If the world of education funding has been a massive break over the past three years, then Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) is the technician who showed up just in time this year with the parts to fix it.
DiDomenico, who has been a leader on education finance reform with Supt. Dianne Kelly, reported this week that the Senate Budget proposal – which has now moved to the House and needs agreement there – contains a once-and-for-all fix to the education funding formula that has wreaked havoc on communities like Revere for the past three years.
“This is a big deal,” he said on Tuesday. “This is the fix that is going to solve all our problems that we’ve been dealing with over the last several years with school funding…This was the simple fix we’ve been hoping to get for a long time and there was hesitation to do it. I want to thank Sen. Karen Spilka for doing this change. It’s a big deal for Everett, Chelsea, Revere and 14 other communities in the state. It’s a major policy shift and a major win for our communities.”
The fix in the budget is quite simple in that it restores the method of counting low-income – now known as economically disadvantaged – students through the use of free and reduced lunch applications. Three years ago, the federal government and the state government adopted a new way of counting such students using federal benefits as an indicator. However, many low-income and immigrant families do not qualify for federal benefits, and thus are not counted despite being impoverished.
That leaves the local communities on the hook, and it has been daunting. All the while, the state has been hesitant to restore the old counting method using free and reduced lunch forms. The first step to change that has now passed the Senate and could become law if the House and Gov. Charlie Baker also adopt it.
The matter is an outside section that passed in the Senate Budget last week.
DiDomenico said he has begun reaching out to allies in the house, including State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (who represents Revere and Chelsea) – as well as Speaker Bob DeLeo.
DiDomenico said he believes that the governor will be open to looking at the change if it makes it past the House and to his desk.
“I believe at the end of the day he’ll be receptive to it,” he said.
If approved, the change would begin in Fiscal Year 2020 – which would mean funding would roll in locally in September 2019. School Districts would begin counting in the new fashion, however, this fall – with a deadline of Oct. 1, 2018. That would secure the new funding allocation – which is the old funding method – by the 2019-2020 school term.
“We wouldn’t have to worry about how our students are being counted ever again,” he said. “I can’t underestimate how important this is. This is everything for School Departments right now…I want to thank all of the administrators and teachers for the hard work they’ve been doing while they’ve gotten less than their fair share of funding.”
DiDomenico said it is a major priority for the Senate, and he believed that would help get it into the final budget later this spring.