Commonwealth Magazine – Governor Charlie Baker will propose fully funding the first year of the recently updated school funding formula when he releases his fiscal 2022 budget proposal next week – a commitment that was delayed by a year due to COVID-19.
Baker made the announcement on Friday at the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting, which was conducted virtually due to COVID-19.
Baker did not go into details other than to say the administration will “keep our commitment to local school districts by fully funding the first year of the Student Opportunity Act.”
The governor did not give an exact dollar figure for how much additional money he will put into education aid. But based on past estimates, it will likely be more than $300 million.
The Legislature passed and Baker signed the Student Opportunity Act in November 2019. The law rewrites the state’s Chapter 70 education funding formula to put more money into low-income districts, schools with English-language learners, special education costs, and employee health benefits. By the time it is fully funded, Massachusetts will be spending an additional $1.5 billion annually on education.
When he introduced his fiscal 2021 budget proposal in January 2020, Baker proposed allocating $303.8 million in new Chapter 70 state education aid to fully fund the first year of the seven-year implementation of the new formula. (Some advocates said the number should have been even higher, at $377 million.)
But after COVID-19 hit, causing a major recession and threatening to limit available state resources, Baker said in July that the state planned to defer implementing the new law and level fund education aid. In the final fiscal 2021 budget that lawmakers sent Baker in December, Chapter 70 aid increased by $108 million, just enough to cover inflation under the old formula.