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BOARD OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS MAJOR REFORM ? OF MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL FINANCE

 BOARD OF EDUCATION COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS MAJOR REFORM
 ? OF MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOL FINANCE
 QUINCY, Mass., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Citing a state of emergency created by grossly inadequate financial support of the public schools, a State Board of Education Committee on Distressed School Systems and School Reform is recommending major structural reform of the Commonwealth's system of educational finance.
 The Committee, which will present its recommendations to the Board of Education on Tuesday, identifies a breakdown in the social contract supporting education for which both state and local governments must bear responsibility.
 Board Chairman James F. Crain appointed the Committee, comprised of Board members Martin S. Kaplan, Esq., chair, S. Paul Reville, and Richard R. Rowe, last month after the Board heard staff recommendations following a report on conditions created by budget reductions in Brockton, Chelsea, Holyoke and Lawrence schools.
 Charged with reviewing the Department of Education staff recommendations, as well as the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education school reform proposal "Every Child a Winner," Committee members met throughout the month of November.
 Among its proposals, the Committee on Distressed School Systems and School Reform's report recommends the following systemic reform strategies for Bay State schools.
 -- Massachusetts must guarantee a minimum level of adequacy in terms of both a core package of educational services for each child, recognizing the greater needs of disadvantaged children, and a basic ("foundation") budget level for each school district. The commitment of the Commonwealth to public education should be explicitly articulated in the Constitution of the Commonwealth.
 -- Major systemic reform in the funding, organization and delivery of public education in Massachusetts on the scale of the proposal of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education must be included in any long-range package of school change legislation.
 -- The Commonwealth must create a financing system for public education which provides the funds to meet the adequacy standard throughout the state. Such a system must provide reliable and continuing funding, and must require that each city and town allocate a fair and equitable share of its municipal revenues to education.
 -- The school budget process must be made stable and predictable and all decisions relating to state and local budgets concerning public education must be finalized before the close of the previous school year.
 -- The Board of Education should establish benchmark educational conditions that must be maintained by all school districts. They should include: improvements in educational performance; minimum per-pupil budget levels for instructional materials, support services, staff development, adequate and properly maintained facilities; and maximum class sizes for all programs. The Board should have the authority to grant waivers of such requirements to encourage innovative educational approaches and encourage inter-district collaboration.
 -- The Board of Education, by two-thirds vote of its members, should have the authority to declare a state of emergency in a school system, and to take any action necessary to address the problems creating such emergency. This may include but not be limited to the authority to change personnel and enter into contracts for the management of the school system.
 -- The Legislature should appropriate emergency funds to be administered by the State Board of Education to financially distressed school districts, so long as systemic long-term reform is also adopted.
 -- To qualify for the emergency funding school districts would have to demonstrate (a) current eligibility for Equal Educational Opportunity Grant funds and (b) one or more of the following conditions: (i) decline in per-pupil spending, (ii) regular education classrooms with 35 or more students, (iii) special or transitional bilingual education classrooms with enrollments in excess of maximum requirements of state regulation, (iv) shortages of textbooks and other instructional materials and/or (v) decline in support services.
 -- Any emergency grants should be awarded only to remediate the conditions identified above, with the requirement that such funds will not supplant any portion of the current year's appropriated school budget. The State Department of Education would monitor use of all the emergency grants.
 -- Any school district receiving such emergency aid would be required to repay 50 percent of the aid over the following two fiscal years (25 percent in each year) through a direct deduction from non-educational local aid provided by the Commonwealth to that community.
 The Committee report will be presented in its entirety to the Board of Educaiton at its Nov. 26 meeting at the Massachusetts Archives and Museum in Boston. Members of the committee are urging the board to act swiftly on the recommendations to assist ailing school districts.
 "Proposition 2-1/2 has created a vicious competition among those desperately in need of community services, from fire and police protection to public education to trash collection, that is setting neighbor against neighbor ... and destroying the sense of community in our cities and towns," the report states. "The community social contract has been torn apart, and people tend to look out for themselves and deny their community responsibility for the public education of other people's children.
 "Both the citizens and public officials of Massachusetts have the opportunity to ... craft a new sense of community values and social contract by developing a more equitable and effective system of school financing. Only the children are without blame for our current situation, and they deserve better."
 -0- 11/25/91
 /CONTACT: Marie Fricker of Massachusetts Department of Education, 617-770-7312/ CO: Massachusetts Department of Education ST: Massachusetts IN: SU:


KM-DD -- NE002 -- 6763 11/25/91 10:52 EST
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Date:Nov 25, 1991
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