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Follow-up from Small Town Summit on rural education funding

Last Thursday night, 30 municipal and school leaders participated in a Small Town Summit at Gill Town Hall about rural school funding challenges in Massachusetts. Coverage of the meeting appeared in?last Friday’s?Greenfield Recorder. For additional notes about this meeting, please scroll down.

Several participants in the meeting referenced reports, meetings, and other materials. These resources are linked at the end of this post.?
Three workgroups forming?
Summit participants expressed interest in creating three workgroups, each to?tackle a separate issue raised at the meeting. These workgroups will: Explore the school funding formula with legislators to make sure?a revised formula is fair to rural schools. Collect data to illustrate the plight of rural school districts in Massachusetts. Explore legal action that would force the Commonwealth to provide adequate funding for rural schools.If you would like to join one of these workgroups, please email your workgroup preference to Beth Bandy?beth.bandy@ruralcommonwealth.orgby Friday, January 25.
Additional notes from the Summit
Jon Gould, Hilltown Community Liaison for Senator Adam Hinds, mentioned three proposals that the Senator supports:
– An increase in the rural state aid from FY2019 allocation of $1.5 million to $9 million for FY2020.?
– Complete revision of the Foundation Budget formula, “the PROMISE Act,” SD.101 (please see “Resources,” below for a link to the full text)
– Increase aid for school transportation, including vocational-technical, special, and out-of-district education. (Senator Hinds co-chairs school transportation task force).?

Attendee responses to the first point focused on the need to revise the Foundation Budget itself, as the present formula is inequitable. One suggestion was to shift the education tax burden from local property to state tax. The present ratio is 59% property / 41% state. Possibly revise to 45% property / 55% state. Additionally, the formula is based partially on population which is inherently unfair to rural schools. The rise in health insurance costs to schools should be accounted for in state aid.

Participants speculated about what?Governor Baker’s budget will look like regarding school funding. They also expressed interest in passing the millionaires’ tax and assigning the revenue from that to education.

Attendees noted that other issues impacting school costs include school choice, charter schools, and universal pre-school.

Participants discussed education as an economic development issue.?

One participant asked why Alabama?has universal preschool for 4-year-olds while Massachusetts does not.
Resources from Summit participants
From Superintendent Michael Sullivan, ED (Gill Montague Regional School District)
Building an Education System that Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive, released by MassBudget on July 18, 2018
“Analysis of Per Pupil Costs of Low Enrollment Districts and a Partial Solution: A Low Enrollment Adjustment Factor (LEAF).”?To receive a copy of this December 17, 2018 report, please email the Superintendent at?michael.sullivan@gmrsd.org.?

From Bob Armstrong (Conway Select Board)
Full text of the?Education PROMISE Act?(SD.101, “An Act providing rightful opportunities and meaningful investment for successful and equitable education.”)?

From Darlene McVeigh (Huntington Select Board and Gateway Regional School Committee)
On Thursday, January 24 at 6:30pm?in Huntington’s Stanton Hall, there will be?a joint meeting of the Hilltown Collaborative, Gateway Regional School District, and the Massachusetts?Association of Regional Schools. One topic to be addressed is legislation to provide claw-back relief for districts under the school building program that have had to close schools. To receive a?complete agenda for this meeting, please email Andy Myers, Chair of the Hilltown Collaborative,at?amyers767@gmail.com.

From Jen Audley (Montague Finance Committee)
Pioneer Valley Data, a new online tool with an aggregated?database covering the Pioneer Valley region, with?background info here.
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