Show Up, Speak Up and Act Up to Win a Bill that Students, Educators and Communities Deserve
A Few Takeaways Comparing the Student Opportunity Act to the Promise Act
- The overall funding increase is roughly the same. Both measures provide funding increases for all four areas recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission: educating low-income students, students with disabilities and English learners, and increasing funding to pay for rising health insurance costs. The formulas are somewhat different, leading to different totals for districts than were projected for the Promise Act.
- The SOA also increases funding for the special education “circuit breaker” program by including, for the first time, transportation expenses in costs eligible for reimbursement. In addition, it decouples the circuit breaker from the foundation budget, thereby fixing a current problem through which foundation budget increases can reduce circuit breaker reimbursements. This bill would also increase the cap on state funding for the School Building Assistance program by $150 million a year.
- The Promise Act has a more generous provision for districts that lose a lot of money to charter schools, particularly Boston. The SOA commits the Legislature to fully funding the charter school reimbursement line item, though it only guarantees to do so for three years.
- The Promise Act was solely focused on increasing opportunities for students, while the SOA includes several onerous “accountability” provisions that require more bureaucratic compliance. The SOA requires DESE to set new measures of “persistent disparities in achievement” — in addition to the many performance metrics already required under existing laws and regulations. It would require districts to write new plans spelling out how they will meet those metrics. DESE would have the authority to “review” and require changes in those plans, diminishing local decision-making on how best to improve a district’s public schools. The MTA is developing amendments to address these concerns.
When we fight, we win!
Because of the hard work of MTA members, students, coalition partners and public education allies in the State House, the Student Opportunity Act, the new education funding bill based on the MTA-backed Promise Act, has moved out of the Education and Senate Ways and Means committees and is heading to the Senate floor for debate on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Like the Promise Act, the SOA would increase state funding for public schools by $1.5 billion over inflation when fully implemented. Most of the new money would go to districts serving high concentrations of low-income students — students whose schools have been historically underfunded. This is huge!
We need MTA members who are available on Oct. 3 to head to Beacon Hill to celebrate the progress this bill represents and support amendments to eliminate the onerous accountability measures that have worked their way into the bill. Joined by MTA retirees, we will be there beginning at 11 a.m. If you can take a personal day, come join us. There’s a good chance debate will go into the evening, so if you can’t take the day off, come after school. Wear a red T-shirt to let senators know you want them to make a good bill great.
For those who can’t make it to the State House, we will be sending out alerts with information about how to contact your senator to support our amendments (or oppose poisonous ones) and move a strong pro-public-education bill on to the House, where the next battle will be waged, likely in mid-October.
Even though there is wide support for the funding provisions in the Legislature, it’s important to remember that Governor Charlie Baker wants less funding. Baker’s bill would provide about one-third as much money as the SOA. In addition, he is in full support of provisions that undermine local autonomy and lead to privatization. As the bill makes its way through the Legislature, the MTA and other members of the Fund Our Future coalition will be fighting hard for the full $1.5 billion increase in funding and against burdensome and unnecessary new accountability measures.
Let’s seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pass a great education funding bill.
Support Funding in the Student Opportunity Act
11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3
State House, Third Floor
Outside the Senate chamber
You can also head to the State House after school as the Senate debate is likely to go well into the evening. #RedforEd