The Need for Significant Change in Educational Funding in Massachusetts
Nixon Peabody’s Andrew Glincher and Julie Hancock Stande are graduates of Brockton High School, one of the schools negatively impacted by the existing state education formula. They say it’s time for the Commonwealth to take action.
It is time for the Commonwealth to make the changes necessary to provide equitable funding to its low-income school districts. The Commonwealth’s education funding formula is outdated and in need of an update to address the changes and increased costs in our education system. It was disappointing to hear that the House and Senate were not able to reach an agreement during the legislative session this week to update the formula to meet the needs of the students and teachers in the Commonwealth.
Low-income communities such as our hometown of Brockton have been facing these issues for a number of years. Brockton is a diverse, vibrant community with a school system made up of dedicated teachers and administrators. An increase in funding would provide these teachers and administrators the tools they need to provide the education that their students deserve. Out-of-date books, lack of technology, elimination of community school programs, and over-crowded classrooms (due to layoff of staff) are just a few of the issues that face the school districts in low-income communities. With friends and family still working in the school system in Brockton, we hear first-hand the issues the school district faces. Many of these same issues were present during our time in Brockton Public Schools so it is unacceptable that the Commonwealth has still not provided the funding needed to make a difference.
“Out-of-date books, lack of technology, elimination of community school programs, and over-crowded classrooms are just a few of the issues that face the school districts in low-income communities.”
Spending levels for low-income students and English-language learners are the biggest areas of disagreement between the House and the Senate and are greatly under-estimated — and these are the areas that affect low-income communities the most. While this education funding formula may not affect the wealthy districts in the Commonwealth as much, as those towns supplement funds with property taxes, the low-income cities and towns in the Commonwealth are continuously at a loss. The gap between low-income districts and affluent districts is continuing to widen.
The City of Brockton is now working with Worcester and other districts on a potential lawsuit against the Commissioner of Education of Massachusetts to get more funding for these schools in low-income communities. Brockton spearheaded the McDuffy case in the early 1990s, which was the catalyst for education reform that came about in 1993. Five years later, Brockton determined that more change was needed and the city brought an equitable funding lawsuit against the Commissioner of Education of Massachusetts in 1998 (Julie Hancock vs. David Driscoll, Commissioner of Education). The lawsuit was won in the lower court and then made it up to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 2004 where the case was ultimately lost. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court noted that the Commonwealth needed to make more progress but they gave the Commonwealth more time to make these changes. Fourteen years later, as we look at many of the same issues in Brockton and similar school districts, it is clear that the Commonwealth has not made enough progress. Now is the time to create positive change that these low-income communities deserve.
Andrew I. Glincher is CEO and Managing Partner of Nixon Peabody LLP and a Brockton High School graduate. In his current role, he leads 1,500 colleagues including more than 650 attorneys who collaborate across major practice areas in cities throughout the U.S. and with alliance firms around the world.
Julie Hancock Stande is an attorney in Nixon Peabody’s Boston office and a graduate of Brockton High School. As a student, Julie was the lead plaintiff in the equitable funding lawsuit against the Commissioner of Education of Massachusetts in 1998 (Julie Hancock vs. David Driscoll, Commissioner of Education).