"Economic Justice" means getting our fair share for Randolph from the Commonwealth and from the federal government.
Randolph residents have been paying into the Commonwealth tax system for decades with less returned than we pay in -- that isn't right!
School construction budgets
Newton Massachusetts got $200 million for constructing a new high school a few years ago. The newspapers called it “the Taj Mahal of schools.” Randolph High School got a few replacement windows via the same state program.
Was Newton’s school system in need of a new building? No, they already had an excellent high school, Newton South. The new building was to make Newton North better than Newton South. Could Randolph High School have used some of that $200 million for helping more students that in Newton? I think so!
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts allocates about $500 million to $1 billion every year for school construction projects. That’s state money – from state sales taxes that we in Randolph pay – not property taxes like for school operating budgets. Newton got one of only a handful of state construction mega-grants that year. How did they get that? And how do we get our fair share for Randolph?
Newton got $200 million because Newton’s political representatives asked at the right time and in the right place. Randolph’s political representatives have not asked – so we have not gotten funding like Newton. It’s time to demand our fair share. It’s time for Randolph to have political representatives who know how to ask at the right time and in the right place – so we can get $200 million for OUR kids’ education.
Jesse Gordon is an expert in how budget rules work. When he lived in Cambridge, he actually read the city budget, and identified $8 million that had been unaccounted for – and Jesse got the Cambridge City Council to return that $8 million to the taxpayers of Cambridge. Before that, Jesse wrote his Harvard Master’s thesis detailing energy inefficiencies resulting from how the Commonwealth’s budget was misallocated for public facilities. Jesse isn’t afraid to look “under the hood” of the budget process, and fight to do what’s right, rather than what’s easy.
Randolph High School does pretty well with the resources it’s provided – a tribute to the hard work of our teachers and administrators. But Randolph’s state politicians have failed Randolph’s school system utterly, by just “going along” with the establishment. Imagine what Randolph’s schools would be like with an extra $200 million – that’s $200 million that the taxpayers of Randolph helped send to Newton, instead of keeping here in Randolph.
The Massachusetts school construction budget is a beast that needs to get poked by politicians – the beast responds to the sharpest sticks poking it, by spitting out money. Randolph’s state politicians have been reluctant to poke the beast. Jesse isn’t reluctant. It’ll be a tough fight, but Jesse will be Randolph’s sharpened stick, and will poke that budget beast until Randolph gets our fair share.
School operating budgets
If you ask the establishment politicians why Randolph’s schools can’t get better funding every year, they’ll answer dismissively, “Oh, that’s all in the Chapter 70 school system formula!” as if that ends the discussion. The Commonwealth does have a formula that allocates funding for each town – but that formula is made by politicians, and can be changed by politicians! Pretending that the formula is out of our control is really politicians’ way of saying “I just want to go along to get along.”
The school funding formula was last updated 24 years ago, in 1993, with some minor tweaking in 2007. The goal of that 1993 update was to better fund school systems in communities with higher minority and immigrant populations – communities like Randolph. But that formula update needs updating again. The 1993 formula included “English Language Learners” (ELL) as a formula item – a method to attempt to equalize funding based on demographics – that was the right approach to address the needs of towns like Randolph, but our relative funding has fallen since 1993.
The 1993 formula update also included “Free Lunch” as a formula item – because the number of students qualifying for free school lunch correlates with less-wealthy communities. But the federal government controls the qualifications of “Free Lunch” – and those qualifications have changed a lot in 24 years. And Randolph’s share has gone down.
So what can Randolph do to benefit from the school formula? As it turns out, Randolph is the most diverse town in Massachusetts (not a surprise to anyone walking down Main Street). The United States Census produces an official measurement of ethnic diversity every 10 years – Randolph is currently first in the Commonwealth, and has always been near the top of the list. What if “diversity” were part of the school funding formula? Randolph would be a big beneficiary of that change. So would Chelsea, Brockton, and Lawrence – other towns high on the diversity list, which also are towns that have schools desperately in need of additional annual funding. In other words, accounting for diversity would help the school systems the most in need.
And that’s not a coincidence. It’s challenging to run a school system with kids from dozens of countries, who speak dozens of languages at home, and who have dozens of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Randolph’s diversity is something to be proud of – but let’s get the state to recognize the extra educational costs that result from diversity.
The “Free Lunch” and ELL formula items tried to capture a proxy for diversity. They worked ok, for a while, but politicians from wealthier towns in Massachusetts tweaked the system so Randolph gets less money than we used to. It’s time to update the school funding formula in a way that can’t be tweaked – let’s stop using proxies for diversity, and directly include the Commonwealth’s diversity measurement.
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