“The Time for Small Ideas and Incremental Change is Over”

BEACON HILL - After her election as Senate President today, Sen. President Karen Spilka delivered remarks sharply critical of the Massachusetts Legislature: “The voices of our past called to us to create a better Senate chamber; and now, as we begin our new session, the voices of our future call to us to create a better Commonwealth. When rising ocean levels threaten our coasts, and when unreliable public transportation makes the lives of working families almost impossible, what are these voices trying to tell us? When the level of income inequality in Massachusetts is the highest in the nation, and families feel they must choose between a house they can afford and a decent education for their children, what are these voices trying to tell us? And when the cost of healthcare threatens the well-being of our small businesses, our schools, our public institutions, our municipalities and our families, what are the voices of our future trying to tell us? They are telling us it is time to get to work. They are telling us that the time for small ideas and incremental change is over.”

Her remarks were in sharp contrast to the remarks of newly re-elected Speaker Robert DeLeo, who made no mention of specific issues he would tackle in the new legislative session, except to champion protecting civil rights: “Amid the clamor and discontent of national discourse we have a lot to be grateful for in Massachusetts. You can be rest assured that this House as it has always done will do everything to make sure that those who try to diminish or dilute whatever rights or privileges we may have that we will fight that all the way to make sure that Massachusetts is the great state that is is. No one’s rights will be infringed upon here in Massachusetts.”

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Republican Minority Leader in the House, Bradley Jones, Jr., who urged action of the Speaker to fund public education: “Mr. Speaker, we had some notable legislative successes the past two years but we also came up short in some key areas as well. We should all agree the time has come to work to implement the recommendations of the foundation budget review commission in a sustainable, meaningful and responsible way.”

The Education Funding Formula hasn’t been updated since 1993. Public education advocates are calling for $2 Billion in new funding to fix the growing gap between education needs and decreasing per-student funding.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission was established in July of 2014 to investigate shortfalls in funding for public education, and released a report in October of 2015 which pointed to major funding shortfalls for public education, especially in areas like special education, english language learners, and low-income students. The matter wasn’t voted on until July 2018, when the legislature failed to update the funding formulas. Although the Senate unanimously passed the FBRC recommendations, the House only partially did so, and the two branches were unable to compromise, resulting in zero new funding.

Education advocates are calling for the budget formula to be modernized to help desperately underfunded school districts around the Commonwealth.

Act on Mass, Inc. is a 501(c)4 organization that works to promote transparency in the Massachusetts State House and advocates for the passage of progressive legislation.