Lawmakers who support a program that brings students from Boston and Springfield to suburban school districts are "troubled" by Gov. Deval Patrick's $287,000 cut to the program, part of the governor's efforts to respond to a projected $329 million state budget deficit.
"We are troubled that the Governor has again chosen to cut the under-funded METCO program by almost $300,000, more than half of the budget increase that the Legislature approved in the spring of this year," Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), the METCO Caucus co-chairpersons, said in a statement. "Once again this worthy program will face the future uncertain about promised revenues not delivered. METCO is not just the state?s only racial desegregation program; it is also one of the surest paths to success for disadvantaged and minority school-age children."
METCO Executive Director Jean McGuire said it will be up to local school committees to decide how to respond to the cuts.
"I'm not happy with it at all, of course, because I know what happens to children whose education is truncated," McGuire told the News Service. The mid-year cut still leaves the program with $18.8 million.
McGuire said participating school districts receive roughly $3,500 for each of the roughly 3,500 students who make use of the program. She anticipated the cuts could influence school committees as they decide how many students to bring in next year, and could result in cuts to after-school buses to accommodate sports and other extracurricular activities and bus monitors and other services.
"Each school committee is faced with their own task," said McGuire. Kaufman, who is House chairman of the Revenue Committee, and Chang-Diaz, who is Senate chairwoman of the Education Committee, said they would "do all we can to restore full funding to this crucial community resource."
According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Metco program was started in the 1960s "to provide enhanced educational opportunities for participating students, to reduce the racial isolation of suburban school districts, and to reduce segregation in city schools."