The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the local and national economy and it seems we won’t be out of the woods anytime soon. As the state scrambles to launch a phased reopening of the Commonwealth’s economy, it’s too early to tell what sort of impact the state’s slowing economy will have on state school funding next year.
With the passage of the Student Opportunity Act last fall, the 2020-2021 school year was to be filled with hope and optimism for school districts like Revere.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has cast a dark cloud over school budget plans and some larger school districts, like Randolph, are already making budget cuts.
“The financial status of the state is not very good,” said Revere Public School Superintendent Dianne Kelly. “We understand that any financial struggles at the state level will have a negative impact on school funding. We are watching this carefully and working with our elected officials to do the best we can in preserving finances.”
One item for parents of children at the Hill School, the Whelan School, and Garfield Middle School is the possibility that RPS’s Expanded Learning Time (ELT) grants will not be funded next year.
“Reduction or elimination of the ELT grants will mean our ELT schools will go back to schedules similar to the other elementary and middle schools in the district,” said Kelly. “We will not know this for sure until we the state budget is released but wanted to give parents advanced notice since earlier end-of-school-day times could impact child care routines.”
Just before schools closed due to COVID-19 over 100 Revere residents turned out for a community meeting in February to get parents, students, teachers and staff to think about RPS district focus and budget priorities.
In January, Revere got a peak of Gov. Charlie Baker’s budget for local schools and how much funding Revere will need to maintain services at schools.
Then in February RPS began the process of refining all budget entries to increase budget accuracy. This includes removing employees who resign, retire or take a leave of absence from payrolls, adding salaries for new employees, as well as finalizing programmatic changes and adjusting accordingly.
One of the biggest changes to next year, according to Kelly, was the implementation of the Student Opportunity Act, which was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Baker at the end of last year. The law updated the state’s education funding formula to reflect districts’ real health insurance and special education costs because the amount of aid being provided to cover those costs was too small.
The law aimed to make an investment in public schools of $1.5 billion annually when fully phased in over the next seven years.
However, it remains to be seen if funding for this new law will fall victim to any fiscal recovery plans that are sure to be hatched out due to the COVID-19 pandemic and sinking economy.