Thursday, February 18, 2016

MassBudget: Feeding Students, Counting Kids, Distributing Chapter 70 Aid: Two New Briefs from MassBudget


Feeding Students, Counting Kids, Distributing Chapter 70 Aid: Two New Briefs from MassBudget   
MassBudget is releasing two new papers analyzing the issues below, available HERE and HERE.

To expand educational opportunity by making sure that more students are well-fed and ready to learn, the federal government has created a program that allows schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students in districts with large numbers of low-income students. Schools that implement this program, called Community Eligibility, no longer collect paper forms from every child to determine who is eligible for free or reduced price meals. Instead, schools use a data matching system to automatically enroll for school meals those students who are already enrolled in other programs that support low-income families. This program improves efficiency and expands access to school meals.

The transition to this new system has created logistical challenges for other school programs - in particular, our Chapter 70 school funding formula - that have for many years used income data collected through the traditional paper forms. The Governor's budget, following a recommendation of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), proposes some reforms that seek to address these challenges. It also proposes additional reforms in the way aid is provided to districts with large numbers of low-income students.

In Proposed Low-Income Student Changes Would Have Varied Chapter 70 Impact we describe the proposals, identify promising elements, and detail ways in which the proposals do not solve some important problems. Specifically, by using data that dramatically undercount low-income students in some districts - but not in others - this proposal leads some districts to receive significantly less aid for their schools than they would have received if their low-income students were being counted more accurately. This brief includes Chapter 70 detail under two alternative scenarios for every district in the Commonwealth.

In Direct Certification for School Meals: Feeding Students, Counting Kids, Funding Schools we describe a number of solutions that would improve the effectiveness of the direct certification system and its ability to accurately identify low-income students. These solutions include extending the automatic matching system and including all relevant programs, improving the ability of the automated program to identify matches, expanding the ability of schools to resolve partial data matches, and making sure that all low-income families are enrolled in the food and health care programs for which they are eligible.

By delaying the use of new direct certification data in the Chapter 70 formula and implementing the strategies that could make that data more comprehensive, the state could get a more accurate count of low-income kids for our school funding system and other programs. These efforts would also have the benefit of ensuring that families are enrolled in programs for which they are eligible, helping more kids and families avoid hunger and stay healthy.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

BOSTON, MA 02108

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 15 Court Square, Suite 700, Boston, MA 02108

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screen grab of MassBudget report
screen grab of MassBudget report

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