Friday, February 10, 2006
State aid to schools: the rich get poorer
Each year, as public schools prepare their operating budgets for the next fiscal year, a major unknown is the amount of state aid that will be available. The Governor proposes a budget in January, which provides a first indication of probable funding, but the Legislature usually does not finalize the budget until late June or July. While the amount received from the state is significant to our school districts, Carlisle and Concord are among the wealthiest communities in the state and receive proportionally the least amount of funding.
Chapter 70, originally established as a part of the Education Reform Act of 1993, is the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools.
For each local or regional school district Chapter 70 formulas calculate the "foundation budget" which represents the minimum spending level to provide an adequate education. The budget is adjusted each year to reflect changes in enrollment, student demographics (grade, low-income status, English proficiency), inflation and regional differences in labor costs. Most suburban school districts fund their schools well above the foundation budget.
Statewide, Chapter 70 supports about 40% of the aggregate foundation budgets, with poorer communities receiving more state aid, up to a maximum of 88% of their foundation budgets, and richer communities receiving less, down to a minimum of approximately 12%.
In the past, municipal wealth was primarily determined by the town's aggregate property valuation. Those formulas, however, created problems in communities where land values increased rapidly but income levels did not. For FY07, Governor Romney has proposed a new formula which places equal weight on aggregate property valuation and aggregate personal income.
For the Carlisle School District and the Concord-Carlisle Regional District there is little effective difference between the old formulas and the new; community wealth is high and state aid is at or near minimum levels. The Governor's budget recommends Chapter 70 aid of 11.64% for the Carlisle Public School (a 2.67% increase over FY06) and 14.83% for CCHS (9.41% above FY06). These figures are likely to change as the Legislature works on the budget, but Carlisle School Business Manager Steve Moore points out, "Usually the overall state aid to Carlisle is not less than the Governor's budget. The Legislature wants to be seen as the more benevolent body." And this is an election year.
Last week a group of school and town officials from suburban school districts met in Acton to push for a new state aid formula which would provide a minimum of $2,000 per student. According to the Boston Globe (February 5, 2000), State Representative James Eldridge is sponsoring legislation to amend Chapter 70 according to the Acton proposal. This would substantially increase revenues for local schools, but passage of a measure that requires an enormous increase in school aid is generally assumed to be unlikely.
Chapter 70 aid for Carlisle is paid directly to the town's general fund. The town then funds the school budget at the level approved by Town Meeting. For regional school districts, Chapter 70 funds go directly to the school district.
Special Education funding
A special education reimbursement, the so-called "circuit breaker" program, was enacted in 2000 and first implemented in FY04. The program reimburses school districts for high cost special needs students, paying 72% of expenses for a student after the first $30,000.
In FY06, the Carlisle School will receive $217,834 in circuit breaker reimbursements. CCHS will receive $606,871. FY07 reimbursements will be based on actual FY06 expenditures.
Regional school districts, including Concord-Carlisle, are reimbursed for school bus transportation. FY07 payments will be based on actual FY06 spending. The Carlisle School does not receive any transportation money.
Schools also receive some support for school lunch programs. In FY06 Carlisle received $3,530 from the state, paid directly to the lunch program. The Governor's budget proposes a slight decrease, $3,250 in FY07. Federal school lunch programs are more generous. Moore estimates that the Carlisle School lunch program receives roughly $20,000 in reimbursements.
© 2006 The