We learned recently that due to the state’s budget shortfall, the METCO program will sustain additional funding cuts jeopardizing services for over 3,300 students in Massachusetts, including 140 in Needham. Governor Deval Patrick, whose past budget recommendations for METCO reflected a lack of interest in the program, cut the grant program by 1% before he left office. Governor Charlie Baker has followed up that original $300,000 cut with an additional so-called “9C” cut of over $900,000, bringing the total ruction to over $1.2 million, or about 6%.
There is no justification for this level of cut, especially when the Governor’s Budget Chief Kristen Lepore had stated that “the 9C cuts are being meted out roughly across the board in state government.” Of course, that can’t be true if most cuts to departments were below the 6% level. According to WBUR, Lepore also stated that the cuts are focused on programs not yet “off the ground,” and the reductions will have a “minimum impact on core state services.”
Respectfully, Ms. Lepore, I disagree.
Here in Needham the total cuts from Governors Patrick and Baker total $56,742. We use those funds to transport and tutor real kids who are attending school now. We use those funds to train and support staff and provide services to assist families and students now. Without those funds, services are in jeopardy today with little lead-time to adjust and prepare.
I understand that the state’s budget plan changed, and the Governor needs to make hard choices to balance it by June 30th. All state programs should be scrutinized and considered as part of a broad solution. I get it. But the METCO cut is an unfair hit at this time of the year, especially when other reductions were at a lower level.
We are looking carefully at our budget and other resources to see if we can scramble to come up with a plan that least impacts students. The Needham community is caring and resourceful, so I expect we can minimize the impact of these cuts. But for next year, I urge the Governor and the Legislature to make a commitment to fund METCO at a sustainable and fair level, one that will provide a reasonable level of services for one of the state’s best education programs.
Governor Baker: Congratulations on your new role as Governor of this great state. We are excited a native son is in the corner office on Beacon Hill! Please consider this an official invitation to welcome you back home to Needham to see first-hand the power and promise of the METCO program in our schools.
To watch a recent WGBH Greater Boston program featuring Needham High METCO students, click on the link: METCO Program: WGBH
To read a 2011 report, commissioned by Harvard and the Pioneer Institute, about the promise of the METCO program and the perils of its consistent underfunding, click this link: METCO Merits More Report (Harvard and Pioneer Institute)