The Boston Globe
Thursday, December 16, 1999
Legislators rap spending of school funds
By Tina Cassidy
Revelations that some communities across the state are using their share of a
late-won, $94 million education budget increase on things like tax cuts rather than
textbooks sparked outrage at the State House yesterday.
Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham, whose insistence on getting the money
helped delay the budget for nearly five months, said he was angry that it was being spent
outside the classroom. He warned yesterday that the news could influence how Beacon Hill
allocates education money in the future.
"Going forward, this is something that might inform," said Birmingham,
who negotiated the funds on top of the record $3.5 billion already being spent on schools.
But some communities said the tardiness of the budget made it difficult for them
to spend the extra cash because their school budgets had already been set for the year,
and they would need special town meeting to decide how to spend it.
"That is nonsense," Birmingham said. "They don't have to jump
through any hoops ... We did not fight all summer to get full funding for our public
schools, we did not unanimously override the governor's veto [of the $94 million], in
order to provide a tax cut in Boxborough."
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift said the administration will try to
determine how many cities and towns chose not to spend their "windfalls" on
"We want to make sure that we know where the money's being spent, but in a
time of education accountability, folks might have to justify how air conditioning in the
superintendent's office is going to improve MCAS scores," Swift said yesterday,
referring to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.
Yesterday, the Globe reported that education funds triggered local tax rate
reductions in Acton and Boxborough. Uxbridge officials are considering spending $352,000
for a new police station and Belmont's $500,000 share is not earmarked for anything
In North Attleborough, more than a third of its $1 million windfall will be used
to renovate the school superintendent's building, including upgrading the air
Communities, aware that it is not illegal to spend the school funds elsewhere,
said accounting and logistical problems made it hard to use the money for education nearly
four months into the school year.
"It was part of our argument evaluating why the money was excessive,"
Swift said. "It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that we were several months
into the fiscal year and that schools had started without this money many months
Education proponents are already fretting that the news could further charge the
budget debate next year and lead to less funding.
"Sure, it's going to be a difficult battle, but cities and towns are putting
these funds to good use," said Jeff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts
Municipal Association. "If we hear this tune, then we'll understand what's behind the
suggestions that the money's not necessary."
Beckwith stressed that most communities are using the money for schools, and
Birmingham had said he believed the number of cities and towns that are spending the money
elsewhere was "infinitesimal."
Massachusetts Republican Party
Contact: John Brockelman, (617) 357-1999
December 15, 1999
MASS GOP CALLS ON GRANDSTANDING LEGISLATORS
TO RETRACT OUTRAGEOUS RHETORIC
ON EDUCATION FUNDING
In light of reports on education funding in today's Boston Globe and Boston
Herald, the Massachusetts GOP called on numerous grandstanding legislators to retract
their outrageous rhetoric and admit they had no idea where all the extra money was going.
The Boston Globe and Boston Herald both reported today that millions of dollars in
extra-education money is being spent on air conditioning for superintendents and other
bureaucrats, new police stations, property tax cuts, and purchasing open space and not on
kids in the classroom.
"All the legislators who grandstanded on this issue should be
embarrassed," said Mass. GOP Executive Director John Brockelman. "They should
retract their statements today and tell the taxpayers they had no idea where all this
extra money was really going."
Brockelman noted that the most egregious example of political grandstanding was
turned in by State Senator Cheryl Jacques:
Jacques told the Attleboro Sun Chronicle:
"'I am outraged,' she said, saying the vetoes show 'a total disregard' for
"'This is not fat. You can't cut out $1 million out of a budget for a town
the size of North Attleboro. That's cutting the bone."' (Attleboro Sun Chronicle,
However, the Boston Globe reported today that two-thirds of North Attleboro's
extra money will be used to renovate the school superintendent's office and equip it with
a new air conditioning system.
In addition, the Mass. GOP called on several other legislators to retract their
rhetoric as well:
- Senator Tom Birmingham: "There is not a school district in this commonwealth
that will not be severely disadvantaged by this veto." (Metro West Daily News,
- "This is a hardheaded, mean spirited, shortsighted failure on the governor's
part." (Boston Globe, 11/18/99)
- Senator Frederick Berry: "The governor's short-sighted approach to funding
education was misguided. Investing in children's education now will reap benefits for
generations to come." (Salem Evening News, 11/18/99)
- Representative David Linsky: "'He (the governor) is putting his wishes to
reduce the budget on the backs of the children of this commonwealth,' said state Rep.
David Linsky, D-Natick calling the veto 'unconscionable."' (MetroWest Daily
- Senator Linda Melconian: "The governor has said that because a third of the
fiscal year is completed education reform funds can be cut by a third. This reasoning is
illogical and flawed. How will it work? Are we going to buy our children two-thirds of a
textbook? Is two-thirds of a teacher going to teach them?" (Springfield Union
- State Representative Christopher Hodgkins: "After what we saw with the results
of those tests and for a governor who wants to call himself the education governor, that
is cowardice and that is lip service. Shame on him. If it was the private sector, you
would call it fraud." (Berkshire Eagle, 11/17/99)
- Senator Robert Antonioni: "Communities across the commonwealth will be
underfunded and that will be a shame." (Lowell Sun, 11/17/99)
- Senator Steven Panagiotakos: "Education Reform in the early years, was heavily
weighted to urban schools and, in these last few years, the suburban schools have
experienced their greates increases (in enrollment). Now the governor has pulled the
rug out. That's not fair." (Lowell Sun, 11/17/99)
Support for Cellucci Second to Hometown Needs
By Craig Sandler
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, DEC. 13, 1999 ... A month after a rash of Republican votes on
budget overrides put GOP legislators at odds with their governor and sparked questions
about what the party stands for, legislative leaders insist they would take the same votes
A look back shows the magnitude of Republican disagreement with Republican Gov.
