BUCKLAND, MA — Saying that 50 school districts and about 100 rural towns “will soon face the equivalent of bankruptcy,” Mohawk Trail Regional School Superintendent Michael Buoniconti has drafted a proposal to establish rural school aid as part of the state’s Chapter 70 educational aid formula. Part of the plan is to support state legislation that would get this additional aid to schools for the budget year that begins July 2017.
If the state were to adopt Buoniconti’s plan as written, it would generate $1 million per year more in state aid for Mohawk and $1.5 million per year more in state aid for the Athol-Royalston school district, for example.
“The fundamental argument that I make in this proposal is that rural schools are structurally underfunded by the Massachusetts Chapter 70 program,” he said. “I assert that, even if a rural school district were to close all its schools and revert to a one-room school house, given perpetually flat state education aid, the district will eventually become financially unsustainable.”
Inspired by Wisconsin’s $17.7 million “sparsity aid” provided to rural, low-enrollment schools in that state, Buoniconti is proposing a rural school aid program based on four criteria: enrollment, population density, Chapter 70 and per-capita income per town.