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Education a Hot Topic in MA Senate Budget Debate

The Massachusetts Senate begins debating the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2020 at 10 a.m. today. (MA Legislature)
The Massachusetts Senate begins debating the proposed state budget for fiscal year 2020 at 10 a.m. today. (MA Legislature)
May 21, 2019

BOSTON — Education funding is at the heart of Senate budget talks scheduled for Tuesday in the Massachusetts State House. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is recommending a near $43 billion fiscal 2020 budget that would boost spending by about 3%.

Part of this proposed budget is a suggested $268 million increase in funds for K-12 public schools, as well as an additional $39 million for the University of Massachusetts system. The preliminary Senate budget also is pushing for a one-year freeze on tuition and fees at the University of Massachusetts.

Lisa Guisbond is executive director of Citizens for Public Schools and a leader of the Fund Our Future campaign. She said she has mixed feelings about this higher-education funding approach.

"We think there needs to be a freeze, but there also needs to be increased funding,” Guisbond said. “Otherwise, that would force cuts in faculty and other things."

Guisbond said there needs to be more funding for higher education, as advocated by the CHERISH Act. It recommends $500 million in additional funding for public higher education in the Commonwealth. She also supports Senate budget amendment 302, which similarly urges increased support for higher education in the next fiscal year.

Guisbond said the Senate budget proposal for K-12 public schools is more in line with what education activists were hoping for - specifically, that it's similar to levels advocated for in the PROMISE Act. It pushes for an additional $1 billion in education funding for K-12.

"We've seen some progress in that, especially in K-12 funding, the proposed education funding is closer to what the first year of the PROMISE Act would do, but still not enough," she said.

The PROMISE and CHERISH acts are separate pieces of legislation urging permanent increases to education funding. Gov. Charlie Baker also has an education-related bill, which recommends lower levels of support.

The Massachusetts Senate will begin debating the proposed state budget for the next fiscal year at 10 a.m.

Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA