To set state funding for K-12 public schools, Massachusetts relies on the Chapter 70 Program. Created by the Education Reform Act of 1993, and first implemented in fiscal year 1994, Chapter 70 uses a formula that “has two goals: adequacy and fairness,” according to a 2013 report from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DOE).
A fact sheet from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) adds, “The Education Reform Act also served as the Legislature ‘s response to the State Supreme Court case McDuffy v. Secretary of the Office of Education, which found on behalf of a group of students from communities with low property values that the state was not living up to its obligation to provide an adequate public education to all children in the state.”
Over the years, however, critics have challenged both the fairness and the adequacy of Chapter 70. And while the calculation of each district’s foundation budget is “updated each year to reflect inflation and changes in enrollment,” the formula at the heart of the foundation budget calculations has not been updated for over a decade.
Now, thanks to a provision in the fiscal year 2015 budget, a Foundation Budget Review Commission has been set up to review the formula.
Advocates around the state can participate by attending one of a series of public hearings that the commission is hosting around the state. One hearing was already held last month on the South Shore. The schedule for upcoming hearings is as follows, with specific future locations to be determined:
Monday, December 15, 2015, at 4:30 p.m. at Somerset Berkley Regional High School
Saturday, January 10, 2015, at 11 a.m. in Western Massachusetts
Saturday, January 24, 2015, at 11 a.m. in Central Massachusetts
Saturday, February 7, 2015, at 11 a.m. on the Cape
[This date has been updated.]
Monday, March 9, 2015, at 4:30 p.m. in Boston
“Hearing from the public is an essential part of the commission’s work,” Chris Martes, president and CEO of Strategies for Children explains. A nonvoting advisory member of the commission, Martes adds, “I encourage people to testify at one of the hearings and share their knowledge and ideas.”
To find out more, please contact Jennie Williamson, the research director for the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education. Her email address is Jennie.Williamson@mahouse.gov.
How Chapter 70 Works
To determine how much state funding school districts should get, Chapter 70 uses a formula to set a “foundation budget” or adequate spending level. Each foundation budget is “a statistical measure that was developed by a group of superintendents and an economist in the early 1990s,” according to a DOE document.
The formula also calculates “how much will be paid by the Commonwealth through Chapter 70 state aid. The overall state target for this split is 59% local and 41% state. But the ‘equity’ provisions in the formula are designed so that poorer communities will receive a higher percentage of state aid and wealthier communities will receive a lower percentage,” according to DOE.
To demystify Chapter 70, MassBudget breaks the calculation down to four basic steps:
- Calculate the foundation budget
- Calculate the local contribution from cities and towns
- Fill the gap between these two calculations with Chapter 70 aid, and
- Once Chapter 70 aid has been determined, have districts decide whether to contribute more funding
Members of the Foundation Budget Review Commission
The review commission is co-chaired by State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Boston) and by State Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). Both are co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee.
The other members include:
David Bunker, a Secretary of Education Designee
Tom Moreau, Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education Designee
Sean Faherty, Commissioner of Early Education & Care Designee
Representative Michael Moran (D-Brighton), Speaker of the House Designee
Senator Patricia Jehlen (D-Somerville), Senate President Designee
Representative Kim Ferguson (R-Holden), House Minority Leader Designee
Edward Moscovitch, Senate Minority Leader Designee
Paul Reville, Governor Designee
Evan Ross, House Ways & Means Chair Designee
Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), Senate Ways & Means Chair
Mayor Kevin Dumas, Massachusetts Municipal Association
Joe Esposito, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
Ann Marie Cugno, Massachusetts Association of School Committees
Mary Bourque, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
Barbara Madeloni, Massachusetts Teachers Association
John Coleman Walsh, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts
John Lafleche, Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators
Michael Wood, Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools, and,
David Verdolino, Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials
Joining Chris Martes as nonvoting advisory members are:
Mary Frantz, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
Luc Schuster, Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
JD Chesloff, Massachusetts Business Roundtable
Jennifer Francioso, Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association
Carolyn Ryan, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and,
Jason Williams, Stand for Children Massachusetts
So please go to a hearing and share your ideas. Having broad input from diverse perspectives is an indispensable part of the review process.