Editorial: On budgets and elections

By G. Michael Dobbs

Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law this week the new state budget for FY20 that includes a lot more money for education.
This is very good news for the number of communities in the Commonwealth that have struggled with fulfilling the educational needs of students while coping with various mandates imposed upon them, often unfunded.
From the press release issued by the governor’s office: “The budget builds on the Administration’s previous investments to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and includes significant new funding for school districts to meet the cost of educating low-income students, English language learners, and students with special needs, as well as to address the rising cost of health care.
“In addition to $5.2 billion in Chapter 70 aid – an increase of $268 million over Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19 – the budget includes $115 million for charter school reimbursements for local school districts, a significant $25 million increase to support an updated formula to reimburse districts for charter school tuition increases, including an increase in the facilities stipend for charter schools.”
This is great for one year, but it’s the reform in how educational funding is determined that still  needs to be completed.
Members of the Legislature to whom I’ve spoken have all said they are committed to get a Foundation Budget legislation passed that will more fairly fund schools. I’m sure Baker is also sincerely committed to finding a solution, especially since one was not found during the last session.
We need reform. We need a formula that provides a level of funding that is fair to smaller communities as well as larger ones.
With a new school year looming in a few weeks, it’s more of an issue than ever.
Many school districts actively try to adjust their curriculum to meet the changing needs of the job market and to better prepare students for the world of work. This acknowledgement of demands for the economy was not a consideration when I went to grade and high school back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.
I’m heartened when I see how school officials are meeting with area employers and speaking about what they need – and what students need – to achieve success.
Making sure schools have the money they need is essential. Let’s keep this progress moving forward.

I love a good narrative
Hey, I love a good mayoral election season and it’s shaping nicely in both Chicopee and Westfield.
Elections can carry great deal of drama and, frankly, I enjoy them when the mere inclusion of candidates creates a narrative.
Look at Chicopee, for instance, voters will have to chose in the primary election between a small business person, a City Council veteran who has risen to be the president of that body, a beloved high school administrator and now a former mayor whom some people view as fairly polarizing.
No one in Chicopee should be complaining about not having a diverse selection of candidates for mayor.
In Westfield with the departure of Mayor Brian Sullivan there is also an interesting contest. Police Capt. Michael McCabe is going to face state Sen. Don Humason and residents Kristen L. Mello and Andrew Mullen. 
As a political junkie I’m looking forward to contributing to the coverage in our newspapers of these important races.

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