Massachusetts School Funding Reform Overview

WEC is a member of a statewide partnership of education, civil rights, and social justice organizations pressing for equity in education in Massachusetts.  The Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership came together over a year ago and produced the report, Number One for Some, which focused on the significant disparities in education opportunity, access, and ultimately outcomes in our commonwealth.

 As our legislature works to amend the Chapter 70 funding formula, the core approach to funding K-12 public schools in place since 1993, the partnership is calling for a significant reworking of the formula to channel more funding into high need, low property wealth districts.  To be most effective we believe that this increased funding must be coupled with increased accountability and transparency to assure that funds are used wisely and consistent with what we have learned since 1993 about best practices in teaching and learning.


In 2015, The State Legislature’s Foundation Budget Review Commission found that Chapter 70, the current school funding formula that has been in place since the Education Reform Act of 1993, fails to account for the true costs of educating low-income students, English language learners, and special education needs students, and ignores the escalating cost of health insurance for teachers and school staff. The Massachusetts House, Senate, and Governor Charlie Baker all have different plans on how to adequately address the failures of Chapter 70 funding. Read More about the different proposals below:


The PROMISE act sponsored by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz also aims to increase funding from the current levels under Chapter 70. The bill would change the formula so that the specific estimates for employee health care costs are attached to actual costs, increase the base rate of funding schools get for low-income and ELL students by 50 to 100 percent and would create a data advisory committee made up of education experts and officials focused on streamlining and strengthening school-level staffing, spending, and student demographics. WEC supports the Senate bill over the competing plans for its equitable funding structure and monitoring plan
Proponents Say: The PROMISE act will “fulfill the promise we made in our Constitution and in the 1993 Education Reform Act: that zip code should not be destiny”. Advocates of the PROMISE Act claim it is a more equitable and effective funding model. The PROMISE Act is the only legislation filed that fully implements the road map created by the FBRC, presenting ways to modernize the foundation budget formula.
Critics Say: The plan is “money without direction.” While the plan does increase funding, opponents say the money is being allocated irresponsibly.
WPS Under this Plan: The PROMISE act would provide an additional $101.3 million to Worcester Public Schools over an unspecified implementation period.
Read more Here

Governor Baker:

“An Act to Promote Equity and Excellence in Education” updates the Foundation Budget formula to provide more support for school districts to meet the rising cost of health care and special education costs, as well as educating English language learners and low-income students, and will provide a significant influx of funding for communities with the highest need. The budget for FY20 includes an increase of $200.3 million in Chapter 70 funds for a total of $5.1 billion in school aid next year.
Proponents Say: This proposal represents the most significant expansion of the Foundation Budget since the formula was adopted in 1993, and is funded using available revenue.
Critics Say: Baker’s plan to withhold funding from struggling school districts is counterproductive and will create further division and inequality.
WPS Under this Plan: Under Governor Baker’s plan, Worcester Public Schools will receive $34.9 million over a 7 year implementation plan.
Read more Here


The House budget plan proposes a $218 million increase in state education funding over the next fiscal year and a reserve to support low-income students. The budget proposes increases in funding for special education costs, regional school transportation and homeless student transportation, a new program for grants to cover social and behavioral health, as well as an overhaul to charter school funding.
Proponents Say: The plan addresses Charter Schools and applies a more consistent formula, rather than the status quo which bases district funding on charter school enrollment.
Critics Say: Without knowing how the additional funds will be distributed, it will be hard to know if the plan will adequately address the disparities that currently exist between districts in the state.
WPS Under this Plan: Under the House plan, Worcester Public Schools will receive $19.9 million over a 5 year implementation plan.
Read More Here

Additional Reading on School Funding:

How Chapter 70 funding currently works:

WEC executive director Jennifer Davis Carey’s testimony on the foundation budget:

How the different plans affect Worcester Public School Funding: