An initial analysis of the legislation finds that it meets most of AFT MA’s education funding goals, mirroring in many ways the funding provisions of the AFT MA-backed Promise Act. That said, there is room for improvement around certain provisions in the bill, and AFT MA will be supporting several amendments as the bill moves through the legislative process.
“The changes to the Foundation Budget formula in this bill are a major victory for students, families, educators, and everyone in Massachusetts who believes that every student should have a high-quality, well-funded public school,” says AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “However, we hope that legislators will clarify some troubling provisions in the bill around new accountability measures and also better address the loss of funding to charter schools.”
“This report clearly shows why students, parents, educators and community leaders around the state support the Promise Act – it’s the only proposal that would deliver the resources needed to achieve equal access to great public education in every community. Let’s be clear – students in poverty need significantly more resources than they receive under the current formula. The status quo is failing low-income students, and incremental progress is not enough. Students need fully and equitably funded schools, no matter where they live.
“This report shows how the Governor’s bill would shortchange students of color, low-income students in urban and rural districts, immigrant students, and students with disabilities. It shows the critical importance of fully investing in the lowest-income districts whose students have the greatest need, as the Promise Act does.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when, in a state as wealthy as Massachusetts, some of our students with the greatest needs are the very ones who don’t have access to the education they deserve,” says Beth Kontos, AFT Massachusetts president.
“Teachers and school employees in our union are standing with parents, students and members of our community to challenge legislators live up to the promise to fund all public schools and colleges fully and fairly,” Kontos continues.
Over four thousand educators, parents, students, and public education supporters rallied and marched on the State House on May 16 to demand that members of the state Legislature and the governor fix the flawed state funding system.
The Fund Our Future coalition was formed to end the generation-long underfunding of local public schools and public colleges and universities in Massachusetts and is made up of the following members: American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, Boston Teachers Union, Citizens for Public Schools, FairTest, Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, Massachusetts Teachers Association, NAACP New England Area Conference, PHENOM — the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, and SEIU Local 888. The coalition is calling on the Legislature to meet the
Since last year, the Fund Our Future campaign has been pushing for passage of the Cherish Act, which would increase state per-student funding for public higher education back to 2001 levels over five years, an increase of $600 million, and freeze tuition and fees at public campuses every year that state funding targets are met. As that push continues, advocates are proposing that the FY21 budget include at least the additional $120 million for public higher education that the first year of the Cherish Act would provide.
“We won a huge victory for public school students across Massachusetts with the Student Opportunity Act, but students from schools that will finally be well-funded are still slated to move on to public colleges and universities that are deeply underfunded. Students are being asked to borrow more and more to attend schools that are cutting the programs and services students need,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “AFT Massachusetts, along with our partners in the Fund Our Future campaign, are committed to giving every student in Massachusetts access to great public schools from preK through college. Passing the Cherish Act, and starting to reinvest in our public colleges in this year’s budget, is the next step in that campaign.”
Governor Baker’s budget proposal last week kicked off the first year of the seven-year implementation of the landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA), and now is the time for AFT Massachusetts members and allies to ensure that the resources won in the SOA go to programs and services that directly benefit students. Read on to learn how the law will affect your community next year, and what you can do to take action at the local level.
“We were happy to see that the bill requires district plans to consider input from parents and educators — something we fought for,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos after the signing of the SOA. “We will need to remain vigilant and engaged during implementation to ensure that parent and educator voices are respected, and to make sure that new funds are spent on the correct priorities — direct supports and services for students.”
The Fund Our Future campaign today issued the following statement regarding the education proposals in Governor Baker’s State of the Commonwealth (SOTC) address:
“Students, parents, union educators and community advocates are pleased to hear Governor Baker say that meeting the school funding commitments laid out in the Student Opportunity Act will be easy. We expect that his budget proposal tomorrow will reflect that belief, and we anticipate the same commitment from the Legislature this year and in the years to come. This funding cannot reach our classrooms soon enough.
Tens of thousands of public-school advocates across Massachusetts let out a collective cheer after Governor Charlie Baker signed the landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA) into law at a signing ceremony at English High School in Boston on November 26. The new law commits the state to achieving equitably funded public schools over a seven-year span, promising billions in additional state aid over that period.
“Today is a day to rejoice and celebrate,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos, who attended the signing ceremony. “The strength of this new law is a testament to the tens of thousands of AFT members, parents, and activists who poured their hearts and souls into this multiyear struggle for equitably funded public schools. Make no mistake: Our hard work and dedication paid off. The Legislature and governor heard our voices and saw our determination. Consequently, we won a great victory for students, educators, and parents.”
The landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA) moved closer to final passage when both the Massachusetts House and Senate voted unanimously on November 20 to approve a compromise bill that emerged from a House-Senate conference committee. The conference-committee bill ironed out modest differences between the version of SOA passed by the Senate on Oct. 3 and the version passed by the House on Oct 23. The bill is now on the desk of Governor Charlie Baker, who has ten days from receipt to sign the bill, veto it, or send it back to the Legislature with amendments.
“The Student Opportunity Act is a true game-changer for low-income students and their communities, and we’re delighted to see it approach the finish line,” said AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos upon the approval of the conference-committee bill. “This victory for public education is a direct result of the tens of thousands of students, educators, parents, and advocates, including thousands of AFT members, who made phone calls, sent e-mails and letters, attended rallies and forums around the state, and demanded transformative investments in our public schools.”
“The vote by the House gets us even closer to the finish line,” said AFT MA President Beth Kontos. “This achievement is a result of the sweat, blood and tears given by thousands of AFT members and public school advocates across the state over the last two years. Now we must stay active and vigilant as the two branches move to resolve their differences. We are hopeful this will happen swiftly, so that final legislation can be sent to the governor as soon as possible.”
The House version of SOA mirrors that passed in the Senate when it comes to the key funding provisions. The bill would make an extraordinary investment in K-12 public education, delivering an additional $1.5 billion in annual state aid to local public schools, with the bulk of those resources going to the neediest schools and students.