How Does Melrose's State Education Funding Compare?
A look at the Chapter 70 funding estimated for the next fiscal year.
Chapter 70 funding is complicated and contentious, which makes for a controversial topic in most communities. The funding is given to every Commonwealth community by the state each year to help pay for education costs.
Essentially, the state uses a formula to determine how much it’ll cost a community to educate its kids. Then it determines how much the community can raise in property taxes to pay for education. The state aid given is used to cover the difference. Communities can chip in more to educate kids without hurting its Chapter 70 funding total; the whole exercise is done to make sure there’s a minimum standard met.
Melrose would receive $7,672,924 in Chapter 70 funding next year according to the House budget passed late on Wednesday night. Rep. Paul Brodeur, D-Melrose, and Mayor Rob Dolan expressed confidence that number represents the new "floor" for Melrose's state education funding next year.
After a $1.85 million increase between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2009, Melrose's Chapter 70 funding—despite a dip during the recession—has stayed mostly in the same ballpark over the past four years. The city's Chapter 70 funding by fiscal year:
- 2008: $5,694,605
- 2009: $7,541,739
- 2010: $7,390,904
- 2011: $7,257,935
- 2012: $7,323,565
This is a chart of the estimated Chapter 70 funding for communities in the area. These are estimates for fiscal year 2013, which starts on June 1. These figures will change throughout the process until the state approves a fiscal 2013 budget.
Fiscal 2013 State Aid for Education (estimated)
How the formula works
The way things work now, the state uses 11 funding categories to estimate costs against 14 categories of students. Then it adds in community-specific factors, like the number of students and wage averages to adjust the number. Voilà, a community has its educational foundation budget for the year.
That foundation budget is what the state considers the baseline amount to educate students that community for a given year. Each city and town in the state has to fund education to at least that amount using a combination of local property taxes and Chapter 70 funding from the state.
Lost yet? There’s plenty of documentation on the state’s web site explaining exactly how this all works, though it gets pretty wonkish as you sort through the details. You can see the state’s explanation of the formula here. You can also download a copy of the so-called “cherry sheet” (named after the color of the pages in the old hard-copy budgets), which breaks down the state’s expected local funding for fiscal 2013.
Not everyone likes this formula
So what’s so controversial about this? What’s not. Critics point to several areas of concerns, not limited to how the categories are broken up, how much money is sent to technical high schools, the baseline values used by the state, the wage factoring, which tweaks funding towards communities that pay higher salaries, and more.
Do you think the state does a good job of helping communities meet their education needs? How would you make the formula more equitable? Tell us in the comments below.