Forum to Call for Ed. Funding Reforms
LOWELL -- Leaders of Lowell Public Schools will join districts from across eastern and central Massachusetts at an upcoming forum calling for reforms to the school funding formula used by the state.
“I am hopeful that these forums will serve as an impetus for a call to action for the much needed reform in our state funding formula for our schools,” Acting Superintendent of Lowell Public Schools Jeannine Durkin said in a statement. “All of our students deserve to have equitable opportunities, and it is our moral obligation to insure that we fight for that right.”
Durkin said representatives from Lowell will attend a forum at Malden High School at 7 p.m on Jan. 8.
The organizer of the event, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS), will hold related concurrent forums at Fitchburg State University and New Bedford High School.
Critics have described the formula currently used by the state to fund districts as out-of-date and a barrier to equity across the state.
“We must find ways to expand access to educational opportunities for all our students, teach viable work-related skills and most importantly, (ensure) we include students in the bottom of the income bracket,” Tom Scott, executive director of MASS said in a press release.
The formula, 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 this August.
Lowell has faced it’s own financial challenges in recent years. Amid administrative upheaval, an internal review of the current year’s budget found a $2.48 million deficit this fall. A third-party audit released last month confirmed many of the district’s findings, including the draining of many of the district’s revolving funds.
Of the $165.5 million budget the School Committee approved for this fiscal year about 90 percent is Chapter 70 funding from the state.
Other districts -- some urban, some not -- have also announced intentions of attending the forum.
Eileen Griffin, chair of the Leominster School Committee, said employee health insurance and special education costs have shifted in the last quarter century. Leaders from Leominster Public Schools, which faced its own budget crisis in 2017, plan to attend the Fitchburg State forum.
“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,” Griffin said. “It’s important for everyone to join in.”
According to MASS, representatives from the following districts plan to attend the Malden forum: Saugus, Peabody, Gloucester, Medford, Woburn, Waltham, Methuen, Amesbury, Melrose and surrounding towns.
Sentinel & Enterprise reporters Mina Corpuz and Peter Jasinski contributed to this report. Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins.