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.
“However, we are incredibly frustrated that Governor Baker’s remarks completely ignore our state’s public higher education funding crisis. While the Student Opportunity Act addresses the underfunding of K-12 schools in Massachusetts, the graduates of those schools are still entering public colleges and universities that are deeply underfunded and increasingly unaffordable.
“Public college students are going hungry and experiencing homelessness on campus, or dropping out due to the burden of student debt. Part-time adjunct faculty are being stretched thin, teaching classes on multiple campuses and still not receiving health insurance. Buildings are crumbling after years of disrepair as campus budgets fail to make up for the state’s disinvestment. Governor Baker failed to even acknowledge these urgent problems tonight, and his administration has allowed them to intensify for years.
“We need major reinvestment in our public colleges and universities to restore the promise of an affordable, high-quality public higher education, like previous generations of Massachusetts residents had. We hope Governor Baker’s budget will offer more for public college students than tonight’s speech did, but if it doesn’t, students and their allies will turn to legislators to demand action.”
The Fund Our Future campaign was formed to end the generation-long underfunding of local public schools and public colleges and universities in Massachusetts and is endorsed by the following members: Act on Mass, AFT Massachusetts, Alliance for Brookline Schools, Asian American Resource Workshop, Boston Democratic Socialists of America (BDSA), Boston Education Equity Coalition, Boston Education Justice Alliance, Boston Teachers Union, CEPA at UMass Amherst, Citizens for Public Schools, College Dems of MA, Hampshire Franklin Labor Council, Interfaith Worker Justice, JALSA, Jewish Labor Committee, La Communidad, La Voz de la Comunidad – Framingham, Local 26 Unite Here, Lowell Education Justice Alliance, Mass COSH, Massachusetts Communities Action Network , Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Voter Table, Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council, MNA, NAACP New England Area Conference, North Shore Labor Council, Pioneer Valley Labor Council, Pioneer Valley Street Heat, Progressive Massachusetts, Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM), PUMA Parent Union of Mass, QUEST (Quality Education for Every Student), Revere Youth in Action, SEIU 888, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Tikkun Olam Congregation Bnai Israel Northampton, Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Women Encouraging Empowerment, and Youth on Board.
After months of aggressive campaigning by the Fund Our Future campaign, the Student Opportunity Act, which commits the state to increasing annual K-12 education funding by $1.5 billion over inflation over a seven-year phase-in, was signed into law on November 26. The legislation updates and modernizes the state’s foundation budget formula for school spending, provides millions of dollars more for the highest-poverty districts whose students have the greatest needs, expands the state’s special education reimbursement program (circuit breaker) to include out-of-district transportation funding, and increases the annual spending cap for Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) projects. The primary beneficiaries of the law, the most significant update of the state’s education funding system since 1993, will be low-income students, students of color and English learners who have been left behind for years by the old, outdated school funding system. The Fund Our Future campaign will continue to monitor the implementation of the Student Opportunity Act over the coming years.
While the Student Opportunity Act addresses the underfunding of K-12 schools in Massachusetts, the graduates of those schools are still entering public colleges and universities that are deeply underfunded and increasingly unaffordable. In 2014, the state’s Higher Education Finance Commission found that Massachusetts 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. The Fund Our Future campaign seeks to 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.