School Leaders to Push for Changes in State Funding
By Mina Corpuz 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 funding formula needs to be amended.
Leaders of the Fitchburg, Leominster, Ayer Shirley, and Ashburnham-Westminster districts will meet at Fitchburg State University on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. to advocate for boosting educational funding. The Fitchburg State forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8. Similar events will be taking place in Malden and New Bedford.
The districts are asking that the state revise the formula it uses to allot money to public schools, which critics have referred to as outdated.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 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 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.
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.