Education advocates praised Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday for recognizing there is a problem in funding public schools, but faulted him for not aggressively addressing the problem.
They also said the governor’s plan will do little to benefit suburban school districts such as Norton and North Attleboro.
Baker said earlier in the week that he wants to improve state aid to education by $1 billion, but would take seven years to reach that goal.
The extra money would go largely toward helping poorer districts and contributing more to the cost of teacher health care and students still learning how to speak English.
Local school superintendents said the governor’s plan shows promise, but they are hoping the Legislature will increase the amount the governor is proposing.
“It’s good that he has started a conversation,” Norton school Superintendent Joseph Baeta said of Baker. “But, I’m a little concerned about him taking seven years.”
Baeta said the governor’s plan would do little to help Norton’s funding problems as most of the extra funding will go toward cities with high poverty rates.
The Baker administration said 85 percent of the new money would go toward poorer districts.
Baeta said those cities need help, but so does Norton, which laid off seven teachers last year and has among the highest user and transportation fees in the state.
Under the governor’s plan, Norton would get only a $48,000 increase in its $12.7 million in aid for a budget of $28.5 million, he said.
The biggest concern about the governor’s package, he said, is that it does not adequately increase funding for the so-called “circuit breaker,” which helps pay for extraordinary special education costs.
Norton has students whose special education tuition can run up to $300,000 and the school systems needs help from the state with that, he said.
North Attleboro Superintendent Scott Holcomb had similar views.
He said his district would only get an extra $60,000 from the package while some cities will get millions more.
“It doesn’t seem like North Attleboro is going to substantially benefit,” he said.
Holcomb also expressed disappointment that the circuit breakers were not funded at a higher level.
Baeta said he and other superintendents support a special commission finding that recommended a more rapid $1 billion to $2 billion increase with much of the hike aimed at special education, regional transportation, English language learners, and health care.
The commission found that the state had not updated its funding formula since 1993 and the old way did not account for rapid increases in costs.
Baeta said he is hoping the Senate and House will adopt the commission’s recommendation.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said she knows schools need more financial assistance from the state and the governor and Legislature recognize the problem.
But, she said, Baker was phasing in the extra $1 billion over seven years because there are many other state services competing for funding.
There is only so much money to go around, she said.
“I was very happy to see that added money,” she said.
Advocates for education said the governor’s approach recognizes some of the problems with funding, but does not go far enough in addressing them.
“The governor’s proposal on K-12 education funding takes a positive step, but these reforms are gradual and will not go far enough to ensure all our children receive the high quality education they deserve,” the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said in a statement.
The governor would increase education spending by $200 million in the budget he released Wednesday, but the center said $316 million extra is needed every year for the next five years.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association said the plan was a small step in the right direction, but would take too long to fully implement.