Many of our members have been approached about the possible renewal of an equity lawsuit to continue to fulfill the ambitions of the 1993 McDuffy case and the Education Reform Law. In fact, at this time there are two different coalitions are working to file a lawsuit. Like many of you, MASC has been discussing the options with our colleagues in education before we commit to any coalition.
Many of us believe the real strategy behind the proposed litigation and the possibility of a favorable court decision is to work with the legislature to address the outstanding fiscal and policy issues.
The fundamental finance issue is that, despite the support of the legislature to provide what funding was available in challenging economic times, the Foundation Budget of 2019 does not cover all legitimate costs. It is significantly understated because of inflation, employee and retire health insurance costs, transportation expense, and the growth of the low income and English Language Learner population. These costs have eaten away at what was, 25 years ago, considered adequate.
The public policy questions include the purpose and complexity of education regulations, accountability standards and measures, preserving local oversight of our schools, and the future of privatization and quasi-privatization strategies in public education, all of which were affected by the original litigation.
The unprecedented economic growth that bolstered the original reform bill (1994-2000) and made it possible for every district to reach the foundation levels has not been repeated.
MASC is developing a comprehensive strategy to work with municipalities and the legislature while, at the same time, we are also working with some of the potential litigants to collaborate in the approach through the courts.
We encourage our member school committees to proceed cautiously on both fronts, and look for MASC to share with you our analysis and list of priorities for the legislature. The legislature is besieged with requests for funding for people in need that far exceed available tax revenues. For that reason, some of our requests will address regulations, charter mitigation, local empowerment, and challenges to privatization of educational services.
We hope to work with the legislature in making funding fair and adequate; resisting privatization strategies; opposing state-imposed, involuntary changes to districts and schools; limiting charter school expansion without local support and approval; and protecting the rights and strengthening the voices of local leaders and parents over their schools.
In the weeks ahead MASC will present to you our analysis of the legal strategy and offer a list of our priorities for the legislative session so your school committee can advocate more effectively in the public policy arena.
In the meantime, best wishes for a healthy and successful 2019.
Framingham School Committee
MASC President, 2018
Holyoke School Committee
MASC President, 2019