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Massachusetts 'find' of more low-income students brings $8.6M in additional aid to some districts

Students at an elementary school in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Jill Kaufman
Students at an elementary school in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Eighty-eight Massachusetts public school districtsare expecting to receive additional funding, according to the state's Executive Office of Education (EOE). Officials said they resolved a "data matching issue" calculating the number of low-income students in districts.

The revision increased the number of students by about 1,200, out of about 415,000 low-income students statewide.

The aid, totaling just over $8.6 million, comes through Massachusetts education funding law known as Chapter 70, which is currently going through the budget process. A spokesperson said the Healey administration has shared the information with House Ways and Means.

The amounts allotted vary widely. In the western part of the state, Springfield Public Schools will see an additional $587,478, while North Adams is expected to receive an additional $7,557.

The formula for school funding in Massachusetts is complicated. The state considers both an individual students’ income level and the concentration of low-income students in a district.

Pittsfield schools are an outlier in terms of impact, the EOE spokesperson said. That district will receive another $2.5 million.

Low-income students were also documented in 125 districts that won't see an increase in aid, among them, Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, East Longmeadow and Gill-Montague.

Under Massachusetts 2019 Student Opportunity Act (SOA), the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is required to identify eligible students up to 185% of the Federal Poverty Levelfor the purpose of determining Chapter 70 aid and charter school tuitions.

In response to this requirement, DESE has augmented its match with state databases for public assistance programs and created the "Supplemental Low-Income Data Collection" to give school districts and charter schools the opportunity to claim the number of students who qualify as low income under the 185% FPL standard, but who are not currently being identified through the state's match.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."