BOSTON — School committee members, administrators and students with the Mohawk Trail and Hawlemont regional school districts, along with elected officials from member towns, converged on the State House earlier this month to further advocate for increasing rural school aid.
“The current legislative session on Beacon Hill is shaping up as a critical one for advancing the goal of fair and equitable financial support for schools and towns in rural western Massachusetts,” said Mohawk Trail School Committee Chair Martha Thurber. “For the first time, the issues facing our rural communities are truly beginning to receive needed attention.”
Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 includes $7.5 million in proposed rural aid, which represents a $2 million, or 36%, increase over the current fiscal year. The House’s proposal includes $10 million and the Senate includes $15 million. While each proposal represents an increase, each figure remains smaller than the major funding increase of at least $60 million that was recommended by the Special Commission on Rural School Districts.
The 26-person group, which also included five officials from the Gateway Regional School District, showed up on Beacon Hill during the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) Day on the Hill. They wore bright pink shirts that read “Support Rural Schools.”
“I think we made quite an impression,” Thurber said.
Attendees feel their message was heard all day long. Ken Bertsch, a member of the Hawlemont School Committee, explained that during a presentation MASC hosted, Vice President Jason Fraser led off with rural school aid as being a huge issue facing education in Massachusetts.