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Officials Push for Changes to School Formula

January 2, 2019

By Mina Corpuz

mcorpuz@sentinelandenterprise.com and Peter Jasinski

FITCHBURG -- Area school officials will convene at a public forum next week to make the case to legislators and Gov. Charlie Baker that the state’s public school formula needs to be amended.

In a press release titled “Superintendents Demand Educational Equity for All Students,” Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents spokesman Tom Scott wrote that the leaders of school districts in Fitcburg, Leominster, Ayer-Shirley, and Ashburnham-Westminster meet at Fitchburg State University on Jan. 8 to advocate for boosting educational funding.

The districts are asking that the state revise formula it uses to allot money to public schools, which critics have referred to as outdated.

“It’s extremely important for us to advocate for a more realistic budget because obviously the formula we have now is antiquated and doesn’t meet the needs of our schools and students,” said Leominster School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Griffin. “It’s important for everyone to join in.”

The current formula, which was adopted in 1993, was nearly reformed earlier this year, until a bill that would have diverted hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools died in the Legislature in August.

As Griffin explained, the costs of public schools have changed dramatically in the last 25 years, particularly with employee health insurance. Another significant change has been special education, which has had to greatly expand services as more children are being determined to have special needs.

“Ultimately, I hope this (forum) will impress upon the Legislature and the governor that we need adequate funding and a formula that meets the needs of all schools,” said Griffin.

Acting Fitchburg Superintendent Bob Jokela said changing the funding formula will help districts better meet students’ needs. In Fitchburg, more money could go to help English-language learners, special education, and high needs students, he said.

Jokela is organizing the forum that will take place at Fitchburg State, which he says will be an opportunity for superintendents from a mix districts in the area -- urban, regional, and smaller ones -- to come together to discuss state funding and what’s needed in the region.

“We have the opportunity for superintendents to talk about the environment now with the funding formula and how it could be different,” Jokela said.

The Fitchburg State forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8. Similar events will be simultaneously taking place in Malden and New Bedford.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz

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