Gov. Charlie Baker's first state budget after the signing of an education funding reform law in November proposed to boost K-12 school aid by 6 percent, or more than $300 million.

The $44.6 billion spending plan, which House and Senate lawmakers will redraft and debate in the spring, includes $355 million in new spending associated with the funding overhaul. The bulk of that money comes in the form of a $303.5 million increase to Chapter 70 aid for local schools, bringing that account to a total of $5.48 billion.

"After a year of hard work with the Legislature, I signed a groundbreaking bill into law that will dedicate $1.5 billion in new funding to K through 12 education over seven years," Baker said at a press conference where he outlined his budget. He said this year's budget "will fully fund the first year of the Student Opportunity Act."

Baker's fiscal 2021 budget also recommends an increase of 20 percent, or $23.2 milion, in charter school tuition reimbursements, and an additional $17.3 million, or a 5 percent increase for so-called "circuit breaker" special education reimbursements. There is $10 million for a Twenty-First Century Education Trust Fund established in the Student Opportunity Act, and $1 million for data analysis and sharing, with the goal of using the data in future education policy decisions.

Closing achievement gaps and providing resources to districts educating low-income students were main focal points of the reform law. The specifics of the school funding formula mean that not all districts will benefit to the same degree. All districts, according to Baker's budget office, will receive at least $30 per student more than this fiscal year.

Preliminary local estimates peg Lexington's Chapter 70 estimates under Baker's proposal at nearly $14.7 million, a 1.5 percent increase over this year. In Everett, which has a similar number of students, the Chapter 70 estimate is almost $80.9 million, a 7.8 percent jump from this year.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said the $303.5 million in new Chapter 70 money "sets the stage for sustainably implementing" all the provisions of the funding reform law, while Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Eileen McAnneny -- whose organization earlier this month put forward a $428 million estimate for a Chapter 70 hike under the new law -- said she wants to "unpack" the governor's school funding recommendations.

Baker said that in addition to adding new money to the budget, it's "equally important" to make sure that money "is well spent."


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