Baker will propose implementing first year of new school funding formula
Student Opportunity Act was deferred by COVID
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER will propose fully funding the first year of the recently updated school funding formula when he releases his fiscal 2022 budget proposal next week – a commitment that was delayed by a year due to COVID-19.
Baker made the announcement on Friday at the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting, which was conducted virtually due to COVID-19.
Baker did not go into details other than to say the administration will “keep our commitment to local school districts by fully funding the first year of the Student Opportunity Act.”
The governor did not give an exact dollar figure for how much additional money he will put into education aid. But based on past estimates, it will likely be more than $300 million.
When he introduced his fiscal 2021 budget proposal in January 2020, Baker proposed allocating $303.8 million in new Chapter 70 state education aid to fully fund the first year of the seven-year implementation of the new formula. (Some advocates said the number should have been even higher, at $377 million.)
But after COVID-19 hit, causing a major recession and threatening to limit available state resources, Baker said in July that the state planned to defer implementing the new law and level fund education aid. In the final fiscal 2021 budget that lawmakers sent Baker in December, Chapter 70 aid increased by $108 million, just enough to cover inflation under the old formula.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito used her address to the Massachusetts Municipal Association on Thursday to announce that the administration will propose a $39.5 million increase in aid to local governments, a 3.5 percent increase, for a total of $1.13 billion. That adheres to a commitment Baker made at the start of his term to increase local aid each year at the same rate as state revenues are increasing.
With state finances expected to continue to be tight, Baker said he will rely on the state’s reserve fund to make investments “without raising taxes in the midst of a pandemic.”
Baker also said Friday that he will introduce an annual bill providing $200 million for local road repairs next week. That is the same level at which he has funded the Chapter 90 program throughout his administration, despite calls by municipal leaders to increase it.Baker is set to deliver his State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday evening, and he will present his version of the fiscal 2022 state budget to the Legislature on Wednesday.
The budget bill will go to the House and then the Senate, and each body will draft its own version, then negotiate a compromise to send back to the governor. Fiscal 2022 starts July 1, 2021.