Walsh says city isn’t getting enough state aid for schools
Mayor Martin J. Walsh says Boston is not getting enough state aid to pay for public schools under a budget proposal unveiled last month by Governor Charlie Baker.
“Funding for education is not working for the City of Boston right now,” Walsh said Tuesday. “It’s rising to a crisis level.”
Under the spending plan proposed by Baker, the city would rely heavily on property tax revenue — not state aid — to pay for public schools, Walsh said. The city also would not receive the $27 million it says it is due in reimbursement payments for charter school tuition, according to Walsh.
Baker’s plan is likely to be amended in the coming months as Beacon Hill lawmakers revise his proposal. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The governor’s proposal would give the city nearly $241 million for education through local aid and charter school tuition reimbursement — a drop of about $500,000 from current funding levels. Education aid would grow by 0.6 percent to $219 million, but state reimbursement for charter school tuition would decline by nearly $4 million to $21 million, figures show.
At the same time, the amount the city would pay in charter school tuition payments would grow from $175 million to $195 million.
School systems make tuition payments to the state when students residing in their districts enroll in charter schools. The state, in return, reimburses the school districts for some of those costs. As the number of charter schools grew in recent years, however, the state has stopped making full reimbursement payments.
State officials, however, said the reimbursement payments are adjusted throughout the year, meaning the amount due to the city may change.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Baker’s budget writers said the spending plan would exceed what the state is required to set aside for schools under the funding formula established by law. Boston would receive about 8 percent more than the amount allowed by the formula.
“The Baker-Polito administration was proud to put forward a balanced budget that provides over $1 billion in unrestricted local aid and over $4.8 billion in local education aid to cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” said Sarah Finlaw, the spokeswoman. “We look forward to working with the Legislature to produce a final budget ...that invests in every community.”
The Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks city finances, said that if Baker’s budget is approved, the amount of money the city receives in education aid would have risen by 5.5 percent going back to fiscal year 2013.
“It doesn’t even reach inflationary increases,” said Sam Tyler, the organization’s president.
The city has been able to devote more of its revenue to schools, he said, because of growth.
“It’s a hot city right now for development,” he said Tuesday. “That’s allowed the city to put more of its own money into school funding...But this development boom won’t last forever. There will be a downturn.”
Tyler said the state should fully reimburse Boston what it is owed for charter school tuition payments — a figure the city estimates to be $100 million going back to Fiscal 2014.
Eleanor Laurans, chief financial officer for Boston schools, said the state’s system for allocating aid shortchanges city schools, which educate about 56,000 students.
Nearly half of Boston’s students don’t speak English as a first language, 20 percent have a disability, and three-quarters live in poverty, officials said.
This year, Boston Public Schools has a $1 billion budget. Its spending plan for next year is expected to be unveiled Wednesday.
Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang said he hopes the Legislature gives city schools more money when it unveils its budget plans later this year.
“We are hoping the House and Senate will be able to step up and provide more equitable funding for the city of Boston,” he said.