Report warns school funding system still inequitable

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS) – The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education renewed their calls Thursday for the state to phase out some elements of its school funding formula that they say perpetuate inequities.

Last September, the two business groups published a report examining “needs-blind” elements of the Chapter 70 school aid formula — factors not based on community wealth or income — that found 64 percent of every “needs-blind dollar,” or almost $500 million, goes to the wealthiest 20 percent of school districts. In a new brief released Thursday, they said that this fiscal year, the state’s “least wealthy districts will receive the smallest portion of this needs-blind aid, both in aggregate and on a per-pupil basis.”

The brief recommends incrementally phasing out the “hold-harmless provision,” a commitment by lawmakers that no district will receive less Chapter 70 aid than the year before. It said that in fiscal 2022, “the wealthiest 20% of districts will receive over three times as much hold-harmless base aid per-pupil than the least wealthy 20% of districts.”

The Chamber and MBAE also suggest phasing out the minimum aid funding increase for districts whose state aid would otherwise not go up, increasing the maximum required local contribution to 85 percent of the foundation budget from its current 82.5 percent, and conducting an “equity analysis” before distributing any new forms of education aid.

“Implementing these recommendations will better align the state’s investment in K-12 education with student and community need,” the brief said. “By strategically targeting Chapter 70 funding to student and community need, the state can make the best use of its financial resources while simultaneously injecting greater equity into the state’s K-12 education system. “

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