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Proposal for Fair and Equitable Distribution
Demetrius J. Atsalis
If there is one thing that has become perfectly clear over the past 10 years about the state’s property values–based Chapter 70 formula, it is this:
One size does not fit all.
There are two main measures of a community’s wealth or “ability to pay” for local education: income and property. As such, these measures should be given equal weight in calculating any state aid distribution formula. A formula based on only one measure of wealth will never produce a fair and accurate gauge of every community’s ability to pay. There are unique regional demographics and economic factors in the Commonwealth that make it impossible. The history of the Education Reform Act formula has shown this to be true. Ten years of unsuccessful tinkering, unproductive recriminations, and unending lawsuits can’t be wrong.
Indeed, if anyone tried to write one all-encompassing formula based mainly on one measure of wealth, the result would be a complicated, arcane mess that would create a “winners-and-losers” scenario pitting town against town in a Darwinian grab for precious school funds. Sound familiar? The last two governors, the Department of Education (DOE), and the Legislature have all acknowledged this failure by introducing alternative formulas that attempt to mitigate the original formula’s harmful effects.
Therefore, in acknowledging the failure of one formula to fit all, I am proposing a median income–based “option” formula that borrows methodology from the current formula as well as the alternative formulas.
A town would have the option of