Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus renews its commitment to lead on urban education
Investing significant energy and political capital
The Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus met on March 22nd to reaffirm their commitment to work collaboratively this session on issues affecting urban school districts. Caucus members were joined by Superintendents Kathy Smith of Brockton, Mary Bourque of Chelsea, and Dianne Kelly of Revere. The superintendents expressed grave concern over the future of funding for urban schools, noting that the foundation budget review commission’s recommendations to increase funding levels have not been addressed, federal funding is increasingly uncertain, and a sustainable solution has still not been reached to hold districts harmless for lost funds that have resulted from the change in how the state counts low-income students.
Moving from the “Low-income” definition, based on eligibility for free and reduced price lunch to the new “Economically disadvantaged” definition, based on enrollment in a number of public assistance programs, has led to millions of lost dollars for high-poverty districts like Chelsea, Brockton, and Revere. This issue, which has been particularly problematic for districts that welcome recent immigrants (who are ineligible for the federal programs used to identify students from economically disadvantaged families), demonstrates the type of challenge Gateway City leaders routinely face. For two years, urban superintendents have been fighting this fire, spending time away from their schools and investing significant energy and political capital just to maintain the status quo.
While this somber conversation weighed heavily on the room, the discussion turned to a more hopeful topic, as Representative Mary Keefe took the floor to share the work she and other leaders have undertaken to create a compact that expresses a community vision for educational excellence in Worcester. Throughout 2017, they’ll be working together on a strategic plan to implement this shared vision.
The session concluded with a discussion of FY 2018 budget priorities. Three line items members will be supporting in meetings with the Ways & Means chairs:
7027-0019 – School to Career Connecting Activities7066-0015 – Community College Workforce Training Program
7009-6400 – English Language Learner’s Gateway Cities Program