Baker seeks $15M for schools educating hurricane victims
Jan. 19, 2018
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday he planned to seek $15 million in state funding for school districts that are educating students displaced by hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Baker, a Republican, told the Massachusetts Municipal Association the request would be part of his annual state budget proposal he was scheduled to submit to the state Legislature on Wednesday.
The $15 million would be included as part of an overall $118.6 million increase in state assistance for schools districts, funding known as Chapter 70.
Education officials have said that more than 2,000 students from Puerto Rico have enrolled in public schools in Massachusetts since Hurricane Maria battered the island in September. The bulk of those students are concentrated in 12 school districts: Boston, Chicopee, Fall River, Fitchburg, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, New Bedford, Southbridge, Springfield and Worcester.
While the exact formula for distributing the additional funding was not immediately disclosed, the governor's office said the money would be directed toward school districts that have seen "significant enrollment" of students from the U.S. territories.
Many of the displaced children face language barriers and other challenges in the classroom.
Worcester assembled a task force to deal with the influx of more than 320 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Telegram and Gazette reported Friday.
Officials said multiple efforts are under way to meet the needs of those pupils, including plans to hire two additional bilingual instructors at a magnet school in the city.
"We're looking at everything to make it accommodating" for the students and their families, said Democratic Mayor Joseph Petty at a school committee meeting on Thursday.
Baker told the municipal leaders his proposed budget will also call for an increase of $37 million, or 3.5 percent, in unrestricted local aid that cities and towns can use for any purpose.
The 3.5 percent figure equates to the increase in tax revenues forecast for the fiscal year starting July 1.