Massachusetts Teachers Association President Paul Toner issued the following statement on the proposed budget released by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on May 16:
The $32.275 billion budget proposal released today by the Senate Ways and Means Committee includes increases in funding for Massachusetts public schools, colleges and universities. The proposed budget provides a 4.7 percent increase in funding for K-12 education and a 6.3 percent rise in funding for public higher education over the General Appropriations Act budget for the current fiscal year.
The Senate proposal includes $4.17 billion in Chapter 70 state aid for K-12 education, which is a $180 million increase over the current fiscal year. It seeks $16 million more in funding for Chapter 70 local aid than outlined in the budget passed by the House of Representatives in April.
The proposal also includes an additional $29 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, or 14 percent in additional funding over the current state budget, and fully funds the program for the first time since FY08. Non-educational local aid to cities and towns – which amounts to $900 million – is essentially level-funded in the Senate budget at the House and FY12 amounts.
Funding for public higher education is proposed at $1 billion, an increase above the current fiscal year of an estimated $62 million, and the budget proposes level-funding of campus line items. As is the case with the governor’s budget and the House budget, the Senate proposal includes full funding for the contracts of public higher education employees.
While slightly different than the plans put forth by the governor and House, the Senate budget also proposes changes to the community college system. The Senate plan would allow the governor to appoint the chairman of the board of trustees at each community college and allocate $750,000 for a new Office of Coordination within the Department of Higher Education to coordinate job training opportunities. The MTA, with input from members of the Massachusetts Community College Council, will closely review the details of this proposal in the coming days.
While additional funding is needed, it is important to note that the Commonwealth is still feeling the effects of the recent recession, and the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee were faced with difficult decisions about what programs to fund and which to cut in order to close a $1.4 billion budget gap.
The MTA will provide updated information after giving the Senate budget proposal a careful review. Debate on the Senate budget is scheduled to begin on May 23.