What’s wrong with Chapter 70?

The three pages linked to at the bottom of this page explore the implementation of the education aid reforms of 2006 through the financial crunch and consider alternative implementations for FY2013 and beyond.

Education aid was formerly distributed to communities pursuant to Chapter 70 of the General Laws and “Chapter 70” is still shorthand for “the education aid formula.” However, for the past decade, education aid has been distributed according to changing formulas defined in outside sections of the annual state budget.

The basic idea of Chapter 70 and its successors is simple:

  1. Define a budget for education in each community — the “Foundation Budget”.
  2. Compute how much each community can afford to pay — the “Required Local Contribution.”
  3. Provide aid equal to the difference.

In practice, given that, in every year, communities have different spending patterns and also have different historical aid expectations that tend to be honored, the formula gets complicated.

One clear problem with our education aid distribution is that our definition of Foundation Budget results in budgets for aid purposes that are well below actual spending in most communities. There is a continuing conversation about how and when to bring the foundation budget up to a more realistic level. That is not the focus of the analysis presented here.

The problem that concerns us here is that the definition of Required Local Contribution does not seem consistent with common sense observations of communities’ relative ability to pay. The Reforms of 2006 were designed to remedy that problem over a five year transition period.

Since Fiscal 2010, the financial crunch has limited the total amount of state education aid. In response, the state reduced its allocation of resources to formula elements designed to address ability-to-pay inequities. While there may have been sound reasons for this decision, the math of the formula revision has led to (a) unpredictable spikes in local aid for some communities; (b) continuation of the inequities that the 2006 reforms were intended to correct — communities of similar wealth are not treated in similar ways.

The pages below explore these issues in more depth:

Click here to download background spreadsheet or summary powerpoint.

Please do contact Will Brownsberger at willbrownsberger@gmail.com or 617-771-8274 if you notice apparent errors in the analysis on these pages.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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