More than one-third of lawmakers have requested that House and Senate leaders increase by more than $20 million local education aid beyond what had been proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker in his budget for next year, joining with local leaders who pressed budget writers on Monday to increase school aid to their communities despite the administration contention that “difficult” choices must be made in a lean budget year.
The $39.55 billion fiscal 2017 budget proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker includes a $72.1 million increase in Chapter 70 local education funding, representing a 1.6 percent increase over the current year. During a hearing before the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees at Everett High School, municipal and education leaders said that sum was not enough to maintain their programs and implored the lawmakers to bump up the funding in their versions of the budget.
“It does seem to me that when anticipated state revenues are going to rise by more than 4 percent, to increase Chapter 70, your major public education line item account, by a mere 1.6 percent, that’s woefully inadequate,” Chelsea City Manager Thomas Ambrosino said. “This is the core function of government, and it seems to me more resources have to be put toward it.”
The testimony came after a bipartisan group of 74 House and Senate lawmakers sent a letter last week to Ways and Means chairs Rep. Brian Dempsey and Sen. Karen Spilka asking for the increase in minimum aid for school districts to climb from the $20 per pupil proposed by Baker to $50 per pupil. The change would amount to a $20.2 million increase in funding above the governor’s budget recommendation, according to the lawmakers.