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Selectmen's Frustration Builds Over Education Funding

Selectmen are angry over the governor's proposed 2013 budget leaving Swampscott far short of the promised 17.5 percent funding promised under Chapter 70.

 

Selectmen Barry Greenfield and Jill Sullivan said the town needs to take action on its own to get state officials' attention when it comes to education funding.

"I'm ready to be civilly disobedient," Selectman Greenfield said on Wednesday.

Board members were upset that the state once again failed to bring the town up to minimum foundation-level funding to support in town.

Swampscott is slated to receive $2,573,123 next year, a figure that puts the district well short of the 17.5 percent foundation funding promised under Chapter 70.

The district received $2,564,463 in state funding this year, which put Swampscott just under 14 percent funding, well below the 17.5 percent figure. 

Greenfield and Sullivan said that attempts to organize collective action have failed to bring about change.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich has filed legislation and numerous amendments to try to bring the town up to 17.5 percent, but to no avail, they said.

Local Chapter 70 firebrand Dave Whelan has been fighting for 8 or 9 years, they said. He is still trying to organize other towns shorted under the 70 funding. 

The two selectmen think the town needs to take action to get on the radar screen of state officials.

That night mean organizing a sit-in at the State House or forming a town-wide rally, they said.

Sullivan read the names of towns that received more state funding than Swampscott.

Her list included Marblehead, Wellesley, Manchester-by-the-Sea, and Lynnfield.

For his part, Dave Whelan said he feels the town is being cheated.

"My response is that I am sick of being cheated out of money that we were promised," he said in an email. "$802,000 funds a lot of things and the residents of Swampscott need to start getting more involved. Making calls is an appropriate first step."

The Massachusetts Department of Education defines an adequate spending level for a school district as its "foundation budget." It is a statistical measure that was developed by superintendents and an economist in the early 1990's.

"The goal of the Chapter 70 formula is to ensure that every district has sufficient resources to meet its foundation budget spending level, through an equitable combination of local property taxes and state aid," according to the DOE.

Each district's foundation budget is updated each year to reflect inflation and changes in enrollment. 

Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, said in an interview that the Chapter 70 funding formula no longer works.

The state was on the road to catching up towns to the 17.5 percent level of funding but then tough economic times arrived and the plan was set back.

She will to continue to work for the 17.5 percent funding, she said, and now that the economic picture appears to be improving it's a good time to remind everybody of the funding commitment made to Swampscott and other towns.

Katie Curley-Katzman contributed to this story.

David Whelan February 03, 2012 at 02:24 PM
The Governor agrees with Lori. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8hVcuz5wWU Go to one minute 20 secs.

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