Thursday, November 12, 2015

Let's talk about the Foundation Budget Review Commission

You didn't think I was just going to leave you with a summary, did you?

When we last left you, the Foundation Budget Review Commission report  (that's a link to the state's PDF) had been released, we'd looked at a summary and a charge, and then we had an election and a state conference, and time got away from me...

A couple of thoughts:
  1. WE DON'T KNOW YET HOW MUCH THIS WILL COST. No, really: I know your local paper had some sort of estimate, which ranged from the $400 millions to over $1 billion, but really: WE DON'T KNOW YET. And we don't know yet because...
  2. There are no numbers attached to the low income recommendation. We don't know if the state will use the new Economically Disadvantaged percentages. If they do, we don't know what they'll use for a low income increment. You can certainly run some numbers here with some assumptions, but they're based on assumptions, NOT on FBRC recommendations. This matters a lot because...
  3. This is a topic the Legislature MUST take up for FY17. We're less than two months away from Governor Baker releasing House 1; as we are no longer collecting free and reduced lunch data for the state, the Legislature has to amend Chapter 70. Free and reduced lunch data is what's in MGL Chapter 70; something new has to be put there instead.
  4. This isn't all going to be state aid. It is mentioned in the chart that talks about special education estimates, but an important point throughout: just as the rest of how education is funded in Massachusetts, the community wealth calculation will determine how much of the new foundation is funded by the local community and how much is funded by the state. And the community wealth formula was NOT under the FBRC's purview and thus is NOT part of the report. 
  5. Inflation is urgent. For the communities (like Worcester) that fund at foundation, inflation is as urgent as the low income discussion. We've had two quarters of negative inflation; unless the state does something, the state's foundation formula will be recognizing NO growth from inflation. That's a sure forecast of budgetary disaster.
  6. This is now in the Legislature's (and Governor's) court. The Commission is done and is dissolved. It's up to the Legislature, along with the Governor, to take up the report and put real funding behind it. And it's up to the rest of us to be sure they know it. And if not?
  7. You're looking at Exhibit 1 on McDuffy redux. (not my words, but a common sentiment)

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