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An Act to Revive the Foundation Budget Review Commission

TESTIMONY OF MTA VICE PRESIDENT TIM SULLIVAN
TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
IN SUPPORT OF HOUSE BILL 457 and SENATE BILL 207
October 17, 2013

Good morning, Chairs Peisch and Chang-Diaz, members of the Education Committee.

I am Tim Sullivan, Vice President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.  I was a teacher in the Brockton Public Schools for 24 years and I served as president of the Brockton Education Association from 2006 to 2010.  As you know, Brockton was one of the plaintiff school districts in both of the state’s school funding lawsuits, McDuffy and Hancock.

As a teacher, and as a representative of educators and support staff, I am here to testify in support of reviving the foundation budget review commission, as set out in H457 and S207.

Twenty years have passed since the Education Reform Act became law, over $4 billion in state aid goes to local school districts every year; and we are now long overdue for an analysis of whether school funding in Massachusetts is adequate and used most effectively to meet the needs of our students. 

Massachusetts was the first state to do an adequacy study, in 1989, as the basis for the foundation budget in the Education Reform Act of 1993.   Since then, over 50 studies have been undertaken in a large majority of states, and the methodology for determining school needs is much more sophisticated.  In Massachusetts, despite the requirement set out in the education law itself that the foundation budget be reviewed regularly, and despite the changes in our state standards and the growing knowledge base on how students learn, the foundation budget has never been updated in a systematic manner by determining the resources necessary to enable students to meet state standards.
 
In 2007, Governor Patrick established “The Readiness Project,” to develop a plan for fundamental and systemic reforms to public education.  The Project’s Long Term Financing Subcommittee issued a report that specifically recommended a comprehensive adequacy study be conducted to:  “quantify the level of resources required to provide an adequate public education to all children as required under the Massachusetts Constitution.” 

In previous years, we have asked for your support of such a comprehensive adequacy study, as recommended by the Governor and others, but there have been questions about the need for such a study, which is why we have filed the bills currently before you. 

In these bills, we ask that the current law, requiring the convening of a commission to review the foundation budget every two years, be replaced with language requiring a commission only every four years. The bills require a review of the foundation budget and put the Legislature in control of the process and outcome.

The Commission’s charge is to determine the educational programs and services necessary to achieve the commonwealth’s educational goals - the primary goal being students meeting the state’s content standards as embodied formerly in the curriculum frameworks and currently in the Common Core - as well as to determine how resources can be used most effectively.  The Commission’s work is limited, however, to a review of recent studies - rather than embarking on a new study - examining specific issues related to school resources, including possible ways to reduce costs.

Attached to this testimony you will find a summary of the bills, including the areas of study to be considered. The bills do not require an appropriation, but do require that the Commission seek input from the public. We ask for your support for H457 and S207, and we look forward to working with you on this important endeavor.

Thank you.