Chairman Jacqueline Kinney declared it is time for Swampscott “to take the gloves off” in fighting the state to raise its annual distribution to the town's schools.
Committee member Rick Kraft said that is meeting with similar committees in Nahant and Saugus on March 6 to discuss ways to persuade the state to increase funding for their schools. Marblehead's finance committee may also join the meeting, committee members said.
Swampscott is funded below the 17.5 percent of its budget that is required by law, Kraft said. He estimated that the state shorted the district by $800,000 this year and $4.6 million over the last six years.
“We are trying to put more visibility on this issue,” Kinney said. “Let's really shine a spotlight on it.”
She proposed that the school committee hold a joint meeting with other communities that are facing the same under-funding by the state to develop a strategy.
State Senator Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, and state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, have been working on the issue. But they need to have the towns and cities lobbying too, Kraft said.
The state has traditionally funded a much higher percentage of school budgets in less wealthy cities and towns. By law, it is required to fund every school district at the 17.5 percent level, but has not.
Seven years ago, the state began to increase the funding for wealthier school districts, working toward the state minimum. But over the last two years the state funding has started to drop again, Kraft said.
“Swampscott is losing ground,” Kraft said. “I don't know how the state can flaunt the law.”
Swampscott is funded at the lowest levels among school districts, he said.
The committee had scheduled a briefing by former committee member David Whelan on the issue of Chapter 70 state funding, but was forced to postpone the presentation until next month because of an illness.
The committee has set March 14 as the public hearing on the new budget. All are invited to attend.