BOSTON—Informed by feedback from Second Suffolk District residents about their concerns and priorities for the state budget, Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz today filed several amendments to the Senate Ways and Means budget set to be debated next week. The Senate Ways and Means budget was initially released on Wednesday, with an amendment deadline of 3 PM today.
“Over the past several weeks, I’ve been seeking input from residents throughout the Second Suffolk District about what values and priorities they want to see in the final budget,” said Chang-Díaz. “In filing amendments, my strategy is always to fight to fund the priorities that I hear again and again—at neighborhood meetings, through email and social media, from grassroots organizers—are critical to our neighborhoods. I know these programs work not only because I’ve seen the data, because I hear about the positive results from those on the front lines who are affected by these issues every day.”
Senator Chang-Díaz’s amendments include:
- Full-Day Kindergarten: Boston Public Schools guarantees full-day kindergarten for all 5 year-olds, and is working to expand the number of full-day kindergarten classrooms for younger ages. Full day kindergarten has been shown to lead to higher academic achievement, improve student attendance, support literacy and language development, and ultimately decrease public cost by reducing retention and remediation rates. (Amendment: $23.9 million, a nearly $4 million increase over Senate Ways and Means.)
- METCO: Over 3,000 Boston students participate in the METCO program. The METCO program benefits more than 35 school districts, both urban and suburban, and METCO students consistently surpass statewide averages in MCAS passage and high school graduation rates. METCO students tend to stay in Massachusetts as successful citizens and taxpayers. (Amendment: $19.1 million, a nearly $1 million increase from last year.)
- Charter School Reimbursement:Local districts, including the Boston Public Schools, are assessed for 100 percent of charter school tuition costs, regardless of the amount the Legislature pays them back for those costs in this line item. Even though the Legislature has committed to reimburse the districts through this annual appropriation, we have repeatedly fallen short. Due to the increase in charter school enrollment, the cost to the districts has increased, and our reimbursement amount must keep pace to fulfill our promise and prevent resources from being siphoned from traditional public school students. (Amendment: $102.7 million, a more than $32 million increase from last year.)
- Youth-at-Risk Job Programs: With alarming stories of youth violence and troubling dropout rates coming out of our neighborhoods, this funding, which targets high-risk areas of the Commonwealth (including Boston), is crucial for protecting our youth, making our neighborhoods safer, and setting our at-risk young people on the path to be successful and productive community members. (Amendment: $11 million, a $2 million increase from last year.)
- Violence Prevention Grants: These grants are specifically designated to help prevent youth-at-risk from moving into high-risk categories through educational programs on substance abuse, bullying, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, and dating violence. (Amendment: $2 million, a $500,000 increase from last year.)
- Safe and Successful Youth Initiative: This grant program distributes funds directly to the 11 cities and towns with the highest number of youth homicides and serious assaults in the state—and Boston is the biggest recipient of the money. It specifically targets young people who are at highest risk for being perpetrators or victims of gun violence. The program delivers education, jobs, trauma counseling, and street outreach services in the targeted communities. (Amendment: $10 million, a $6 million increase from last year.)
- Adult Basic Education:ABE offers education and workforce development programs to tens of thousands of residents, providing them with the skills they need to contribute to our communities and economy and ultimately preventing the need for other, more costly social supports. As of February of 2013, there were 18,500 adults on the waiting list for these services. (Amendment: $32 million, a nearly $2 million increase from last year.)
- Community Health Center Grant Program:Community health centers play a critical role in the health and well-being of thousands of Boston residents.This grant program is an essential part of community health center funding, as it provides a flexible source of revenue that enables health centers to meet current challenges and locally-based priorities. This program suffered an 87 percent cut in FY10, during the recession. This amendment for $4 million recognizes that our economy is starting to recover and seeks to restore approximately 50 percent of the funding lost in FY10.
- Prison Rehabilitation Programs: These programs provide inmates the foundation and skills they need to successfully reintegrate into society upon release; including rehabilitation programs, education, and vocational training. These types of programs have been proven to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and create long-term cost savings for the state. (Amendment: $8 million, a nearly $7.5 million increase from last year.)
- Foundation Budget Review Commission:Put into law as part of the Education Reform Act of 1993, the Commission was established to make certain that the foundation budget, ensuring that each community has the funding it needs to educate its students, was reviewed and, as necessary, recalculated on a regular basis. The Commission was required to report every two years. However, since 1993, the Commission has only produced two reports, the last time ten years ago. Under this amendment, a reconstituted Commission would convene to fulfill its duty to examine the foundation budget and report back to the legislature next year.
Chang-Díaz also co-sponsored several amendments that will create a positive impact on Boston neighborhoods, including:
- Head Start: amendment provides $1,000,000 over last year;
- LGBT Youth Commission: amendment provides $150,000 over last year;
- Early Education and Care: amendment provides additional funding to the Senate’s efforts to bring pre-schoolers off the waitlist for these highly-effective services;
- Residential Placement for Homeless Elders: amendment provides $186,000 over Senate Ways and Means; and
- Public Health Inspectors (i.e. food safety, health care facility safety): amendments provide nearly $2.5 million over last year.
In addition to the amendments filed by Chang-Diaz, the underlying Senate Ways and Means budget proposal included several of the funding priorities for which Chang-Diaz advocated in recent months. These included:
- Chapter 70 (K-12 education) Funding: $130 million increase over last year;
- Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment: $4 million increase over last year;
- Veterans’ Outreach Centers: $108,000 increase over last year;
- Veterans’ Homeless Centers: a nearly $114,000 increase over last year;
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention: $154,000 increase over last year;
- Low Income Rental Assistance: a $19.6 million increase over last year;
- Elder Protective Services; a nearly $5 million increase over last year; and
- Community Day and Work Programs for the Developmentally Disabled; a nearly $30 million increase over last year.
Debate on the budget in the full Senate will begin on Wednesday, May 22.