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Swampscott continues fight for more state funding

SWAMPSCOTT – Swampscott is losing more than $500,000 a year in state funding due to inequities in the Chapter 70 funding formula, according to town officials.Former Swampscott School Committee member David Whelan said the town is receiving much less than it is entitled to in Chap. 70 funding.?It’s costing Swampscott more than half a million dollars a year,” he said. “This has been going on for more than a decade.”The Chapter 70 funding formula was introduced in 1993 and it was designed to get each community 17.5 percent of its foundation level budget from Chapter 70 state aid. Whelan explained the state calculates the foundation level budget using a detailed formula that takes into account student demographics and other factors.Whelan is one of the founders of North Shore Coalition for School Funding (NSCSF), which is comprised of 16 communities. He said when it was founded two years ago Chap. 70 was one of the hot button issues it started working on.?There are only 58 suburban communities that are not receiving 17.5 percent and Swampscott is one of them,” Whelan said. “Swampscott is only receiving 14.7 percent of its foundation budget. As everyone is getting ready to enter budget season we want to make sure this issue is on the front burner.”Whelan said the state is trying to pit urban and suburban school districts against each other.?The critical issue is no one in this group is looking to take money from urban districts,” he said. “The legislature would like to turn it into an urban versus suburban issue. This is not about Swampscott versus Lynn or Lawrence. We’re not interested in seeing their Chapter 70 money reduced so we can get our fair share. But it’s an equity issue ? we want the kids and taxpayers in Swampscott treated the same as the children and taxpayers in Wellesley and Marblehead, which are fully funded at 17.5 (percent).”Superintendent Lynne Celli said she would like to see all districts brought up to the 17.5 percent of foundation level budget, which would mean an increase of $526,000 a year for the district.?I would love for us to be funded at the 17.5 (percent of foundation level budget),” Celli said. “I know we’re not up to that point and it is an equity issue.”Selectman David Van Dam also expressed concern about the way Chapter 70 funds are distributed.?We’re not even close to the 17.5 percent,” Van Dam said. “We’re not anywhere near where we should be and these are tough times. I hope we will be able to make some progress and I want to push the envelope a little more. I want to do my part to bring additional revenue into the town. That’s my goal.”Van Dam said he has already met with Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, regarding Chap. 70 and he plans with meeting with Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, in the near future.Whelan said the NSCFS also wants to find ways to force the state to comply with the Chapter 70 requirement for adequacy studies.?The state is required to do an adequacy study of Chapter 70 every two years and it has not been done since 2000,” he said. “It’s a law that is apparently being ignored. I believe that if an objective adequacy study were done it would determine suburbs are not getting what they need from the state to run the schools. The legislature will tell you they have done other studies that make up for it but there have been no public meetings or reports. I think they’ve ignored the statute.”

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