Education advocates call for better state funding formula

Staff Writer
Published: 4/2/2023 1:22:10 PM
Modified: 4/2/2023 1:21:53 PM

GREENFIELD — With school districts across Massachusetts grappling with the reality of state funding falling short of expenses, local education advocates are hoping to raise awareness around the issue while also advocating for a better funding formula.

“Each locality has its issues ... but when so many districts around the state are experiencing the same shortfall, it seems structural and something that needs to be addressed at the state level,” said Doug Selwyn of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution’s Education Task Force, the group that is sponsoring a remote public education funding forum on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The forum, “Going for a Bigger Piece of the Pie for Education,” will begin with a panel discussion that will include state Sen. Jo Comerford, Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts Superintendent Sheryl Stanton and Massachusetts Association of School Committees Field Director Tracy Novick, according to Greenfield resident Jesus Leyva, who is also helping to coordinate the event. Other local and state officials have also been invited.

“We want to make sure a lot of different opinions are brought forward in the forum,” Leyva said.

Gov. Maura Healey’s recommended budget of $55.5 billion, which was formally unveiled on March 1, provides $7.5 million in rural school aid, a $2 million or 36% increase from the previous year. The budget would also increase Chapter 70 state aid, regional school transportation and special education funding for all districts in the state, according to an overview compiled by the administration.

The formula for Chapter 70, the state’s largest funding pool, is largely based on enrollment. Many area districts, however, are in a “hold harmless” condition, which allows them to retain the amount of Chapter 70 aid they receive even if enrollment drops.

A report from the Special Commission on Rural School Districts, released in July 2022, recommended a $60 million bump to rural school aid to offset increasing costs in the face of declining enrollment and lack of economic resources in more rural areas.

Leyva said he reached out to Selwyn about trying to put together some sort of forum to bring discussions about school funding to a more regional level while considering the state and its role in funding.

“We do have the Student Opportunity Act and a new governor who has proposed a very forward-thinking budget relating to local school aid, but the goalpost has been moved a lot,” Leyva said. “They’re saying they’re meeting the target for school spending. I think it’s much further away than they’re suggesting.”

Selwyn said while this is a challenge that proves particularly serious for districts locally, “it’s happening in districts all over the state.”

“One of the goals for me is to have a funding formula that resembles the real world,” he said. “If your formula says it should be this every year, and you have folks not getting what they need, you have an obligation to redo your formula.”

Tuesday’s forum will begin with a presentation on the state’s current funding formula, which will be followed by 20 minutes for participants to engage in breakout room conversations. The bulk of the evening, however, will be spent asking questions of the panel and identifying actionable steps that individuals and groups can take to more fully fund local schools.

“We hope the conversation will be open and will invite everybody in the room to take part,” Selwyn said, “with the goal that we can help each other learn as much as possible and hopefully organize ourselves into an effective action group to work for the kids.”

The forum was previously scheduled to take place in March, but was rescheduled due to weather. Anyone who registered for the March 14 meeting remains registered and can use the link sent to them for that date. All others can register for a link in advance at

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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