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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

FY18 DESE Budget Priorities

James Peyser, Secretary of Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
December 2, 2016


On November 29, 2016, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted its budget priorities for consideration in the development of the FY18 state budget. This memo conveys the Board's priorities and we ask for your support in advancing these resource priorities as we jointly work to develop the Governor's House I recommendations.

Understanding the current constrained state fiscal environment, DESE and the Board have targeted a small number of key priority areas of funding need. In FYI 7, 13.3% of the total annual state operating budget is allocated for elementary and secondary education. Almost all of that is local education aid that flows to cities, towns, and regional school districts. In fact, within DESE's annual state fund allocation, 98.8 percent of our funding is either district entitlement or reimbursement or a grant program. As in the past, the Board continues to advocate for levels of education local aid needed to promote and sustain high quality public schools.

The Board has identified the following priority areas for the FYI 8 state budget. Additional funding for these priority areas identified by the Board is designed to provide DESE with modest growth to continue our leadership in supporting district efforts to provide an excellent educational program for all students in the Commonwealth, prepare all students for success after high school, and close proficiency gaps. We are prepared to discuss specific funding increases with you and your staff and with the Executive Office for Administration & Finance as Governor Baker prepares his House l budget proposal.

Education Aid Accounts

The Board recommends the Department's education aid accounts be funded at the highest level possible based on available revenues for FYI 8. The major focus for increase should be the Chapter 70 - Education Aid and Special Education Circuit Breaker accounts. The Board recommends that any additional funding made available in Ch.70 after the state's contribution to foundation aid is met, be directed to districts with identified achievement gaps in student learning to support reforms that have evidence of narrowing achievement gaps. The Board recommends the Commissioner work with the Secretary to review other Chapter 70 increase factors including formula equity reform, minimum aid, and recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

The Board also recommends that funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker account be at a level to fund as close to the maximum 75% reimbursement level as state revenue permits. This increase would acknowledge the increasing pressure of high-cost special education services funded in our districts.

Targeted Assistance - Achievement Gap Mitigation Account

The Board recommends that a new Department account be created to fund reform/targeted assistance initiatives in our schools and districts to invest in educational practice areas that can leverage improved student learning. The account would be used to support best practices focused on providing growth and achievement for all our students. This account would fund work based on the Department's knowledge of those districts where student achievement and learning Jags and where investment can be leveraged with local and third party resources to support gap closure.

The account would be focus on areas to directly improve student learning. These would include:

  • Early Literacy Programming;
  • Curriculum & Instruction Initiatives, including arts, humanities, history & social studies;
  • Time & Learning Initiatives (including summer, extended day and afterschool instruction time).

Next Generation Assessment

The Board recommends that the second school year of the Commonwealth's new assessment program be funded at a level to support the direction approved by the Board in November 2015. Funding would include the continued development of the English/language arts, Mathematics, and Science assessments in grades 3-8, as well as the development of the new grade 10 test to be first delivered to the class of2021 in the spring of 2019.

Civics Education

The Board recommends that the Department prioritize that all students experience a robust civics education program in their K-12 instruction. The Board supports the work of the Civic Learning and Engagement Task Force and seeks funding to build upon the recommendations in the development of a strategic plan to promote civic learning.

Interagency Resource Coordination

The Board recommends the Department work with the Secretary's Office and with other MA executive branch agencies, through interagency agreements and intergovernmental service fund transfers, to address students' non-academic educational needs. The increased coordination of the Education secretariat with Health & Human Services and Housing secretariats could identify additional resources that could be coordinated to assist students and families with service designed to improve a student's ability to be successful in the classroom on a daily basis. For example, resources within Executive Office of Health & Human Services agencies could provide critical social, emotional, and health supports to improve students' learning ability.

The Board and the Department appreciate your ongoing support for our work to close proficiency gaps and strengthen K-12 education throughout the Commonwealth. I look forward to our continued collaboration in the development of House I.

Last Updated: December 14, 2016
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