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Statement of AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos on Baker's Inaugural Address

In his inaugural address today, Governor Baker discussed his education agenda without acknowledging the drastic underfunding of our public schools.

The Fund Our Future coalition, which AFT Massachusetts is a proud member of, issued the following statement regarding Baker’s inaugural address:

“Governor Baker has shortchanged the students in our public schools for years, failing to repair the persistent inequity in education funding that exists between different communities in our state. Now, he is doubling down on a failed strategy by ignoring the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s call for $1 billion in new funding for our local schools.

“Educators and local community members know what our students need — the investment the state promised years ago and the ability to spend it where it’s needed most. Every student in Massachusetts deserves the same great public education, whether their family is rich or poor, whether they are black, white, or brown, and whether their community is urban, suburban, or rural.

“Meanwhile, Baker doesn’t even address the severe funding crisis in our public colleges and universities, which the Higher Education Finance Commission found are underfunded by more than $500 million a year. The cost of public higher education has skyrocketed in Massachusetts, limiting opportunities for students and forcing them to take on enormous debt.

“Our students can’t afford another year of Baker’s budget fiddling. The Legislature should reject the governor’s proposal and fully fund all of our local public schools and our public colleges and universities — this year.”

At AFT Massachusetts, we recognize that the systematic underfunding of our public schools increases the economic injustices that already exist in our poorest communities. Our urban schools and students especially suffer under the state’s failed school funding formula. Governor Baker and the Legislature can help alleviate this problem by fully funding our public schools, from preK through higher ed. It’s time for them to take action and fund our future, because our kids can’t afford to wait any longer.

-Beth Kontos, President, AFT Massachusetts


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, and PHENOM — the Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts. The coalition is calling on the Legislature to meet the recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission and the Higher Education Finance Commission by increasing state funding for preK-12 public schools by $1 billion a year and increasing state funding for public colleges and universities by more than $500 million a year. Advocates are calling for this major reinvestment in public education to happen in time for local communities to include the funding in the next academic year’s budget and in time for public college students to avoid tuition and fee hikes this fall.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission found in 2015 that the state is underfunding public education by at least $1 billion a year. The commission found that the state’s funding formula fails to account for the cost of four specific items: educating students who have disabilities, are English learners, or are from low-income families, and managing the rising cost of health insurance for staff. Since 2002, annual K-12 funding from the state has been cut by $405 million in inflation-adjusted dollars. Nationally, Massachusetts ranks 33rd in the share of our states’ economic resources dedicated to public education. As a result, many students aren’t getting a well-rounded education including small classes, music and art, science, technology, engineering, and math education, and public school staff including counselors, paraprofessionals, special education teachers and librarians.

The state’s Higher Education Finance Commission found in 2014 that the state is underfunding our public colleges and universities by more than $500 million a year in inflation-adjusted dollars. Since 2001, state funding of public colleges and universities has declined dramatically, from $12,000 per student each year to only $8,000 per student. As a result, Massachusetts has the fastest-growing public college costs and the second-fastest growth in student debt in the nation. Tuition and fees at Massachusetts’ public colleges and universities are among the highest in the country. Costs are being shifted onto students and families, who are forced to take on enormous debt. Today, the average UMass student is graduating with over $30,000 in student debt, and the average graduate of our state universities leaves school with over $25,000 in student debt. At the same time, full-time tenured faculty members are being replaced by part-time instructors who are paid much less, have no job security, and often do not receive health insurance coverage.

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