Rural schools develop state aid proposal

  • Superintendent Michael Buoniconti at Mohawk Trail Regional School on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Diane Broncaccio

For the Gazette
Published: 9/21/2016 4:39:57 AM

BUCKLAND — Saying about 50,000 rural students attend public schools that are in “severe fiscal crisis,” Mohawk Superintendent Michael Buoniconti will ask the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition to review a draft proposal that seeks more Chapter 70 state aid for rural schools with the highest enrollment declines, the lowest per capita income and flat-level state aid to education.

The meeting of rural school district superintendents will be held at the Mohawk Trail Regional School on Tuesday.

Superintendent Michael Buoniconti distributed information to the Mohawk School Committee stating that state education aid is “designed for urban districts,” and not for rural districts with miles of terrain and sometimes with fewer than 25 people per mile.

Buoniconti said rural Chapter 70 aid was an idea that came out of the Long Range Planning Committee, a group of mostly member-town officials who studied ways to make the district more financially sustainable. Buoniconti said this was a first draft, being sent to other rural school systems, who were also being asked to share it with their school committees for additional comment.

“Politically, I think that the rural districts need to ally with the towns in this cause in order to effect the change that approximately 50 rural school districts so desperately need,” Buoniconti said.

Eligibility for up to $1,000-per-student aid would be based on a combination of declining enrollment, population density, Chapter 70 funding and per capita income. If the state adopts this proposal as written, Mohawk would receive $1 million more in state aid and the Hawlemont Regional School District would receive about $100,000 more.

According to Buoniconti, about 100,000 students attend rural public schools in Massachusetts — about 10 percent of the total number of public school students statewide. He said declining enrollment, rising operating costs and flat-level state aid have led these schools into “chronic financial crisis.”


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