The Foundation Budget Review Commission completed its work of the past year and released its recommendations to the legislature on Monday, November 2, 2015. The most significant recommendation was to increase the foundation budget allocation for health insurance by linking it to average GIC rates. MBAE’s study from 2010, School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept first quantified and brought attention to the enormous funding gap in K-12 education resulting from the extraordinary and unanticipated increases in the cost of health insurance benefits.
Of the $432 million increase in Chapter 70 state aid proposed in the Commission’s report over 80% (over $350 million) is to help close the funding gap caused by health insurance. The rest is to increase the allocation for special education. As Representative Alice Peisch who co-chaired the Commission said, “With sufficient funding for these areas millions of dollars across the Commonwealth will be freed up to spend on the kinds of things that we know students need.”
In addition to identifying shortfalls in education cost allocations of the foundation budget the Commission was charged with identifying ways to use state and local dollars in the most efficient and effective manner. MBAE’s focus was best captured in a comment from one of the six public hearings called by the Commission, “Money should follow the student at the school level, to ensure that additional aid is being spent on the students who it is intended to benefit.”
To this end we were pleased that the report included recommendations to establish tracking systems to ensure that spending is targeted to intended populations and that allow for greater access to information about school-level expenditures. For oversight it was also recommended that a Stakeholder Data Advisory Committee be convened to streamline reporting and strengthen capacity to make strategic resource allocation decisions at the district and school level.
MBAE congratulates the co-chairs of the Commission, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Peisch, for starting a substantive discussion about investment of public resources in education. We look forward to continuing the conversation as the recommendations move to the Legislature, and will be advocating for the school funding approach outlined in our New Opportunity to Lead agenda.
Read the Foundation Budget Review Commission report: http://www.mass.gov/legis/journal/desktop/2015/fbrc.pdf
MBAE is grateful to Board member Joe Esposito for the effort and expertise he brought to the Commission as a representative of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education