O utdated computers, the cost of charter schools and parents having to provide basic essentials such as toilet paper for students
are just a few of the items that have been brought
to the attention of the Foundation Budget Review
Commission during public hearings being held
across the Commonwealth.
The commission is charged with reviewing the
way foundation budgets are calculated and making
recommendations for any necessary changes.
Established by the Education Reform Act of
1993, foundation budgets spell out how much money
is required in each district to provide students with
an adequate education. The budget formula shapes
state aid to cities and towns for education spending.
The MTA advocated for reviving the Foundation
Budget Review Commission because the funding
formula has not had a thorough review since its
creation. The Legislature agreed to the proposal in
the last session.
Testimony presented by educators, parents,
students, school administrators and municipal
officials indicates that the current formula is falling
far short of meeting student needs. Educators called
attention to myriad concerns, ranging from access
to technology and library services to the lack of
resources available for meeting students’ social
and emotional needs. One educator said the utter
lack of resources in her district made asking
parents to provide toilet paper for the schools a
As members of the review commission have
heard from representatives of small rural districts,
large urban ones and everything in between, the
theme has been consistent: More state funding is
necessary to create the schools that children deserve.
“I am glad educators are attending the hearings
and telling their stories,” said MTA President Barbara
Madeloni, who holds a seat on the 21-member
commission. “The commission must be made aware
of what our teachers and school staffs need to provide
the best education possible for all children.
“There also needs to be a discussion about how
the current standardized testing regimen that students
face further takes away resources that should go
toward providing a deeper, richer educational
experience for students,” Madeloni added.
Springfield Education Association President Tim
Collins testified at one hearing about the critical need
for social and emotional support services for students.
“At our Level 4 schools, with grants, we could
get services for children. But every child deserves
that kind of support,” Collins said. “This is the civil
rights fight of our time.”
Several educators urged the commission,
chaired by Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston)
and Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), to
expand the scope of foundation budget allocations
to include the impact that charter schools have on
Julie Spencer-Robinson, president of the
Northampton Association of School Employees, said
community schools often have students who require
more resources to educate than do charter schools,
which compete for the same public funds. To meet
those needs, she said, traditional public schools
have been forced to cut back in other areas, which
then prompts families to seek other schools for their
“I can appreciate that a family would leave a
school if we can’t provide the enrichment they are
looking for. But the level of competition now and the
way schools are funded impoverish the traditional
public schools,” she said.
While municipal officials’ testimony has
tended to focus on the burdens of insurance and
transportation costs on their districts, educators
have steered the discussion back to the schools
themselves. Nancy Stenberg, a library/media
specialist at Frontier Regional School in South
Deerfield, simply detailed all of the ways she helps
her students meet their academic goals — from
teaching them how to reset computer passwords to
conducting proper research.
“I urge you, please ensure that all schools have
a library and librarians they deserve,” she said when
she addressed the commission.
Jeromie Whalen, who teaches technology at
Northampton High School, told the commission
about the amount of free software he has access
to from federal education programs. “But we
can’t install any of it because our machines are so
outdated,” he said.
Madeloni is encouraging MTA members to keep
bringing their stories to the commission.
“The commission needs to know the reality
of educating the whole child and recognize
the shortfalls of current budgeting assumptions,”
The Foundation Budget Review Commission
will hold its final hearing on March 9 in Boston. The
specific location has not been announced.
Updates will be available on the MTA website,
www.massteacher.org. MTA members can also
submit testimony to the commission via e-mail by
sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Spencer-Robinson, president of the
Northampton Association of School Employees,
told the Foundation Budget Review Commission
that “the level of competition now and the way
schools are funded impoverish the traditional
Photo by Scott McLennan
n “An Act creating a living wage for employees
and contracted employees of the Commonwealth,”
sponsored by Representative Dave Rogers
(D-Cambridge). The bill creates a living wage
of $15 per hour for employees, contractors and
subcontractors of the Commonwealth. It includes
indexing for inflation and enforcement provisions
Boston’s living wage ordinance.
n “An Act relative to increasing the COLA
base,” sponsored by Representative Garballey. The
bill increases the current base used to calculate the
annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirees in the
Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System and the
Massachusetts State Employees’ Retirement System,
from 3 percent of $13,000 to 3 percent of $16,000.
The agenda also calls for the MTA to support
legislation leading to a graduated income tax.
Of the 43 states that have a personal income tax,
Massachusetts is one of seven with a flat rate. The
rate now stands at 5. 15 percent.
The Tax Fairness Commission, a bipartisan
panel established by the Legislature in 2013 to
analyze a broad array of state tax laws, concluded
that the overall tax system in Massachusetts is
regressive, meaning that middle- and low-income
taxpayers pay a larger share of their income in taxes
than do high-income taxpayers.
The commission recommended instituting the
graduated tax through a constitutional amendment.
Such a change would require two consecutive
constitutional conventions and voter approval at the
Working with partners in the State House and
the community, the MTA is supporting this effort, as
well as individual pieces of legislation that address
inequitable taxation and the need for increased
MTA adopts ambitious agenda for new legislative session
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