MTA President Max Page and Vice President Deb McCarthy sent the following message regarding Governor Maura Healey's proposed state budget for FY 2024.
Yesterday, Governor Maura Healey released her administration’s $55.5 billion Fiscal Year 2024 Budget proposal.
A budget is a moral document: It reflects what we care about, our priorities and values, and what we are willing to invest in as a community.
Yesterday’s budget proposal comes on the heels of our once-in-a-lifetime victory with the passage of the Fair Share Amendment in November. MTA educators were at the vanguard of the historic grassroots campaign to ensure that Massachusetts will see up to $2 billion in additional funding every year for public education and transportation.
Throughout the campaign and continuing over the past several months, we have called on the governor and the Legislature to be sure to allocate a “fair share of Fair Share” to public education, in preK through higher education.
As we said in our press release when the budget was released, we are enormously pleased that the governor commits to full funding of the Student Opportunity Act in an amount totaling almost $600 million, which is several hundred million dollars more than we would have seen in Chapter 70 education funding had MTA members not helped pass the Student Opportunity Act in 2019 as part of the Fund Our Future campaign.
Long left underfunded, public higher education is finally given a major infusion of funds in the governor’s proposals. Some $370 million in additional dollars raised from Fair Share is allocated for public higher education, above and beyond a 3 percent increase in campus operating budgets, and following the priorities laid out in MTA’s Cherish Act legislation. It will mean more financial aid for students (and therefore more working-class students attending public college), additional funding for student services support, and much-needed capital investment in the maintenance of our public campuses.
It is a strong first step toward creating a public higher education system that is debt-free and provides all students with the support they need to reach their full potential.
What’s missing in Governor Healey’s budget proposal?
While there is much to celebrate, the proposed budget is a long way from representing the kind of educational equity we envision. We need to keep fighting for grants to districts who commit to living wages for our essential Education Support Professionals, for additional school counselors to address students’ social and emotional needs, to incentivize municipalities to provide Paid Family/Medical Leave for educators, and for fair wages and working conditions for higher ed staff and faculty.
We will continue to advocate throughout the spring budget process that more funds go to secure these crucial investments. It is also worth noting that the governor and Legislature chose to be cautious in their estimate of how much the Fair Share Amendment will raise – they will only spend $1 billion this year even though we believe that Fair Share will ultimately bring in closer to $2 billion a year. So, we can expect more to come next year.
Unfortunately, money that could be used for education and other important needs would instead be used for regressive tax cuts:
The governor has proposed changes to the estate tax and short-term capital gains tax rate that would give the wealthiest an incredible windfall while depriving our communities of hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed revenue.
The proposed changes would give a few thousand of the wealthiest families in Massachusetts tax cuts of more than $100,000. These giveaways are the exact opposite of what Massachusetts residents made clear they wanted in November, when voters approved Question 1 for a fairer tax system. We will be working alongside our Raise Up Massachusetts colleagues to challenge the giveaways to the wealthiest, and balance any tax cuts with legislation to close corporate loopholes.
Continue your advocacy
There is still a long way to go to achieve fair public education funding for all our public schools and debt-free public higher education for students, full funding of student support services, and faculty and staff wages and working conditions that will allow educators to meet all of the needs of students and lead dignified lives.
But this budget proposal takes us steps further down the path toward greater equity, economic justice, and a richer civic and cultural life, where every student is educated, nurtured, and raised to become successful and creative adults, parents, and citizens.
As we move forward in the budget process, let’s also call on state lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors to the MTA’s legislative priorities and our budget proposals – including ending the destructive impact of high-stakes testing. Many already have; you can see each legislator’s co-sponsor record on our bills using this tracker.
In the coming months, the MTA will continue to advocate for our key shared priorities for public education. We will need all of you to make your voices heard, as the people the public most trusts when it comes to public education.