Published on Friday, 02 December 2016 06:00
On November 30 at the Boston Marriott Newton, the Suburban Coalition, together with MASC Divisions I, II, III, IV, XIII, IV and the Minority Caucus, sponsored Together Is Our Only Chance", a panel discussion of the need for reform of the foundation budget. Joining MASC Executive Director Glenn Koocher on the panel were Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, House Joint Committee on Education Chair Alice Peisch, and Chief of Staff for Senate Joint Committee on Education Chair Sonia Chang-Diaz, Nathanael Shea.
Recognizing that revenue continues to be the biggest hurdle to the way forward, the panel was optimistic about a multi-year solution coming in the upcoming session. Senator Spilka and Mr. Shea spoke of the dual attempts by the Senate to move forward on implementation in the past session, first in the RISE Act and then in the Senate budget. Representative Peisch particularly emphasized the need for continued advocacy citing local impacts of implementation to elected representatives, with Mr. Koocher reminding the crowd to thank them, as well. Senator Spilka spoke on contacting representatives and senators not only as individuals, but as elected boards and as organizations, as well, to build critical mass. She commented that even ten constituents contacting her office makes a difference. Mr. Shea noted that this should be a conversation, where those advocating should ask and be answered on how those elected themselves feel about the issue. He spoke of the decision to make this a priority, commenting that the state had not had money to spare in 1993 when the funding formula was created; the state decided that this was of greatest import.
There was repeated concern, first from Mr. Koocher, of the uncertainty of the national political scene on Massachusetts: questions of education funding, of Medicaid, of surrounding funding and policy decisions remain entirely unknown at this point. Senator Spilka spoke of the two billion dollars of reimbursement the Affordable Care Act sends to Massachusetts each year; loss of that funding would create a significant revenue problem.
With regard to revenue, the Fair Share amendment to the state constitution was discussed, which would raise two billion dollars, intended for education and for transportation. The amendment, passed once by the Legislature, will be considered by the Legislature for a second time this coming year; should it again pass, it will be on the ballot in November of 2018, "and that," said Representative Peisch, "is where the real battle will be."
The panel closed with the importance of bringing these conversations back to local communities for a broader reach on the impacts of the reconsideration of the foundation budget, for a broad coalition advocating for education funding reform to become and to remain a priority.