Good Intentions Gone Wrong: Flaws in MA's 'Equitable' Foundation Budget
If you're confused by the intricacies of Massachusetts's state education funding system and in particular its "foundation budget," you're not alone. So why don't you sit back and let the folks at Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center demystify the whole process for you and explain how a two-decades-old law is denying low-income school districts the resources they need to adequately educated their students.
The Education Reform Act of 1993 established the state's foundation budget, a calculation of adequate baseline spending amounts for every district in the state. In an effort to fund districts equitably, the state fills the gap between the foundation budget baseline and what local communities are able to contribute towards it. Low-income communities will get relatively more aid from the state than wealthier communities.
But as MassBudget illustrates in its latest report, "Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget's Core Education Program," Massachusetts is not as equitable as it would seem. Unfortunately for the state's students, the foundation budget underestimates what districts are actually spending because it fails to take into account special education costs and rising health insurance costs. As districts devote more and more of their resources towards offsetting those rising special education and health care costs, they are forced to scale back their teaching staff. Most districts hire fewer teachers than the foundation budget sets as an adequate baseline, which means larger class sizes and fewer specialist teachers such as language and arts teachers.
Low-income communities feel the effects more sharply than wealthier communities, which means low-income students, the very students the foundation budget was designed to support, aren't receiving the same opportunities or resources.
You can read MassBudget's full report here. And be sure to check out the accompanying interactive map tool that delves into the spending and funding of each school district! Below, watch as MassBudget Policy Analyst Luc Schuster explains how the state calculates a district's foundation budget: