By Anna Meiler

BOSTON (CBS) – Leaders from more than two dozen cities in Massachusetts are sending Governor Charlie Baker and state leaders a letter Tuesday calling on them to preserve an increase in “desperately needed” school funding.

The letter, from officials in 26 “Gateway Cities” such as Brockton, Chelsea, Lowell, Lawrence, Worcester and Springfield, says the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately harmed students in their communities.

The city councilors and school committee members wrote:

“Virtual learning made it more challenging for students to progress through their school year. Many of our students don’t have quiet places to study at home. Some families have limited internet access. Some children have Individualized Education Plans that their schools haven’t been able to follow. And for a number of reasons outside of their control, which include grueling work schedules, language barriers, and lack of familiarity with technology, many parents and guardians have not been able to adequately support their children’s education.

“Experts expect opportunity gaps to only worsen, and so we worry about the disproportionate impact this will have on our students, especially as we consider not only what has already occurred, but what is yet to come in FY21 and FY22.”

Last fall, Baker signed an education bill that would boost school funding by $1.5 billion over seven years. It would prioritize funding for districts with high percentages of low-income students and English language learners.

Local officials from the 26 cities said they were slated to receive a “desperately-needed additional $217.5 million” this year.

But because of a $4-to-7 billion revenue shortfall expected from the pandemic, that funding is “now at risk,” they wrote.

The local authorities are calling on state leaders to fulfill their promise of increased school funding, despite the financial strains caused by the coronavirus.

In the letter, they offer several recommendations, including tapping into the $3.48 billion “rainy day fund,” increasing taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest, and diverting state aid from wealthy communities.

Anna Meiler

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