Paul Cellucci on his budget overrides: 30 of the Senate's 74 veto votes were unanimous,
meaning Republicans, when given the opportunity, voted in a bloc against their governor 41
percent of the time. GOP lawmakers voted unanimously to replace about half of the $250
million Cellucci vetoed.
A look forward raises an important question: will the GOP be as divided against
itself this spring and summer, when historic decisions must be made about how much to
spend in the next round of education reform?
And still remaining are basic questions: when Republicans put the interests of
their districts first and overrode vetoes like $94 million in education funding, were the
interests of their districts a odds with Republican philosophy or with Cellucci
philosophy? And should observers conclude that Republican policy, when the interests of
the district are at stake, is to vote Democratic? If Paul Cellucci were still in the
Senate, would those override votes still have been unanimous?
Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees (R-E. Longmeadow) didn't take the bait.
"That's not something I can presume to say for Paul Cellucci or Jane Swift," he
said, referring to th lieutenant governor, who like Cellucci is a former state
But he did note a senator's agenda and constituency is different than that of a
governor. "The fact of the matter is, everybody has priorities," Lees said. For
the governor, it's the overall siz of the budget: "I believe Paul and Jane try
to keep fiscal discipline the most important thing they do."
But for each senator, Lees said, the number one priority is what the district
needs - and on the education funding, that was each district's share of an additional $94
million Cellucci vetoed.
"The governor represents the whole state, but for elected (legislative)
officials, they're looking out for the needs of their district," Lees said.
"Still, I do believe we're the fiscal watchdog, and I don't think we've had a better
night in years than we had in the Senate that night. Republicans still cut the
House Minority Leader Francis Marini of Hanson pointed out that besides the $94
million, Republicans in the House voted in a solid bloc against only about $19 million of
the governor's vetoes. "That's a lot of money in terms of the experience of most
people, but in terms of th state budget it's not that much," Marini said.
"Is $19 million out of $20 billion a huge disagreement between the
Republicans in the House and the governor? I would say not," the leader said.
"In addition to being Republicans, we're in different branches of government. The
whole system is designed to be a system of checks and balances."
The existence of the conflict makes it hard to determine what the Republican
position is on education funding, going into a period when decision making on the topic is
entering a major new time of uncertainty. This is the final year of the $1.7 billion state
commitment to new money under the 1993 Education Reform Act. The question is, is the
Legislature's position or th governor's less-generous approach the Republican way of
addressing education finance?
John Brockleman, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, went
with Cellucci. While making clear, "There isn't a specific position for the party on
this one," Brockleman did add, "In the post ed-reform era, Republicans are going
to want to focus on the accountability of school districts and administrators over big
increases in spending."
Like Lees and Marini, Brockleman said Republican unanimity against the governor on
40 percent of his vetoes isn't politically significant. "There was a disagreement and
that's democracy," Brockleman said. "I think that the governor as well as the
Republicans in the Legislature have a long track record of supporting education."
Cellucci's budget is due Jan. 26. Decisions about how much new money districts get
may be quantified in a formula being renegotiated at several levels: in the Legislature,
at the Educatio Department and within the governor's office. The complex formula
factors in elements such as community per-capita income, population growth and other
demographics, and sets the amoun each city and town should receive. There's
agreement the formula needs to be reworked.
After the Legislature examines the governor's budget, passes its own version and
sends it to Cellucci, the GOP will be in the same position it was last month.
The governor will have to mull his role as disciplinarian, and the lawmakers --
most of whom will be in the middle of re-election campaigns in 2000 -- will be inclined
Lees said the strength of future disagreements between the Executive Branch and
GOP legislators on education funding will be determined by what the governor proposes as
the right spending level for Ed Reform Two.
The future of the intra-party debate is unclear, but one thing's sure: Democrats
will try to exploit the division. Certainly Randi Woods, spokeswoman for the Democratic
State Committee, has her sights trained and a full load of ammunition ready. She gave a
preview of 2000.
"It's going to happen in every major funding issue that comes up," Woods
said. "You can say you're fiscally conservative, but when you're trying to slice
programs that need the funding -- you can't be the education governor when you're cutting
funding to make sure kids that are left behind now don't get left behind more. And the
legislators know that. They don't have a good figurehead to look up to.
"It was really interesting to watch, because if that sort of thing went on in
Washington people like (House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay would be twisting their arms
behind their backs quicker than you can say 'Republican National Committee,'" Woods
said. "A lot of the legislators don't have the same faith in Paul Cellucci, they just
don't have that same kind of leadership sense from him. A lot of them feel they can't
trust his policy judgement. He says it's fiscal conservatism but it's just bad public
policy. They know that, and that was evident the other night."