Who's worried about providing sufficient health care and
human services to the needy - yesterday's crisis - now? Certainly not the Massachusetts Teachers Association. As usual,
the greedy teachers union has its hand out reaching into our pockets for more, more, more. In their insatiable raid on the
treasury they'll climb over everything and everyone in their way.
Seeking reward for incompetence, they now demand more for
failure, even after last year's successful raid on taxpayers for their early retirement bonanza.
Isn't it great fun watching the Gimme Lobby cutting each
other's throats for every drop of taxpayers' blood they can squeeze!
It's now clearly understandable why the MTA and NEA spent
millions attempting to defeat Question 4, isn't it? Rejoice that we took the "temporary" tax out of their reach while we
still could. Now all we've got to do is hang onto our victory, and yesterday was a good start.
Many of you bombarded Sen. Richard Moore's office with phone
calls and e-mail. He now denies that he ever proposed rescinding Question 4, that the Herald got it wrong. Barbara
then informed him we also got our information from an in-depth State House News Service report. He still denies ... and in
some responses from him forwarded to us by members, grossly obfuscated. [see
Telegram & Gazette report below]
I think we shot down that first trial balloon before it got
airborne and could do any damage. Good job, folks!
State House News Service
Thursday, January 31, 2001
School finance group going to SJC
for $2-4 billion in new education aid
By Elisabeth J. Beardsley
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 31, 2001 ... Claiming the state is
underfunding education by as much as $4 billion a year, school finance activists are preparing to go to the
Supreme Judicial Court with a follow-up lawsuit to the landmark McDuffy case
that led to the Education Reform Act of 1993.
The high court ruled in 1993 that the state had a constitutional duty to adequately fund all
public schools, and ordered the state to eliminate drastic disparities between rich
and poor school districts. Since then, state support for education has more than doubled, with Gov.
Cellucci proposing $4.2 billion in the budget he filed last week.
But the Council for Fair School Financing, which brought the
original lawsuit, says there's not enough money to support education reform's requirements. While funding disparities
between districts are "much less" now than in 1993, the council says the state is not providing nearly
enough money to implement new curriculum frameworks and standards-based accountability
measures like the MCAS test.
Activists plan to head back to the SJC in February to begin
arguing that the state has failed to meet the terms of the McDuffy case, said Council President Norma Shapiro, legislative
director for the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Unlike many
government programs, the constitutional duty to adequately fund the schools is
"enforceable" in the courts, she said.
"All of our public schools are under-funded. That's right,
all," Shapiro said. "This has to come first because everyone who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution has sworn an oath
to adequately fund the public schools because it is a duty of the Constitution."
The lead plaintiff in the new case is Julie Hancock, a
12-year-old Brockton girl. Fifteen school districts have signed on as co-plaintiffs, including Brockton, Leicester, Lowell,
Winchendon, Lynn, Holyoke, Fitchburg and Taunton. All are from the bottom 25 percent of
districts in terms of overall school funding, and suffer "serious problems" paying for the state's
education reform program, Shapiro said.
The Council for Fair School Financing hired a national
education economist and a team of experts to analyze the full cost of education reform, Shapiro said. The "investigation,"
which is ongoing, examined categories such as teacher training, professional development,
technology and facilities, she said.
Details of the analysis will be released soon, but preliminary results indicate that every
category is under-funded by 50-100 percent, Shapiro said. To "adequately"
fund education right now would require between $6 billion and $8 billion per year, but that figure would
grow over time with inflation, she said. By contrast, the state spends just under
$5 billion per year on Medicaid, its largest account.
"No one here is asking for a pie in the sky," Shapiro said.
"What people are asking for is what is required by education reform."
The McDuffy case was left open with a single justice in
place to handle any complaints that arose about the state's remedies. That single justice was Ruth Abrams, who recently
retired. Shapiro said she expects another justice to be assigned shortly, and then court proceedings
The lawsuit names Education Commissioner David Driscoll and
the state Board of Education, Shapiro said. Board Chairman James Peyser said he is not familiar with the
details of the lawsuit, but he said the 1993 funding formula was designed to
pay for all the new reforms, not just the "status quo."
"I think it's pretty clear to even the casual observer that
the state has made an extraordinary and sustained investment in education over the last eight years," Peyser said. "On the one
hand, you could always do more. On the other hand, I think the level of increase is
House Speaker Thomas Finneran and Senate President Thomas
Birmingham were unavailable for comment Wednesday, but both have warned that education funding cannot
continue to grow at the exponential rates of the 1990s. Birmingham cites the
constraints of the new income tax cut, and Finneran said earlier this month that the state has "met the
financial test" of the Education Reform Act.
Gov. Paul Cellucci also feels that the state has done its
part to carry out the court's 1993 directive, said spokesman John Birtwell. "My sense of it is that any objective observer
that looks at it will find that the administration and the Legislature have a good track record in
terms of trying to dramatically increase school spending and to eliminate
disparities between districts," Birtwell said.
