULFILLING OUR PROMISE TO THE COMMONWEALTH’S STUDENTS
Fully fund the Student Opportunity Act
In November 2019, students and educators across the Commonwealth celebrated a historic victory with the passage of the Student Opportunity Act. This landmark legislation acknowledged that our public schools were deeply underfunded and set a state requirement to fully fund that shortfall by FY2027. Passage of the SOA represents the state’s promise to address structural racism and the longstanding inequities in educational opportunity that have been sustained by the underfunding of public schools.
Due to financial challenges brought on by COVID-19, the state in its FY2021 budget failed to fund the first year of SOA implementation. Unfortunately, the governor’s FY2022 budget does not begin the process of getting the state back on track to close the shortfall by FY2027. Our students, particularly low-income students and students of color, have faced unprecedented levels of disruption and challenge over the past year; they quite simply cannot afford to wait any longer for the state to fulfill its promise.
The Commonwealth must fully phase in the SOA over the next six years to meet its FY2027 implementation deadline and hold districts harmless for pandemic-related enrollment changes. In FY2022, this means increasing public preK- 12 education funding by a total of $176.5 million over the governor’s budget recommendation.
Fully fund the SOA Chapter 70 increase based on a six-year schedule while holding districts harmless for pandemic-related enrollment changes. Enrollment in public school districts dropped by more than 30,000 students this past fall. The governor used these lower enrollment figures to calculate his FY2022 Chapter 70 recommendation, resulting in $122 million less than would be provided otherwise. Since many of those students will be back in public schools next fall, the governor’s recommendation represents a significant shortfall. Funding will be insufficient to meet the needs of the actual number of students likely to be enrolled in public school districts in the coming year.
The SOA set a three-year schedule for full funding of the charter school reimbursement line item by FY2023. Last year’s budget failed to meet this schedule, and the governor’sFY2022 recommendation does not get the state on track to full funding according to the original timeline. The state should increase funding for the charter school reimbursement line item to ensure full funding by FY2023.
The SOA made out-of-district transportation costs eligible for reimbursement under the special education circuit breaker program and called for full funding of the newly eligible costs by FY2024. The governor’s budget fails to adhere to the original schedule agreed to under the SOA. The state should get on track to ensure that eligible out-of-district transportation costs are reimbursed on time by FY2024 in accordance with the SOA.