Dear Local Official,
I am writing to share that information about Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and Chapter 70 education aid is now available on the Division of Local Services website.
While critical information from the federal government is still needed in order to finalize a full fiscal year budget for the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature are committing to no less than the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) level of funding for UGGA and Chapter 70 education aid as a baseline amount for FY21 funding.
The FY21 funding commitment also includes Chapter 70 increases for inflation and enrollment that will keep all school districts at foundation, under the law as it existed for FY20, providing an additional $107 million in aid over FY20. This increase comes in addition to approximately $450 million in new federal supports for K-12 schools to assist with educating students during the pandemic. Please click here to view the UGGA and Chapter 70 amounts for each municipality. Local officials with related questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael J. Heffernan
Secretary of Administration and Finance
The attached spreadsheet, put together by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) for greater context, displays the main sources of funding that would be available to districts at this time through both the tentative agreement on local aid and the larger distributions of federal funds previously announced by the administration. The fourth column of that sheet shows FY20 Chapter 70, which for most districts becomes the FY21 baseline Chapter 70 funding under the tentative agreement. Under the agreement, no operating district would receive less funding than in FY20. The next column shows, for districts which receive additional funds as a result of increasing the foundation budget by inflation and adjusting for enrollment trends, how much more those districts would receive as baseline Chapter 70. The following column shows the distribution of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grants, using the Title I formula. The seventh column shows the $202M of Coronavirus Relief Funds distributed by the Governor to meet school reopening needs. The final two columns are: a) the total of all previous spending amounts, and b) how much of an increase that total is for each district above FY20 Chapter 70. This is not intended to imply that these distributions of federal funds are a substitute for our statutory and constitutional Chapter 70 commitments, but they do provide important resources to school districts at the opening of the school year while we continue to take stock of the economic and revenue changes wrought by COVID-19. and our capacity to make more expansive investments in education and local aid.
In addition to federal ESSER and CRF funds identified in the spreadsheet, A&F has identified the following smaller sources of funding also made available to districts in recent months: • $16M for ESSER Discretionary Funds; • $25M for Remote Learning Technology Grants; • Up to $15M for Competitive Federal Funds.
Despite the almost unprecedented fiscal climate, the amount of state and federal aid allocated thus far ensures the administration and the legislature, as well as municipalities and school districts, can continue prioritizing significant investments in Massachusetts students.
While the tentative agreement was intended to provide a baseline for school district budgeting, and a clear commitment to maintaining the central promise of Chapter 70 to keep every district at a minimum funding level as defined by the foundation budget, it should not be interpreted as abandoning the key commitments to equity made by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). We remain committed to full implementation of the SOA Act, and its historic investments in increasing foundation budget assumptions both to more fully reflect actual school district spending, and to more fully meet the educational needs of our most historically under-resourced students. As we work towards finalizing an FY21 budget, we will continue to examine all opportunities to meet that obligation, including any additional federal funds made available to the state. Upon completing that review, we will reexamine our ability to move forward with the SOA, and will use the first available additional dollars, if any, to begin moving forward with the implementation of SOA.
Districts in the spring had, in many cases, to shut down and deep clean their buildings. They had to push out a ton of technology. They ran a lot of professional development for teachers. They emptied their buildings of protective equipment when the hospitals had shortages.
And per the Commissioner's directive? We paid everybody.
For fall, districts are having to buy a large amount of protective equipment. They're buying plexiglass and other separations. They might be buying furniture. They're scrambling to staff additional nurses and custodians. They need signs and cleaning supplies.
But we also might go remote and many are going hybrid, so we still need technology, and PD for teachers on that, and supplies for students at home.
So, should you be wondering where that CARES and COVID funding is going, you have your answer. And those, let's recall, are grant funds. They're one time. They're spent and they're gone. It's pretty infuriating to have them all added up nicely on a spreadsheet as if those numbers all were equivalents. They aren't.
Actually running the system--more to the point, actually staffing the system--isn't any less expensive than it was last year. In fact, of course, we need more staff than we have.
And no, it doesn't only cost 2% more than last year, either. That's not how much insurance or transportation went up, for certain, and it doesn't cover most other cost areas, either.
The commitment to SOA is nice, but districts start schools in six weeks. We can't staff based on promises. By the time the state passes a 'real' budget, we will have finished the first quarter of school. Classes are not only assigned, but have been running.
And, always remember: most of a school district's costs are in staff.
Worcester lost $14M in operating costs yesterday.
You'll be hearing more about this.