The promised funding from the landmark education bill that was signed into law before the COVID pandemic hit is still up in the air, Boston students and parents last Tuesday called for state officials to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act Funding (SOA).
During a virtual press conference hosted by the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance on Tuesday students, parents, and school committee members from cities across Massachusetts discussed their school funding needs, their perspectives on in-person school reopening this spring, and their aspirations for education this summer and during the upcoming school year.
Boston Public School parents Rafaela Polanco and Suleika Soto testified at the virtual press conference and shared their thoughts.
At the press conference, which was held over Zoom, Polanco and Soto joined students, parents, and school committee members from Revere, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell and Randolph to discuss safety measures, social/emotional and educational supports, and other resources they’re looking for from their public schools as well as the need for substantial state funding to support those needs.
“I’m a parent of two Boston Public School students and a parent organizer for the Boston Education Alliance” said Soto. “We as parents, students, teachers and community members have asked to be heard about fair and high quality education. Low income communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID so we need fully funded schools that are fair and just in our budget–one where every student has access to what they need, including safe school buildings. Black and brown families continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID and a fully and equitable funded state budget can put us on the right track.”
The SOA overhauled the state’s education funding formula to ensure equity for all students, especially those in low-income areas.
Because the state has not updated its education funding formula since 1993 to reflect districts’ real health insurance and special education costs, the amount of aid being provided to cover those costs had been too small for decades.
In January 2020 Governor Charles Baker signed S. 2412, An Act Relative to Educational Opportunity for Students, or the SOA, which would have boosted investment in public schools by $1.5 billion annually when fully phased in over the next seven years.
However, when COVID hit in March 2019 budget shortfalls pushed SOA spending to the wayside. Boston Public Schools were expected to receive millions in SOA funding.
The state legislature’s Ways and Means Committee met last Tuesday to begin reviewing the Governor’s proposed FY22 budget.
At the press conference students and parents plan to keep pushing for a true commitment to fully fund public school and call for putting the state’s commitment to public education funding back on track. One demand by the group Tuesday is that the state delivers at least two of the seven years of promised funding increases under the SOA in the next state budget.