Governor Touts Education Infusion

Federal education bill will allow state to fully fund Chapter 70 to cities and towns.

Gov. Deval Patrick said his administration is now able to fully fund the local education aid account, Chapter 70, that was under-budgeted in the last legislative session. The new budget took effect July 1.

The new funds are the result of Pres. Obama's recent education jobs bill that provided $204 million to Massachusetts for schools as part of a larger bill that will pay for teaching positions.

"We are excited," said Patrick in a phone call with Patch. "Right now, public schools are fully funded. We are spending at the highest level in history."

The sum includes approximately $130,000 for Concord that was not anticipated, Patrick said. He said school districts can use the money during the current school year.

Superintendent Diana Rigby said use of the funds would be discussed at the School Committee's Sept. 13 meeting.

"Districts can make good use of it now or over the next couple of years," he said. "They could set some aside."

He thanked Obama and the Congress for "understanding that second or third-graders don't have to wait out the recession to get a good education."

"We have been able to do right by our kids," said Patrick. "It is our generational responsibility to build a stronger society than what we had."

Patrick acknowledged that "there are a lot of stresses" on town budgets this year.

"In every community there are competing needs," he said. The funds will make it easier to spend on other priorities, he said.

The American Reconstruction and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, money that Obama signed into law to jump-start the economy can be used for education or other public services, Patrick said.

He said Massachusetts got $50 to $60 million from the federal administration in ARRA money that he can now use for higher education, in part.

"I was able to back out some of the ARRA money that was going for K-12 education and put it into higher education," said Patrick. "It's a central part of our growth strategy to invest in education."

"It is a quintessential expression of our generational responsibility," he said.

He said the education jobs bill was in the works for months, but political wrangling kept it from Obama's desk. Patrick said Obama signed it the day it passed.



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