We the People: Representatives advocate for increased education funding

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge and State Rep. Jennifer Benson are supporting increased education funding, proposing legislation, cosponsoring the highly visible PROMISE and CHERISH acts, and meeting with local advocates.

Eldridge and Benson both attended the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools breakfast Friday, March 1, where attendees discussed the state’s fiscal 2020 budget, the PROMISE Act, the CHERISH Act (SD.740, H.1214), regional school transportation, and increased support for students with mental illnesses. After the event, Benson wrote, “I always fight for more regional school transportation funding, and I file the amendment to the budget every year to increase funds for special education.”

Benson and Eldridge are cosponsors of the PROMISE Act, which seeks to reform the Chapter 70 education funding formula. The act was filed in the Senate by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and in the House by Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) and Rep. Mary Keefe (D-Worcester). The act would increase funding to public schools by nearly $1 billion a year beginning in fiscal 2020. The two are also cosponsors of the CHERISH Act, which aims to increase state funding for public higher education by $500 million. The act was filed in the Senate by Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) and in the House by Rep. Paul Mark (D-Peru) and Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington).

In addition to cosponsoring the two education acts, Benson has also sponsored two bills addressing education. One would establish a student tuition recovery fund to reimburse students who attend universities that are closing (H.1511), which has gained 14 cosponsors. The other would amend Chapter 73 of Massachusetts law to allow state universities to offer research and professional degree programs through the doctorate degree level, to include but not limited to clinical doctorate degrees and professional doctorate degrees.(HD.1204); it has been referred to the Joint Committee on Higher Education. Current law authorizes state universities to offer programs through the “master’s degree level.”

Later that day, Eldridge went on to attend the Fund Our Future forum at the Reuben Hoar Public Library in Littleton. Fund Our Future is a coalition of educator associations, including the Harvard Teachers Association, that aims to pass both the PROMISE and CHERISH acts.

On Fund Our Future’s website, fundourfuturema.org, the coalition asserts that funding for education in Massachusetts is outdated, resulting in cost burdens shifting even further onto educators and families. As a result, the group supports the PROMISE and CHERISH acts to increase state public education funding.

Eldridge described Fund Our Future as “the best grassroots movement I’ve seen in Massachusetts by teachers to pressure the Legislature to pass a comprehensive K-12 education funding bill by this summer.”

Press intern Kate Selig is a Bromfield senior.

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