FRAMINGHAM – Framingham, like every Massachusetts School District, must provide a free public education to all students from kindergarten through grade 12. The cost of providing this education is partially funded through Chapter 70 money from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The amount the state has funded Framingham has ranged from more than $9 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to as low as $1 million in some years.
The Framingham school leaders estimate Framingham was shortchanged about $53.5 million in the last decade in state educational funding.
The “gap” between what Framingham is targeted to receive and what it actually does receive has been narrowing thanks to the efforts of current Senate President Karen Spilka, who previously headed the powerful Senate Ways & Means Committee, and the work of the late Rep. Chris Walsh, who was the vice chair of Joint Committee on Education.
Annually, Framingham Public Schools is left with a funding gap of more than $5 million due to the lack of Chapter 70 funding as well as unfunded and underfunded mandates placed on the school district by the state, according to school leaders.
This past legislative session, the House and Senate tried to reform educational funding to communities. It failed.
However, Senate President Spilka was able to increase Chapter 70 funding for Framingham in Fiscal Year 2019.
Framingham will receive $4,979,232 – an 11.75 percent increase over Fiscal year 18.
On Tuesday, September 4, the day after Labor Day, Framingham voters will select one Republican, one Democrat, and possibly one Libertarian to appear on the November ballot. Voters in Precincts (not City Districts) 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15 will see no names on any of those three ballots however. With the death of Rep. Walsh in May there was not time for any candidate to gather signatures and appear on the ballot. Thus, every candidate that wants the 6th Middlesex state representative seat must run a write-in campaign.
There are five candidates who have announced write-in campaigns – four Democrats and one Republican. The Democrats are Mary Kate Feeney, Mike Gatlin, Maria Robinson, and Mark Tilden. The Republican is Tom Blandford. The individuals who receives the most votes in any party ballot (minimum of 150 votes) will appear on the November ballot. In Framingham, as in the state, the majority of registered voters are unenrolled, which means they have no party affiliation. Unenrolled voters may choose a Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian ballot on Tuesday, Sept 4 and write in the candidate of their choice. The announced Democratic candidates are encouraging voters to pull a Democratic ballot and write their name, and the Republican candidate is encouraging unenrolled voters to pull a Republican ballot and write his name.
Source asked the write-in state representative candidates a series of questions, earlier this month.
Each day last week and this week, the answers to the questions are being published to help voters make a choice.
Today’s question — Framingham for years was shortchanged in the education funding formula. Senate President Karen Spilka worked hard the past five years to make sure Framingham got a fair share of the money it needed for education. However, the last legislature session failed to pass an education funding reform bill. What would you put in an education reform bill for the next session? why?
TILDEN: A funding formula that takes into account the rising cost of teacher and employee health care which has caused funding for actual education to suffer.
GATLIN: I believe that most, if not all, of the provisions of the Senate Education bill would be very beneficial to the city of Framingham.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives opted not to provide much needed reform but instead chose to study the issue, still again.
As a member of the House, I would vote to adopt the provisions in the Senate bill.
FEENEY: As your full-time state representative, I will partner with the Framingham School Committee, the Keefe Regional Technical School Committee and the Superintendents of both districts to make sure that these goals are realized for all students.
As the daughter of former educators, I am incredibly disappointed by what the Legislature did not accomplish in their last session.
To start, a fix to provide communities such as Framingham with more education funding failed.
The Chapter 70 formula which determines state aid for each district has remained the same for 25 years and is woefully inadequate. Political candidates have used Chapter 70 as a talking point for years, yet nothing has actually been accomplished. Based on my discussions with members of the Framingham School Committee, I believe that formula reform must address funding for special education, English language learners and low-income students – all of whom we have in disproportionate numbers in Framingham.
Along with fixing the formula, I also support:
• Early childhood education: I pledge to support early childhood education for every child by supporting efforts to make high quality Pre-K available for all our families in Framingham and throughout the Commonwealth. Too many of our children start out behind and consequently, too many never catch up. Investing in high quality early childhood education gives kids the start they need to succeed. A child’s early years are critical to their future and addressing the issues of economic justice. With early childhood education, our children will be better prepared for success. We should explore a partnership with FSU to expand early childhood education, while providing opportunities for FSU to develop the next generation of teachers.
• Increase guidance counselors and social workers in our schools: We need to provide our schools with the resources to help our kids emotionally and educate the whole student. The mental health of our kids is a major public health issue, and partnering with families, teachers and health professionals will give our kids the tools they need for their future.
• Growing opportunities between Mass Bay Community College, Framingham State University and Framingham High School: We are fortunate to have two institutions of higher education in our community. Our high school should partner with Mass Bay and FSU as a way for students to take college-level courses, earn college credits and opens our students to new learning experiences and possibilities.
Working with our local school leaders and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to support the current Fuller Middle School project, and to make sure that the MSBA is well positioned to support school building projects in the future. Like many communities Framingham has a number of schools which were built in response to the post-WWII housing boom, and many of these schools are in need of repair or replacement.
As the only candidate who has proactively engaged with our local School Building Committee I have been impressed with the transparency and rigor of their process, but we need more state support to continue this critical work.
ROBINSON: While Framingham is finally receiving its fair share of education funding under the current Chapter 70 laws, students that require special education and English-Language-Learning students are still being shortchanged.
The Senate bill, introduced by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (and supported by members of our school committee), would increase state funding for these two groups of students. The suggested reforms have been studied at length by the commission put together in 2015 and come recommended by educators and administrators. This would assist Framingham, as taxpayers are covering the soaring costs of health insurance for the school district as well as the additional costs associated with educating students with learning disabilities and students who are learning English. The changes in the formula would take into account the fact that Framingham has a higher percentage of students in both categories and would provide additional state funding to alleviate the taxpayer burden. I fully support this bill, and I would certainly co-sponsor and support a companion House bill to Senator Chang-Diaz’s reforms.
BLANDFORD: I would make sure that we are using to our fullest capacity the no child left behind bill and that every child including those in special needs will actually have the resources that they need to make the grade.
I also will make sure that even though teachers should be given a million dollars a year that they have every dollar, resource and help that they need at their disposal because education is the only true answer for ending the war on illiteracy and poverty.
Editor’s Note: The candidates were given 500 words or less for a response. The responses are published below, as received, unless they went over 500 words, and then the news site cut the answer at the sentence closest to 500 words.