The Massachusetts FY17 state budget eliminates funding for full-day kindergarten grants, an important program that supports kindergarten quality and districts’ transition from half- to full-day programs. Now local officials are responding to the news.
“More than $18 million has been slashed from a state program to expand full-day kindergarten, which could put a new strain on school districts’ already cash-strapped coffers,” the Gloucester Times reports.
“If unchanged, the cuts essentially gut funding for a full-day kindergarten program, forcing communities that depend on the money to trim their own budgets or otherwise make up the costs.
“School administrators are lobbying to restore the funding.
“Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said the cuts will hurt, especially because many school districts have been expecting that money to cover full-time kindergarten costs for the coming year.”
“Some districts approved their budgets with the expectation of continued funding, and they’ve been caught flat-footed by the cuts,” Scott told the Times. “So now they’re going to have to make up the difference, either through budget reductions or elimination of programs.”
The article adds:
“Full-day kindergarten grant amounts aren’t yet available for the coming year, but most school districts on the North Shore received funding through the program last year. Top grant recipients locally included Lynn, $473,347; Peabody, $197,760; Salem, $166,170; and Danvers, $109,510. Gloucester received $98,260.”
“‘This funding is critical for the communities that depend on it,’ said state Rep. Linda Campbell, D-Methuen, a member of the powerful House Way and Means Committee, who opposes the cuts. ‘These cuts are devastating and will have a major impact on school budgets.’”
A Wicked Local article covered expected cuts in Melrose.
“Melrose kindergarten classrooms could have fewer paraprofessionals in September after the state legislature eliminated funding for its kindergarten grant on the final day of the fiscal year.
Mayor Rob Dolan derided the state’s decision.
“‘I think it’s one of the biggest disgraces that I have witnessed in my 15 years as mayor, that the House and Senate would totally eliminate a major funding source on the last day of the fiscal year,’ Dolan said. ‘Who’s running the show? Who’s making these decisions?’
“Last year, Melrose received approximately $115,000 through the Kindergarten Expansion Grant to fund the salaries of six kindergarten paraprofessionals, or teacher’s aides. Each of the district’s 15 kindergarten classrooms had at least one paraprofessional.”
“‘I’m very disappointed that this funding for kindergarten grants was eliminated in the final conference committee budget,’ said State Sen. Jason Lewis. ‘Rep. [Paul] Brodeur and I will work with the Melrose School Committee and Superintendent Taymore and Mayor Dolan to help in any way we can to make up for this lost funding in the FY17 Melrose school budget.’”
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Governor Baker signed the FY17 budget on July 8, 2016, and made $256 million in vetoes. The vetoes include $17.85 million in cuts to early education, including a $7.5 million cut to the early educator rate reserve (line item 1599-0042) bringing its total down to $5 million. This appropriation would be far below the Board of Early Education and Care’s recommended rate reserve of $31 million — which it proposed in its aspirational budget ask back in December — and this cut would further delay addressing the ongoing workforce crisis in Massachusetts.
Now, the Legislature could vote to override the governor’s vetoes.
Stay tuned. We’ll continue to share budget news as it happens.