Addressing education inequity requires aligning state aid to community need (Letters)

It was unfortunate to see inaccuracies in a recent article quoting Amherst town budget chief Sean Mangano about our research on equity in state education aid, “School funding report draws town’s criticism,” Oct. 8, page A10. As a regional chamber of commerce and a statewide education advocacy organization, we believe that growing inequality and economic uncertainty necessitates a statewide approach steeped in equity.

Our report shows that 14% of state Chapter 70 aid for schools (almost $800 million a year) is not based on community need. This aid goes predominantly to wealthier communities at the expense of students in less wealthy districts where the state has not fully met its responsibility to fill funding gaps. The Amherst and Amherst-Pelham school districts receive 1 percent or about $7.8 million of that total.

The recommendations in our report redirect $25 million of statewide non-needs-based aid toward communities that need it the most. Our proposal affects approximately $275,000 in state aid to the Amherst and Amherst-Pelham districts, not $8 million, as Mr. Mangano suggests.

Our report does not recommend or imply less spending in Amherst and Amherst-Pelham; it addresses how much the state should be contributing. The two districts collectively budgeted $18.7 million beyond required spending in FY20. This level of spending reflects both commitment and capacity to fund schools. But it is not possible in many districts, rural and urban alike, equally committed to their students.

As a state, we have an imperative to center equity until we meet our obligation to fill existing funding gaps in less wealthy communities.

James Sutherland, Phd

Director of Policy & Research

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

Ed Lambert

Executive Director

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education

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