With the prospect of federal aid and higher-than-expected tax revenue, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker plans to fully fund the state’s landmark education law in the 2022 fiscal year.
Addressing the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting, Baker said he plans to file a budget plan that increases unrestricted local aid based on the state’s consensus tax revenue and fully funds the first year of the Student Opportunity Act.
“We’re pleased to continue making these important investments in our schools and our communities,” the Republican governor said Friday afternoon.
The 2019 education law, which retooled the state’s funding formula, requires the state to offer $1.5 billion more in funding annually for the state public education system. But it first called for a seven-year phase-in period.
Lawmakers and state officials planned to increase Chapter 70 funding last week to follow the new education law, but the coronavirus pandemic disrupted budget negotiations. As lawmakers spent months waiting for financial relief from Congress, the Baker administration and Legislature agreed to keep Chapter 70 mostly level.
When asked about Chapter 70 funding, Baker says schools have received more money during the coronavirus pandemic than they would have if the state had simply increased Chapter 70 spending. But school officials say much of the funding districts have received was to offset mounting COVID-19 costs and that those awards were not disbursed based on the formula that was meant to ensure money was spread equitably.
Baker also plans to file another bill authorizing $200 million in Chapter 90 funds, which would support local road and bridge repair projects. If approved, the Baker administration will have released more than $1.5 billion in Chapter 90 funding.
Baker also touted his small business relief package and the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as the inclusion of his “housing choice” proposal in the $626 million economic development package he signed into law earlier this month.
The governor addressed local officials by video Friday afternoon, lamenting he couldn’t speak with them in person.
“You wouldn’t get into local government, you wouldn’t get into state government if you didn’t like to be out and about with the people of your community, however you want to define it,” he said. “I can tell you that the lieutenant governor and I miss terribly those opportunities that we used to have every single day to be out somewhere in Massachusetts talking to either you or to your constituents about whatever it was that was on your minds and how we could work together to make things better.”