The taxing matter of education funding

When it comes to school funding, do we want to have our cake and eat it too? 

That’s the conclusion of an annual national poll of views on public education. According to the 51st annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, about 6 in 10 US parents say schools aren’t getting enough funding. But 7 in 10 say they’d rather see cuts in other spending than new taxes to steer more money to classrooms.  

Advocates for a long overdue revamp of the Massachusetts education aid formula expressed disappointment — and more — with the recent announcement that lawmakers would break for their August recess without a consensus bill emerging from the education committee. At one point, Sen. Jason Lewis, the co-chair of the committee, had expressed hope that legislation would be unveiled by the end of June. His House counterpart, Rep. Alice Peisch, was more circumspect about a clear timetable.

In announcing there would be no bill before the August break, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said last week, “I am hopeful that at least during this year that we will have it accomplished.” And that now passes for an optimistic timeline compared with Gov. Charlie Baker’s comments that he is “completely, utterly, and totally confident” that a bill will be passed by the end of the Legislature’s two-year session — next July. 

Why the hold up? What sort of accountability conditions, if any, to attach to new funding is one important issue to resolve. But the big divide probably comes down to money. 

There is nearly a $1 billion difference in funding between the two main bills being considered, with the so-called Promise Act sponsored by Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and other liberal lawmakers designating substantially more money for districts educating low-income students than a bill filed by Baker.   

At the January rollout of the Promise Act, Chang-Diaz made an impassioned case for the funding boost — and addressed the cost issue candidly, saying new revenue would be needed to fully fund the legislation. 

How does that fit with a governor who has waved off broad-based tax increases, or a House that has also been tax-wary under DeLeo — who has already raised the prospect of considering new transportation revenue needs in the months ahead? 

And does public opinion in Massachusetts line up with the PDK national poll, or is there stronger support here for new taxes for schools? In a MassINC Polling Group survey of Massachusetts voters last year, 55 percent voiced support for local tax overrides to support schools. But that’s different than raising statewide taxes to boost education aid, the lion’s share of which would be directed to districts educating lots of low-income students. 

The terms of the negotiations that have been privately taking place on Beacon Hill are clear. Where the debate will land remains a very open question. 

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

The chairmen of the Legislature’s transportation committee say they’re “losing patience” with the Baker administration over requests, still not fulfilled, for more records related to the scandal at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. (Boston Herald

A Globe editorial says Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal for a tax credit for telecommuting as part of a $18 bond bill is good idea if coupled with other initiatives to address traffic congestion.

In a wide-ranging interview, Attorney General Maura Healey said President Trump is “certainly a racist,” and describes the RMV as a “serious case of lack of leadership, lack of management, lack of accountability.” (WGBH)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Methuen Mayor James Jajuga accused Councilor James McCarty of breaking into the city clerk’s office, but there was a case of mistaken identity. Councilor Ryan Hamilton, who like McCarty is in his 20s, was in the office at Jajuga’s suggestion with a film crew filming a political drama. (Eagle-Tribune)

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II approves non-opposition letters and a host agreement for two pot shops proposed by the brother of his girlfriend. (Herald News)

North Shore Music Theatre owner Bill Hanney has run into neighborhood resistance as he tries to convert a Beverly building from short-term housing for actors into six condominiums. (Salem News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump will visit El Paso and Dayton today, but not everyone is happy about it. (New York Times)

While Congress remains gridlocked on the issue, gun control measures are being passed at the state level, a sign, advocates say, of their movement’s growing strength. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Republican Rep. Shauna O’Connell is off and running for mayor of Taunton, but she’s not alone, despite the efforts of Gov. Charlie Baker. (CommonWealth)

Shannon Liss-Riordan, who is challenging US Sen. Ed Markey, calls for repeal of the Second Amendment. (State House News)

A new poll of New Hampshire Democratic voters shows Joe Biden still leading the field, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren rounding out the top three. (Boston Globe) Seth Moulton says he is staying the course on his presidential run. (Daily Item

Ouch. The New York Times Magazine profiles the quixotic presidential run of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Peter Lucas says Western Mass. voters would be nuts to toss out Richie Neal, now the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in favor of Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is challenging the veteran congressman in next year’s Democratic primary. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital will spend about $3 million over the next three years to support housing programs for local families, drawing attention to the connection between health and stable housing. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION 

A Green Line train derailed Wednesday morning on the D Line. (MassLive)

A large vehicle struck structural beams on the Duck Bridge, leading officials to close it for an indeterminate amount of time. (Eagle-Tribune)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Aerial spraying is beginning this week to deal with the spread of the mosquito-borne eastern equine encephalitis virus. (The Entrerprise)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Wynn Resorts is fielding calls from companies interested in the land it owns next to its Everett casino. One firm wants to build an arena and another is interested in boutique entertainment offerings. CEO Matt Maddox says Wynn is in no hurry to cut a deal. (CommonWealth)

A Berkshire Eagle editorial laments the many fees municipalities are assessing on pot shops, and calls on the Legislature to fix the problem. 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Boston City Hall extortion trial goes to the jury, with one legal observer saying the judge’s instructions have set a high bar for conviction. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

As contract negotiations drag on, the Boston Globe’s union files an unfair labor practice against management. Union members say the company has taken a 2 percent wage hike off the table and slashed severance payments. (CommonWealth)

President Trump slams the New York Times for changing its front-page headline about his speech on the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. “After 3 years I almost got a good headline from the Times!” he tweeted. (Washington Post)

PASSINGS

Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate novelist, died at age 88. (New York Times