BOSTON — The state Senate on Wednesday rejected a budget amendment that would have increased the minimum education aid every district receives from $30 per pupil to $100 per pupil on a 7-32 vote Wednesday.
After lengthy debate to open the second day of budget deliberations, senators voted virtually along party lines to shoot down the Republican-sponsored change, which would have added $30 million to the $42.7 billion budget.
Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, who filed the amendment, said that while the proposed budget’s $268 million increase to the Chapter 70 program that helps cities and towns with education costs was laudable, at least 182 districts would only see a boost of $30 per pupil next year. He described that amount as insufficient to meet the growing needs in many schools.
“Let us make sure that, to use a nautical metaphor, this tide that we are creating lifts as many ships as possible,” Tarr said.
Sen. Michael Moore of Millbury was the lone Democrat to join the minority party in supporting the amendment.
Several senators — including Jason Lewis, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Education, and Sonia Chang-Diaz, who held that position last session — argued against the proposal. They pointed out that even districts receiving the minimum will still see an increase in Chapter 70 aid next year, a move that they say separates Massachusetts from other states.
As lawmakers prepare again this session to take up broader reforms to the education aid distribution formula, lawmakers should focus on the four specific areas of school spending a review commission said in 2015 are underfunded: health insurance, special education, English language learners and low-income students.
“We are building a system, and I know the education chairman is working diligently on this, to reform the system that is accounting for all of these historically unaddressed forms of paying our districts are experiencing,” Chang-Diaz said. “But doing that by spreading the money evenly across every student regardless of their need is not the right way to address that.”