It’s Time to Fix Our Education Funding Formula & Invest In Our Public Schools

Massachusetts has some of the best public schools in the world. If you look at our test scores, Massachusetts consistently ranks at or near the top of national rankings. This success is a testament to terrific teachers, staff, and administrators who dedicate their careers to caring for our children and teaching them the skills they need to succeed in our economy and society.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts also has some of the worst racial, geographic, and socioeconomic disparities in the country. These disparities are caused — in large measure — by underinvestment of state resources combined with an outdated funding formula.

Twenty-five years ago, Massachusetts made a significant policy change, setting a budget floor for funding school districts across Massachusetts. It was a critical step — and one that hasn’t been updated since.

The budget calculation underestimates the cost of educating students by more than $2 billion, according to one estimate. It fails to account for demographic changes and inflation. It fails to provide the resources necessary for students with special needs, English language learners, and challenges students face in their communities that affect their readiness to learn. This broken funding formula has caused unnecessary hardship for many schools across the Commonwealth, who must make painful choices to account for funding shortfalls.

Cash-strapped schools have to make too many hard choices, from cutting teachers to scaling back art, music, and civics programs. Students in the poorest neighborhoods pay the biggest price. It’s not what the legislature intended, and it’s not right.

We can do better. Budgets are about values. The budgets we give our schools should show just how much value we place on our children’s future.

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s Act to Modernize the Foundation Budget — which recently received a unanimous vote on the Senate floor — would implement the recommendations of a bipartisan commission on how to update these Chapter 70 calculations. The House should pass it, and the Governor should sign it. We should also pass the Fair Share Amendment this November to give Massachusetts more resources to invest in our public schools and in our children’s future.

Quentin Palfrey is a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts who has been endorsed by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, AFT Massachusetts, Progressive Massachusetts, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, and more than a dozen Democratic legislators. He previously served as Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness in President Obama’s White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and as Chief of the Health Care Division in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office. Palfrey is the author of a widely-cited article on education finance: The State Judiciary’s Role in Fulfilling Brown’s Promise, published in the Michigan Journal of Race & Law in 2002. More information about his campaign is available here:www.quentinpalfrey.com