FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 2, 2023
CONTACT: Emily Thurlow
Berkshire delegation commends advocacy of constituents for Rural School Aid program
FY24's $15M is twice as much as what Gov. Healey proposed, three times as much as FY23
BOSTON — State Senator Paul Mark, D-Becket, on behalf of the Berkshire Delegation, is pleased to announce that funding for the Rural School Aid grant program has been raised to $15 million for Fiscal Year 2024, resulting in increases ranging from 30-210% for schools in the Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire District. The program provides financial assistance to the Commonwealth’s most rural school districts.
The Berkshire legislative delegation worked together this session in coordination with several students and staff from local school districts to continue to build awareness and support for the unique needs of rural schools. That work culminated in an increase in Rural School Aid from $5.5 million in FY23 to $15 million for FY24.
The Rural School Aid grant program helps school districts with low population densities and lower-than-average incomes address fiscal challenges and take steps to improve efficiency. Rural School Aid can be used for a wide variety of purposes to support district operations, with priority given to efforts increasing regional collaboration, consolidation, or other strategies to improve long-term operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Rural School Aid is a source of funding separate from Chapter 70 aid.
According to DESE’s 2018 study of rural schools, there was a 12.4% spending gap between rural and nonrural districts for in-district students. The study found that the average in-district expenditures for students enrolled in all non-vocational school districts was $17,293 in FY20, the most recent year for which this data is available. Multiplying this amount by 12.4% results in the identification of a per pupil spending gap of $2,144. Applying this amount to the 27,219 students identified as attending rural districts in the same DESE study, the total spending gap for rural schools equals $58,357,536. The Commission on the Fiscal Health of Rural School Districts recommended at least $60 million be appropriated in annual aid.
“Making sure that students throughout our region can access a high-quality education, equal to their counterparts around the state, is extremely important to me and our regional delegation,” said Senator Mark. “Tripling the amount of Rural School Aid that will flow to our local districts this year is going to help our rural communities significantly and represents a major milestone in progress to full funding.”
“The significant increase in rural school aid in this year’s budget will go a long way in providing high-quality education for all students, regardless of what district they live in,” said Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams. “This investment is an important step in delivering on the recommendations included in the Rural Schools Report.”
“This $15 million is a very big step in our collective fight to level the playing field for rural communities. I am proud of the results we are seeing with the Rural School Aid Program, and I am sure this project will continue to be a positive force for education in the Berkshires,” said Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox. “While this is a great first step, I am eager to see this funding flow continue towards our rural schools down the line.”
For FY24’s Rural School Aid, DESE identified districts eligible based on their student density of not more than 35 students per square mile and their per capita income of less than $58,820 per capita, according to 2020 data from the Department of Revenue.
Based on these criteria, there are 68 school districts that are eligible to receive rural school aid in FY2024.
Senator Mark represents a largely rural, western Massachusetts district spanning 57 communities in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Counties. Those schools to receive funding within his district are:
Berkshire Hills Regional School District, FY24 $388,000; FY23 $154,000; 151% increase over FY23
Chesterfield-Goshen School District, FY24 $78,000; FY23 $29,000; 168% increase over FY23
Central Berkshire Regional School District, FY24 $1,325,000; FY23 $532,000; 149% increase over FY23
Clarksburg School District, FY24 $120,000; FY23 $49,000; 144% increase over FY23
Conway School District, FY24 $26,000; FY23 $14,000; 85% increase over FY23
Florida School District, FY24 $63,000; FY23 $26,000; 142% increase over FY23
Gateway Regional School District, FY24 $832,000; FY23 $300,000; 177% increase over FY23
Hampshire Regional School District in Westhampton, FY24 $313,000; FY23 $134,000; 133% increase over FY23
Hancock School District, FY24 $33,000; FY23 $11,000; 200% increase over FY23
Hawlemont School District, FY24 $90,000; FY23 $35,000; 157% increase over FY23
Hoosac Valley Regional School District, FY24 $228,000; FY23 $93,000; 145% increase over FY23
Lee School District, FY24 $32,000; FY23 $12,000; 166% increase over FY23
Mohawk Trail School District, FY24 $621,000; FY23 $262,000; 137% increase over FY23
Mount Greylock Regional School District, FY24 $286,000; FY23 $92,000; 210% increase over FY23
Rowe School District, FY24 $20,000; FY23 $7,000; 185% increase over FY23
Savoy School District, FY24 $17,000; FY23 $13,000; 30% increase over FY23
Southern Berkshire Regional School District, FY24 $256,000; FY23 $101,000; 153% increase over FY23
Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District, FY24 $385,000; FY23 $141,000; 173% increase over FY23
Westhampton School District, FY24 $35,000; FY23 $14,000; 150% increase over FY23
Whately School District, FY24 $42,000; FY23 $14,000; 200% increase over FY23
Williamsburg School District, FY24 $109,000; FY23 $49,000; 122% increase over FY23
Worthington School District, FY24 $43,000; FY23 $15,000; 186% increase over FY23