Earlier this month, State Auditor Suzanne Bump released a report on the costs that the Commonwealth's cities and towns incur busing homeless children to school. Massachusetts participates in a federal program that requires cities and towns to share the costs of transporting homeless children to school if the child is forced to relocate to different community for temporary housing. However, cities and town are not given any money by the state for these transportation costs, and the costs are not trivial.
Springfield spent over half a million dollars transporting homeless children, while Boston spent almost three quarters of a million dollars. Even a smaller community like Weymouth spent over $200,000.
Making sure that homeless children get to school is critically important. These children are experiencing terrible disruption in their lives, and school may be the one source of stability for them. In addition, they need their education more than ever. No one begrudges the money spent busing these children to school.
And yet, the legislature is being squeezed from every direction, and simply cannot find the money to supplement these transportation costs without cutting some other critical service. In the meantime, cities and towns are also squeezed. General local aid has been cut over 30% in the past four years, so local communities struggle mightily to fund these costs.
All of our elected officials - at the state and local level - are put in a terrible bind by the constant, unrelenting pressure of inadequate revenues. Even worse, homeless children end up in the middle of it.
We can do better than this. It is in all of our best interests that homeless children get to school, and that when they arrive that their schools are adequately funded. The solution to this problem isn't more budget cuts. It's tax reform that raises substantial revenue while protecting lower and middle income families from big increases.