“The final conference budget is a big win for students and educators in Massachusetts. Permanent funding for universal free school meals will ensure that no child goes hungry at school, or feels the shame of not having enough money to afford lunch,” said, AFT Massachusetts President Beth Kontos. “New revenue from the Fair Share Amendment will fund programs to rebuild and renovate our schools while prioritizing environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, so that students and educators can focus on learning and teaching, rather than dealing with windows that don’t open, crumbling cement and bricks, and a lack of reliable temperature control.”
“The budget would also fully implement another year of the Student Opportunity Act, resulting in more funding for our highest-need schools to hire teachers and support staff, close achievement gaps, and offer the wraparound services our students need to recover from the stresses of the pandemic,” she continued. “And at our public colleges and universities, the budget will deliver significant needed progress on affordability for students and building improvements. I want to thank the members of the conference committee for prioritizing Massachusetts students in this budget, and acknowledge the months of advocacy by AFT Massachusetts members who reached out to their legislators and stayed involved during this budget process.”
The FY24 budget agreement contains numerous increases to K-12 education-related line items:
- $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 school aid, a $604 million (~10%) increase over FY23, which represents full funding of the Student Opportunity Act for the third year of a planned six-year implementation period. This funding includes a doubling of the minimum Chapter 70 aid level from $30 to $60 per pupil.
- $505 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, a $65 million (~14%) increase over FY23, which reflects a full phase-in of the out-of-district transportation cost reimbursement provided for in the SOA.
- $233 million to fund the charter school reimbursement line item.
- $172 million for universal free school meals in public schools, making this program that was federally-funded during the COVID pandemic permanent using state dollars.
- $100 million in Fair Share funds for the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and $50 million for a Green School Works initiative to support school building projects that install or maintain clean energy infrastructure.
The budget also includes several new investments in public higher education, including:
- $84 million in Fair Share funds for expanded student financial aid.
- $50 million to support free community college across all campuses by the fall of 2024, including $38 million to fund free community college this fall for students 25 years of age and older or those pursuing nursing degrees.
- $50 million in Fair Share funds for additional one-time investment in capital improvements to campuses.
“This budget shows what Massachusetts can do when we focus on investing in our students and their families, and it provides a model that must be built on in upcoming annual budgets. While it makes historic investments in our students, this budget still represents only the third of six years of major increases to K-12 education spending that are required under the Student Opportunity Act,” Kontos said. “Amid the strain of inflation on school budgets, careful financing planning will be required to ensure that this promise to our highest-need students is fulfilled over the next three years. And while the budget makes notable investments in public higher education that will begin to make up for the devastating cuts our campuses have experienced over the past few decades, even greater funding will be required to achieve our goal of a fully-funded, fully debt-free public college system. If we want Massachusetts to be a place where every student is given the tools to succeed and thrive, we need to continue making new investments like this every year.”