The foundation budget established under the Education Reform Act of 1993 to calculate adequate baseline spending for the state’s public school districts understates the costs of special education and health insurance by more than $2 billion, according to a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.
“By comparing actual spending to the foundation budget for Massachusetts school districts in fiscal year (FY) 2010, we find that the real value of the original foundation budget has eroded significantly over time, due in large part to rapid cost growth for health care and special education,” the report — Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program – states. “Since the foundation budget’s original design did not foresee this rapid cost growth, spending reductions have been forced in other key areas, especially regular education teachers. We also find that due to implementation issues with inflation adjustments, the real value of the foundation budget lags behind the original dollar amounts written into state law in FY 1993.”
Here are the key findings, as stated in the report:
- Foundation understates health insurance costs by $1.1 billion.
- Foundation understates core SPED costs by about $1.0 billion.
- Districts have not implemented the low-income student program envisioned in the original foundation budget…. While this incremental money still exists in the low-income student enrollment category of the foundation budget, there is little evidence that low-income students are receiving this additional instructional support.
- Most districts hire fewer regular education teachers than the foundation budget sets as an adequate baseline.
- Inflation adjustments have not been fully implemented, causing foundation to lag behind true cost growth.
To find out more about education spending in your community’s school district, check out this interactive tool.