Professor Bruce Baker, "The Collapse of State School Finance Systems & Why It Matters"In the flurry of the last week of school, I didn't get a chance to call your attention to information calculated and published by Professor Bruce Baker last week that has direct relevance to the conversation Massachusetts is having about the foundation budget.
Baker every year puts together a list of most financially disadvantaged districts (dating back to 2012); that is districts with:
- More than 50% higher census poverty rate than the average for all districts sharing the same labor market.
- Less than 90% of the state and local revenue per pupil of the average for all districts sharing the same labor market.
Here, the remaining progressiveness of the Massachusetts school finance system is driven almost entirely by funds targeted to the City of Boston (which, by no means, is to suggest that Boston has received adequate support given its needs, but rather, that Boston has been provided relatively more adequate support than some similarly high poverty districts). Other high need districts are left out. Massachusetts has a surprising number of relatively large enrollment districts that qualify as financially disadvantaged in my previous post (and here, by the same measures). The progressive funding behind the Massachusetts “miracle” is a thing of the past.To Baker's conclusion, I'd also point out that the minimum aid increases for non-foundation budget systems may be popular, but they aren't progressive.
So what are we to do?
First, let's recognize that the Foundation Budget Review Commission is timely. We need very much to be having this conversation now.
However, note that much of the conversation at the Commission has not recognized that we have and are constitutionally required to fund a progressive education funding system. The overblown concern over what will pass, when the Commission has been asked for a report; the discussion over tying funds that are overdue for payment to various requirements and schemes; the seeming dismissal by some that districts have been starved for aid and have ground to make up; all of these are not focused on the very real issue we have here:
Our neediest kids are being starved of resources.
As the plantiffs in McDuffy argued:
The financing "system,"... is responsible both for the wide disparity in funding among the schools in different communities of the Commonwealth, and for the insufficiency of school funds in the towns and cities in which they live and attend school.As evidenced above, this is again the case.