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Gov. Baker Signs Major MA School Funding Bill

Gov. Charlie Baker has authorized a $1.5 billion boost to public-school funding with his approval on Tuesday of the Student Opportunity Act. (Office of Charlie Baker/Flickr)
Gov. Charlie Baker has authorized a $1.5 billion boost to public-school funding with his approval on Tuesday of the Student Opportunity Act. (Office of Charlie Baker/Flickr)
November 27, 2019

BOSTON – Teachers across the Commonwealth are giving thanks this week for Gov. Charlie Baker's signature on a major education funding bill.

The Student Opportunity Act was signed into law on Tuesday, ultimately adding $1.5 billion annually to public schools. It's the first source of significant new money for education since 1993, when the state created its school-funding formula. The dollars will go primarily to schools with large numbers of low-income students and English-language learners.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said the Bay State generally defines "low income" as students in families within 133% of the federal poverty line - and the bill raises that bar.

"This now increases that range," she said, "so that students qualify in the poverty category of this bill if they meet 185% of the federal poverty line."

That means students will be considered low-income with family incomes of slightly more than $39,000 a year for a family of three, instead of about $28,000. The Student Opportunity Act was the result of bipartisan support in the Legislature and advocacy from the Fund Our Future coalition, of which MTA was a part. Attempts to increase state public-education financing had failed since 2014.

One part of the bill debated in both the House and Senate concerns school accountability. Now, school districts will create plans that detail how they intend to close achievement gaps between rich and poor students. The compromise was over how much control the state has over these district-improvement plans. Overall, Najimy said she feels proud of the bill.

"It's an amazing day. We've just made history," she said. "The schooling experience, particularly of our students of color, will be significantly better."

The Student Opportunity Act will be phased in over the course of seven years.

Disclosure: Massachusetts Teachers Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Civic Engagement, Education. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Laura Rosbrow-Telem, Public News Service - MA