Some say Patrick’s budget plan falls short on school aid
By Daniel G. Petersen，Patriot Ledger,State House correspondent
BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to give the state’s public schools a 2.3 percent raise – bumping local education aid to $4.4 billion for the next fiscal year – has drawn a less-than-enthusiastic response from local school administrators and legislators.
Although the $99.5 million increase in Chapter 70 funding would bring school spending to record levels, critics are saying the boost won’t keep up with the needs of schools, which have been playing budget catch-up from cuts made in the past decade.
“The state can do a better job to meet the Chapter 70 needs,” Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, said. “The percent increase seems extremely low considering the increased cost to schools.” Diehl said.
The governor proposed the highest level of education funding in state history last week as part of his fiscal year 2015 budget plan. But school officials, such as Brockton School Superintendent Kathleen Smith, say it won’t meet the increasing needs of cities and towns.
“We will make do with what we have,” she said. “But when times are difficult, we need to increase the number of grants coming into the district.”
The governor’s proposal came as Smith and her staff were struggling with their own budget, trying to find additional funding for immigrant students learning English and special-needs students.
If the final state budget fails to meet the needs of the school district, Smith said she will look to philanthropists, businesses, and the city to assist with the tight budget.
A member of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, Diehl said he would like to reinstate foreign language courses and remove user fees for playing sports in his school district.
Rep. Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy, agrees with Diehl that the House should add more education aid to its budget plan.
“It’s important that we develop strong school districts within our legislative districts and that we strive to secure the necessary funding for our Chapter 70 education funds,” Ayers said.
Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, acknowledged that passing the state education budget is always a long process.
“The governor’s budget is the bare bones,” Cantwell said. “But it’s based upon known revenue right now.”