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THREAT TO RE-OPEN MASSACHUSETTS FUNDING CASE

Last January, plaintiffs in Mussotte v. Peyser, an adequacy case filed by parents in seven high poverty school districts and a coalition of advocacy groups, withdrew the lawsuit in response to the state’s passage of a law that promised to provide $1.5 billion in additional funding over 7 years, with an initial appropriation of $355 million for the 2020-2021 school year.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has caused massive economic turmoil, raising doubts about whether the state will have the money needed to boost education aid. At the same time, advocates for the students in these districts argue that the pandemic makes the money even more vital, since the abrupt switch to remote learning derailed the education of the same low-income students the new formula is supposed to help.

As of now, the legislature has passed a one-month bill that maintains school funding at last year’s level, while state officials wait to see whether the federal government will provide substantial stimulus funding for state and local governments.

The coalition that brought the initial lawsuit – the Council for Fair School Finance – has reconvened and is consulting with its attorneys. Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which is part of the coalition, said the group will consider filing suit “if they don’t give us every penny that was laid out under the law.”

“The problem is that the students are worse off today than was expected when we dropped the lawsuit…and the learning at home and the use of the computers is not working for so many of the students that we’re most concerned about,” said Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, another member of the coalition.

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