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MTA urges amendments that support education funding

The MTA is asking members to contact their state representatives and urge them to support legislative amendments that would address critically important education funding needs in the House budget.

The Ways and Means Committee’s FY14 budget plan, released on April 10, begins to reverse 13 years of cuts in higher education but is below Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed spending plan.

The Ways and Means budget does make a substantial increase in funding for public colleges and universities, as well as a modest increase in Chapter 70 funding. However, early education programs for young children were cut by 3 percent compared to FY13.

While applauding increased funding for higher education in the committee’s budget, MTA President Paul Toner has called the committee’s overall budget plan a “tremendous loss for low-income children compared to the governor’s budget proposal.”

Of the hundreds of amendments that have been submitted to the Ways and Means budget, some address funding gaps for areas including early childhood education and care and literacy programs in Gateway Cities. The House plan, for example, would leave scholarship funding at the same level as it is in the current fiscal year. The governor’s proposal would add $112 million in scholarships for students.

The House plan allocates $17 million less for early education and care than had been approved in its original FY13 budget, despite a list of 30,000 low-income children waiting for services.

The House committee’s allocation for K-12 students would include modest improvements over FY13, but spending would still be far less ambitious than under the governor’s plan. The current House proposal would make reductions in several programs and services, including career academies in Gateway Cities, early intervention literacy tutoring, alternative education programs and charter school reimbursements.

The bright spot in the current House plan is higher education, which has seen drastic cuts since 2001. The committee’s plan would increase public higher education spending overall by 10 percent over last year. That includes a $35 million increase for UMass, $24 million more for state universities and a $35 million increase for community colleges. As a result of the increases, tuition and fees would be frozen at public higher education campuses. UMass would see a two-year freeze in tuition and fee increases.

Toner said the MTA will press for the revenue increases needed to make sure Massachusetts preschools, public schools and public colleges are “second to none” and provide opportunities for all students, regardless of where they live or how much their parents earn.”

MTA-backed amendments in the House bill include the following:

  • Reviving the Foundation Budget Review Commission to determine the adequacy of educational programs necessary to achieve state education standards and to assess how resources can be used most effectively. Amendment 465, filed by Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley).
  • Providing additional funds to schools in Gateway Cities for early literacy, English language learners and career academies. Amendments 627, 628 and 633, filed by Rep. Tony Cabral (D-New Bedford).
  • Increasing funding for income-eligible children for preschools to FY13 levels. Amendment 323, filed by Rep. Peisch (D-Wellesley), and Amendment 860, filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge).
  • Adding both MTA and AFT Massachusetts to the Early Education Commission. Amendment 675, filed by Rep. Denise Garlick (D-Needham).
  • Increasing funding for scholarships. Amendment 440, filed by Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland).
  • Keeping in place the current Pacheco Law on privatizing public services. Amendment 511, filed by Rep. Jim O’Day (D-West Boylston).

Click here to send a message to your state representatives urging them to support all MTA-backed amendments.

House Ways and Means Budget