High-quality and equitable education opportunities, ranging across early childhood, K-12, technical education, higher education and apprenticeships, are pivotal for the economic prospects of working people and their children.  Disparities in education funding and the resulting inequities in the programs and services provided to children and adults of different incomes and races can determine the earning potential for someone’s entire life.  EARN groups analyze how state and local school taxes are raised and how education funding is parceled out, showing the impact of current education policies and suggesting reforms that can improve educational outcomes and economic conditions for working families.


Educated and Encumbered: Student Debt Rising with Higher Education Funding Falling in Massachusetts

Higher education is an important factor in the success of our commonwealth. Expanding access to affordable high quality postsecondary education can provide more of our young people with the opportunity to choose their paths in life without being blocked by insurmountable financial obstacles. In the long run, that strengthens our overall state economy. Adequate state funding helps ensure that these benefits are broadly available to all who want to pursue higher education. Insufficient state funding, on the other hand, leaves students and their families with higher tuition and debt, and thus threatens to put higher education—and the opportunities it offers—beyond the reach of those who cannot afford it.

More than half of our state’s public high school graduates who attend college enroll in a public college or university in Massachusetts. Students attending public postsecondary institutions are significantly more likely than those attending private ones to live and work in Massachusetts after graduation, contributing to our communities and our economy over the long term.

Organized as a series of charts, this paper details major trends since Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 in state support for our public colleges and universities, and how those changes have led to sharply increasing costs for students and families, which they pay for with increasing amounts of debt. On several measures we compare Massachusetts to other states.

We show that:

  • A well-educated workforce plays a crucial role in the economic strength of our state. Massachusetts has the best educated workforce in the country and the highest median hourly wage.
  • Deep cuts in state support for public higher education have contributed to some of the highest tuition and fees increases in the nation from 2001 to 2016.
  • Along with large cuts in state scholarship funding, these tuition and fee hikes have doubled the share of postsecondary education costs borne by students and their families, from about 30 percent to around 60 percent.
  • Students and families have paid these costs by borrowing more. Among students graduating from public 4-year postsecondary schools, average debt grew faster in Massachusetts than in all but one other state from 2004 (the earliest year for which data are available for most states) to 2016.
  • Average debt among state university and UMass graduates now almost equals the average debt among graduates of the state’s private colleges and universities.

Impact of the Governor’s FY 2019 Budget Adjustments on Children and Families

  • February 20, 2018
  • Connecticut Voices for Children
  • Ray Noonan, Lauren Ruth, Ph.D., Ellen Shemitz, J.D., Karen Siegel, Camara Stokes Hudson, Nicole Updegrove, and Jane McNichol, J.D.

Connecticut’s long-term fiscal health depends on an economy that benefits all families, businesses, and communities. To achieve this objective, the state needs a strategic budget that balances investment with fiscal responsibility. In this report, we find that the Governor’s latest budget proposal would move Connecticut away from these goals. Under the Governor’s plan, the Children’s Budget, the share of state spending devoted to children, would drop to 27.2 percent, a historic low, down from 27.8 in the budget approved last November.

The Governor’s budget includes significant cutscompared to the biennial budget approved by the General Assembly last October. The proposal would reduce spending in health and human services by 3.9 percent, K-12 education by 3.3 percent, early care and education by 2.6 percent, and higher education by 1.7 percent. The report warns that fixed costs (pensions, debt service, and retiree healthcare), although slightly lower than in the previous year, will continue trending upward, potentially further eroding these programs.

In addition to the present budget cuts, the Governor’s budget fails to address the impact of four fiscal restrictions inserted into the budget implementer during closed-door negotiations. The combination of a newly defined spending cap, a bond cap, a volatility cap, and a bond lock diminish this flexibility, tying the state’s hands and making it more difficult for Connecticut to make the strategic investments necessary to promote equitable opportunity and inclusive economic growth.

The report calls on the General Assembly to prioritize repealing or amending these fiscal restrictions.Furthermore, we urge policymakers to modernize the state’s revenue system, eliminating loopholes and broadening the tax base, and to invest in Connecticut’s future, with a focus on child care, education, and healthy child development.

Hawaii School Breakfast Scorecard, School Year 2015-16

All of Hawai‘i’s children deserve a good education that opens up opportunities for the rest of their lives. But hungry keiki can’t learn.

In the face of some of the highest food costs in the nation, many Hawai‘i families can’t afford to provide their children with a healthy breakfast every morning. Even higher-income families often can’t find time to sit down for a good breakfast before school. Meanwhile, studies show that students who skip breakfast have poorer cognitive functioning.

One way to ensure that our children are ready to learn is to participate in the School Breakfast Program. Research has shown that when students eat school breakfast, they also have better nutrition and lower rates of obesity, as well as improved attendance, behavior and grades.

Hawai‘i has an extraordinary opportunity to ensure that our students eat breakfast each morning—99.7 percent of our schools have breakfast programs, placing us in the top five in the nation for the percentage of schools serving breakfast. However, Hawai‘i ranks 47th among the states in student breakfast participation, with less than half (43 percent) of our students who participate in free or reduced-price lunch also getting school breakfast. If Hawai‘i were to raise our participation rate to 70 percent, almost 17,000 more of our keiki would benefit from school breakfast, and our state would get nearly $7 million per year in additional federal funds.

This Hawai‘i School Breakfast Scorecard looks at every Hawaiʻi Department of Education  (DOE) and public charter school to see which are reaching the 70 percent participation goal, and we find that 15 of them – our School Breakfast Champions – met or exceeded it during the 2015-16 school year. In this scorecard, we also highlight schools that are successfully piloting alternative ways to serve breakfast, with promising results.

There are proven ways to boost school breakfast participation. One of the best is moving breakfast after the first bell, either into the classroom, onto grab-and-go carts, or after first period. One Hawai‘i school quadrupled its participation rates by implementing a breakfast-after-first-period program. Research has found that these alternative breakfast service models correlate with better achievement test scores, attendance and behavior.

Another effective way to boost school breakfast participation is the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), which allows high-poverty schools to offer school meals free of charge to all students. Not only does this make it easier for students and their families to access meals, but it also helps schools by streamlining meal service, as well as eliminating the cost and administrative burden of processing school meal applications.

Hawaiʻi DOE has been proactive and effective in recent years at expanding the number of CEP schools across the state. Hawaiʻi went from seven CEP schools in the 2015-16 school year, to 30 schools in 2016-17, and on to 52 schools in 2017-18.

Hawai‘i Appleseed has launched a School Breakfast Challenge to help Hawai’i schools increase their school breakfast participation numbers, especially among low-income students. We’re offering technical support and up to $10,000 per school in grants. Schools may complete this online application to participate in the School Breakfast Challenge.

People-Powered Prosperity

The most prosperous states are anchored by an educated and healthy workforce and offer opportunities for people to innovate and contribute. Moving into the 2018 statewide elections and subsequent governor’s administration, Georgia leaders can seize a golden opportunity to chart a better economic course. People-Powered Prosperity details a new vision for how state lawmakers can pursue that strategy and ways they can responsibly pay for it. The report outlines a public investment plan aimed at four strategic goals, which include eight specific policy recommendations such as targeted funding hikes for public schools and an ambitious ramp-up of assistance to help families afford child care. We also present a case to show how Georgia can afford to raise $1 billion in new annual revenues as a meaningful down payment on the strategy, a shared investment of reasonable scope.