North Adams School Committee urges state to boost education funding

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NORTH ADAMS — The School Committee has approved a resolution requesting increased state funding, but it delayed voting on a second resolution opposing Gov. Charlie Baker's plan to raise the cap on Charter Schools.

Joining efforts by other public school committees across the state, North Adams this week requested the state Legislature and Baker move to implement enough funding to cover "the true cost of educating students in the commonwealth."

The resolution, introduced by School Committee member John Hockridge, comes in the wake of findings by the Massachusetts Foundation Budget Review Commission that the state's funding levels "failed to keep pace with rising costs."

"Two of the big items are out-of-district special education costs and health insurances, and trying to get the funding for those up to reality," Hockridge said.

Hockridge said dozens of other communities across the commonwealth had already passed the resolution, and he hoped Berkshire County's schools would send their resolutions to state leaders as a group.

Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger suggested a letter be written along with the resolution to explain how the need for funding impacts North Adams schools.

A second resolution introduced by Hockridge, requesting the state not raise the current cap on charter schools, did not receive such a warm reception from the committee. They voted to delay taking action on the proposal until next month's meeting.

"It's not in any way addressing anything in relation to what's happening in Berkshire County currently other than to ask that we not have any additional charter schools, if possible, because we can't afford it," Hockridge said.

The resolution, also being discussed by school committees statewide, accuses the state of failing to properly reimburse districts for the funding they lose when students choose to attend charter schools. The reimbursement rate has been below 70 percent each of the last three fiscal years.

"Talking to other mayors around the state, the funding formula is flawed and it's never been right. Nobody really ever seems to want to do anything about it; just infuse more schools and again to just dilute the pot of money," said Mayor Richard Alcombright.

The resolution quotes a report by Massachusetts Auditor Suzanne Bump that alleges the state has been "inconsistent in its decisions whether to impose conditions for some charter school renewals."

Several committee members shied from criticizing the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, acknowledging a benefit of choice and alternative education for some students.

Boulger said she did not feel comfortable voting on the resolution until she was able to better education herself on the topic. Member Nicholas Fahey suggested adding language to clarify that the board was not opposed to charter schools in general, but are unhappy with the current funding formula.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376


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