The budget approved by the Massachusetts Senate this week takes a significant step in the right direction for our public schools, providing more Chapter 70 funds than the House budget does and targeting much of the new money to educating low-income students. It provides $269 million in new Chapter 70 funding, up 4.1 percent from the current fiscal year. That’s $50 million more than what the House budget provides and $68 million more than in the governor’s budget.
On the downside, the Senate budget includes a destructive freeze on tuition and fees at the University of Massachusetts without approving adequate resources to maintain and improve the education that the university provides. The Senate budget would cause millions of dollars of cuts at our already-strapped campuses. We strongly support providing students with a debt-free opportunity to obtain a degree from our public colleges and universities, and that necessitates allocating adequate resources.
Other than the freeze provision, the Senate budget plan for campus funding closely resembles the House budget, providing a 7.5 percent increase for UMass – almost all of which funds modest collective bargaining agreements, 5.6 percent for the state universities and 4.1 percent for the community colleges.
Both the House and Senate budget plans, which now must be reconciled, do not appropriate enough funding to meet the requirements of either the Promise Act, which would update the foundation budget formula and increase state spending on public schools by more than $1 billion a year when fully phased in, or the Cherish Act, which would increase state spending on public higher education by about $600 million a year after a five-year phase-in.
We are continuing to urge the Legislature to enact the Promise and Cherish Acts this spring and to appropriate the additional education funding that would be needed to begin phasing in the increases in fiscal year 2020.