FBRC recommendations implementation

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has been very active in trying to address issues raised by the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) about education spending. In fact, on July 10, the House voted 143-0 to approve a bill addressing the FBRC recommendations.

The House bill provides roughly $500 million to school districts over five years to help cover a greater share of the costs associated with special education and the health benefits for employees and retirees (both big issues in Franklin and Medway).

On the issue of adding more money to help low-income students in districts that have a high concentration of poverty and English-language learners (or ELLs), the House bill directs the state education commissioner to develop a plan for implementing the recommendations and helping those students. The plan would be due by the December 2018 for consideration in the fiscal 2020 budget. The House wants that report (due in 6 months) before committing to a timeline for implementing those particular recommendations.

Some have suggested that we should just fund all four buckets immediately. In fact, one proposal had the state just writing checks to districts. That proposal lacks the language found in the House proposal that would direct the state’s education commissioner to identify and recommend interventions for ELL and low-income students that work and, if s/he chose, to tie incentives for reform to the new funding.

Boston officials raised concerns during negotiations that the proposed changes could have cost the city millions of dollars. Also, it was clear that some of the estimated costs of the various proposals being negotiated were off by hundreds of millions of dollars. Moreover, if the state increased the foundation budget levels on which the formula is based, the per-student tuition amounts to charter schools would have gone up as well.

Given these factors, it is necessary and reasonable to do the proposed 6-month study, with a report due in December 2018. Then the actual costs could be determined and a plan for implementation could be developed in time for the FY20 budget which gets prepared in January 2019.

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