BOSTON—Following the release of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means budget on Wednesday, Senate members filed amendments to be considered during debate next week. Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz filed several amendments that could carry big implications for the Second Suffolk District, with many focusing on the areas of education, youth violence prevention, and public health.
“I filed amendments to fight for programs that I know are critical to the everyday lives of the people of the Second Suffolk district, that are proven strategies for success in our communities, and that position Massachusetts well for economic recovery,” Chang-Díaz said. “I know what good investments these programs are for our state because I hear the feedback every day from constituents--from parents, from young people, from community organizers, and from local businesses--about how they’ve made a difference in their lives.”
Senator Chang-Díaz’s amendments include:
• Full-Day Kindergarten: Full day kindergarten has been shown to lead to higher academic achievement, improve student attendance, support literacy and language development, and ultimately decrease public cost by reducing retention and remediation rates. Boston Public Schools guarantees full-day kindergarten for all 5 year-olds, and is working to expand the number of full-day kindergarten classrooms for younger ages. (Amendment: $24.9 million, up $2 million from last year.)
• METCO: METCO benefits more than 35 school districts, both urban and suburban, and METCO students consistently surpass statewide averages in MCAS passage and high school graduation rates. Over 3,000 Boston students currently participate in the program. (Amendment: $19.3 million, up $1.7 million from last year.)
• Summer Jobs Program for At Risk Youth: Youth jobs give people a positive vision for their futures and positive pathways for contributing to their families, while also building their skills. It is a highly effective strategy for protecting youth in the Second Suffolk District during the summer months when incidents of violence spike, lowering our dropout rates, and making our neighborhoods safer. (Amendment: $12 million, up $9 million from last year.)
• Violence Prevention Grants: These 15 anti-violence programs are specifically designated to help prevent youth at risk from moving into high-risk categories through substance abuse, bullying, teen suicide, teen pregnancy, and dating violence education. (Amendment: $2 million, up $1 million from last year.)
• Safe and Successful Youth Initiative: This grant program, initiated by Governor Patrick last year, distributes funds directly to the 11 cities and towns with the highest number of youth homicides and serious assaults in the state--and Boston is the biggest recipient of the money. It specifically targets young people who are at highest risk for being perpetrators or victims of gun violence. The program delivers education, jobs, trauma counseling, and street outreach services in the targeted communities. (Amendment: $10 million, level funded from last year.)
• Targeted Intervention in Underperforming Schools: The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education utilizes this funding to provide targeted assistance to underperforming schools and districts—which is crucial to helping close the achievement gap. (Amendment: $9.3 million, up $2.6 million from last year.)
• Preserving HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis Services: Supported by the HIV/AIDS organizations Project ABLE and Jamaica Plain-based AIDS Action Committee, as well as the Massachusetts Sheriffs Association, this amendment comes in response to federal cuts to HIV/AIDS and hepatitis treatment and prevention funding for the state’s county jails and houses of correction. This amendment would restore the $1.25 million Massachusetts will lose in federal funding.
• Alternative Education: This program funds alternative education pathways for public school students who have not been successful in traditional schools and who have, in many cases, either dropped out of school, are at risk of doing so, or have been suspended or expelled. (Amendment: $4.8 million, up $4.6 million last year.)
• Homeless Individuals Assistance: This funding is targeted at individuals who are homeless and to organizations that provide shelter and transitional housing. (Amendment: $38.9 million, up $1.2 million from last year.)
• TAFDC: TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) provides crucial temporary aid to families who are in economic distress and working to construct a ladder out of poverty. (Amendment: $318.9 million, up $2.9 million from last year.)
In addition to the amendments filed by Chang-Diaz, the underlying Senate Ways and Means budget proposal included several of the funding priorities for which Chang-Diaz advocated in recent months. These included:
• Chapter 70 (K-12 education) funding: $18 million increase over last year;
• Special Education “Circuit Breaker”: $29 million increase over last year, representing a return to full funding of the Circuit Breaker program;
• Substance abuse: $1.7 million increase over last year;
• Head Start: $500,000 increase over last year;
• Veterans Outreach Centers: nearly $157,000 increase over last year;
• State Aid to Public Libraries: Level funded from last year; and
• STEM Pipeline Fund: A new line item funded at $2 million.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its budget proposal for the 2013 fiscal year this past Wednesday. Debate on the budget in the full Senate will begin next Wednesday, May 23. Chang-Diaz’s office is also encouraging constituents to weigh in on their priorities for the state budget by filling out the survey at www.senatorchangdiaz.com/budget-survey.