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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Chapter 70 School Finance Program and Foundation Budget Review Commission

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
March 13, 2015

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Due to inclement weather, the Board did not have the opportunity to discuss the Chapter 70 school finance program in January. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's special meeting on March 23, 2015, will include a presentation and discussion on Chapter 70, which is the Commonwealth's primary vehicle for funding elementary and secondary education.

The Chapter 70 program was created by the 1993 Massachusetts education reform law. Prior to that time, school budget levels were totally at the discretion of city councils and town meetings. The resulting disparity in spending between richer and poorer communities was found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Judicial Court in its 1993 McDuffy decision. (Summary of the McDuffy decision and the 2005 SJC decision in Hancock, the successor case.)

Although the details of the Chapter 70 program are quite complex, it is designed to answer two basic questions:

  1. 1) What is the minimum amount that a school district needs to spend each year to provide its students with an adequate education?
  2. 2) How much of that minimum amount should be paid from municipal revenues and how much should be paid by the Commonwealth?

The current funding level for Chapter 70 state aid is $4.4 billion, making it one of the largest line items in the state budget and representing ninety percent of the total state appropriation for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

You will find background material on Chapter 70 on our website. Also, I am enclosing a copy of the Department's July 2013 "Report on the Status of the Public Education Financing System in Massachusetts," prepared at the request of the Legislature.

Also, we will report on the activities of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, established by the Legislature last summer to review the factors used in the Chapter 70 program to determine minimum funding levels for school districts. For the most part, these factors have been unchanged (except for inflationary adjustments) since the formula's inception in 1993. The commission is currently holding public hearings across the state, and it is due to submit its final report to the Legislature next June.

Joining us for the discussion on January 26 will be three of the Department's school finance experts: Jeff Wulfson, Roger Hatch, and Melissa King.

Enclosure:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Report on the Status of the Public Education Financing System in Massachusetts


Last Updated: March 16, 2015
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