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Schools stand to benefit if Patrick’s  plan sticks

GREENFIELD — Gov. Deval Patrick’s call for sweeping education changes would see the greatest local impact at Greenfield Community College, if his plan is still intact after five months of discussion and debate with the state Legislature.

In Patrick’s vision for next year’s budget, GCC would receive between $1 million and $2 million more than it did last year. And K-12 school districts would also see increased aid: at least $25 per student.

Patrick called for $553 million in new education investments Wednesday, as a part of a budget proposal that would channel money from increased income taxes to pay for education and transportation improvements.

Under the plan, GCC now stands to receive somewhere between $9 million and $10 million from the state. That would be a major increase from the $7.9 million it received last year, which accounted for 41 percent of the college’s $18.9 million budget.

GCC President Robert Pura praised the move, saying that the additional money would be used to continue existing programs that might have otherwise ended. It would also ensure that the school would not have to cut its budget or raise fees this year, he said.

“Given the social and economic state of the state, I believe this to be a most significant proposal and moment in the commonwealth,” said Pura. “This proposal poses to make up for resources that were lost during the recession, prompting our budget cuts and fee increases.”

The governor’s budget allocates $240 million to community colleges, compared to $214 million given last year. Some of that money would expand the colleges’ career readiness programs.

And although there is no specific line item listed for each college, Patrick expressed his intent for the state’s Department of Higher Education to follow a newly created funding formula — which factors in a college’s costs as well as its students’ academic performance to determine how much money is allocated to each school. Pura sat on a task force that helped draft that formula.

The Patrick administration is hoping that the increased community college money pot, coupled with a proposed $116 million investment in the MASSGrant Scholarship program, will make higher education more affordable and accessible for the state’s students.

The budget also increases allocations to the University of Massachusetts schools (from $440 million to $479 million) and to state universities (from $203 million to $210 million).

Now that the budget establishes clear goals for investment in public education, the question becomes how to best achieve those goals, said Pura.

Over the next five months, the state House of Representatives and Senate will review Patrick’s proposal and each make their own. The process will be finalized in early July.

Local legislators have said that they would push to protect GCC’s interests, but have acknowledged that the Legislature is not obligated to follow any of Patrick’s suggestions or follow the newly proposed community college funding formula.

Other education initiatives

The budget calls for an increase of $226 million in Chapter 70 funding — the primary state vehicle for contributing to K-12 public education.

That means, according to the Patrick administration, that each school district in the state will receive an increase of $25 per pupil — money that the individual district can spend in whatever way it wants.

The governor’s budget also stressed the importance for all Massachusetts students to leave third grade with a proficiency in reading. In order to achieve this, the budget calls for $131 million to beef up early education programs and strengthen services, like childcare, that assist the family in the home.

Other increases also include $4 million to improve programs that teach English as a second language and $5 million to allow middle schools in low-income districts to expand their school days.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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