Also today, the Massachusetts Teachers Association released
cost estimates for its legislative package, which includes many of the proposals that Shapiro says are necessary for the state
to fulfill its McDuffy obligations. Those proposals include lowering K-3 class sizes to 15
students per classroom, providing statewide full-day kindergarten, boosting state aid
for special education, giving schools $1,000 for every student who fails MCAS, and hiking
teachers' starting salary from $18,000 to $40,000.
The union proposes phasing in the reforms over five years,
said Jo Blum, MTA's director of governmental services. A "very rough" cost analysis indicates that the package would require
$2.2 billion in new money, beyond what the state is currently project to spend in fiscal 2006,
The calls for more money were not well received by the
governor's office, which has been preaching the need for fiscal discipline. Birtwell accused the union, which is pushing to
suspend MCAS as a graduation requirement, of trying to wiggle out of the accountability end
of the education reform bargain.
"Very frankly, it'll never be enough (money)," Birtwell
said. "It's the old infinity plus a dollar game. As long as they choose to focus on the dollar debate, it allows them to
avoid the more serious question of accountability in the classroom."
The lawsuit that is nearing its day before the state's
highest court was filed in December 1999.
The Telegram & Gazette
Thursday, February 1, 2001
GOP slams state tax-cut pullback
By Shaun Sutner
Telegram & Gazette Staff
BOSTON -- There is talk in the Legislature of watering down the
ballot initiative passed by voters in November that phases in a $1.2 billion income tax cut over three years.
Republicans have promised a "war" if the idea, raised this
week by state Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, is ever transformed into action to reimpose higher tax rates or slow
the tax cut phase-in.
Some partisan observers have suggested that such a rear-guard action on Question 4 could
be a trial balloon on behalf of Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, D-Chelsea,
despite his claim that he does not support such a move.
Others think that the usually moderate Mr. Moore is seeking
liberal support in an early bid to succeed Mr. Birmingham, who is expected to run for governor.
Mr. Moore, a top lieutenant of the Senate president, said it
is too early to consider making changes to Question 4, and acknowledged that, for now, the idea has little chance of
succeeding in the Legislature.
He added, however, "I wouldn't rule out anything.
"If we get to a certain point where people are in serious
health problems because we don't have any money for them, or schools close, we clearly have a problem," he said.
Mr. Moore said there was merit to the plan introduced last
year in the state House of Representatives to gradually reduce the income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5 percent, but
halt the phase-in if personal income growth in the state dropped below a specified level. The
plan, supported by the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, was incorporated
by the House in its proposed budget last year.
The Senate, however, rejected that plan.
Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, R-East Longmeadow,
blasted any suggestion that the Legislature should tinker with the ballot measure, which was approved by more than 60
percent of state voters Nov. 7.
"There will be out-and-out war if someone tries to do that,"
said Mr. Lees, who vowed to mount a filibuster if such a proposal ever made it to the Senate floor.
"The Democratic leadership has been very out of touch on
this issue to begin with. Not only am I shocked, but it's an insult to voters," he said. "I think Sen. Moore has hurt
himself drastically in his district with this."
Mr. Moore, Senate chairman of the Legislature's joint Health
Care Committee, maintained that Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci's budget proposal for next year calls for a slew of cuts,
totaling more than $20 million, in programs and services for cancer screening, osteoporosis,
hepatitis C and community health centers.
Mr. Moore also charged that the governor is raiding state
pension and tobacco funds to pay for the rest of his budget, which includes a relief plan for failing hospitals that the
senator said he supports in principle.
"I think these things are very important," he said, referring to the health programs he cited. "If
you ask the people with cancer, AIDS or hepatitis C, they'll tell you their
lives are on the line."
John Birtwell, the governor's press secretary, countered
that Mr. Cellucci's budget makes a serious commitment to health care by earmarking $250 million to help troubled hospitals, and
by spending a total of $1 billion on health programs.
"Mr. Moore must have missed the overwhelming percentage of
voters who thought their taxes were too high," he said. "We have budgeted as best we can for a variety of prevention
and screening programs. It is true we tried to prioritize and look at every item."
Mr. Moore also took issue with optimistic revenue reports
coming out of the governor's administration in recent days, numbers that appear to indicate the state is in better fiscal
shape than legislative leaders claim.
State revenues for last month are expected to be 13 percent
to 15 percent higher than last January, according to an administration source. By comparison, December's revenues were
down 1.4 percent, which raised alarms.
Mr. Moore, however, noted that Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has said
the national economy has flattened out.
"Alan Greenspan, who I think has a better handle on the
economy than anybody in the Cellucci administration, says there's flat growth," Mr. Moore said.
Mr. Moore conceded that it is unlikely that efforts to
dilute Question 4 would succeed in the Legislature, much less survive a certain veto from the governor. He added that it is
highly improbable voters would back the idea, at least for now.
"The voters have yet to support such an initiative," he
said. "Until they start being heard about the effects of cuts, I don't think there will be any change in the tax laws."