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Education Funding Lawsuit Works to Gain Support with 'One-on-One Dialogues'

The local group leading a proposed lawsuit against the state challenging the education funding formula is making its pitch to select towns and hopes to gain the ear of legislators from key communities later this month.

The local non-profit group to challenge the existing education funding formula have been busy laying the groundwork for gaining support from other communities.

Tax Reform for Education hopes they will raise enough money to file the suit against the state to eliminate disproportionate taxing under the state's education funding law - Chapter 70. 

In September, the group told the Hamilton Board of Selectmen that they were trying to raise $300,000 for the effort and expected to present to communities with similar demographics where disproportionate taxation and unfair school funding was evident.

Group members hoped to garner support from 30 communities and ask each community to pitch in $10,000 towards the legal bill. .

So far, the group has formally presented its case to Hamilton, Wenham and Swampscott. Members of these communities have committed time to the effort but getting other communities on board will take more time, says coordinator Tracy Mayor. 

“We feel things are going well, if slowly,” Mayor said.

“Coalition-building takes time, especially at the beginning, so it really is a matter of taking the time to have one-on-one dialogues with the different stakeholders in each community.”

Mayor said the group is getting a lot of positive interest and feels encouraged that municipal leaders are beginning to understand that the project is a game-changer that could bring real relief to their communities. But so far there have been no commitments to jump on board.

Mayor pointed to the many different types of town and city governments as an underlying factor for the slow-moving process.

“We are conducting a lot of one-on-one meetings with town, city and school officials in the hopes to present before the entire groups formally,” she reported.

In mid-September, Tax Reform for Education but there were some Stoneham officials who were on the fence and needed more time to review and reflect on the information.

State Rep. Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, thinks it will fly with a concerted effort by legislators and coalition members. Hill, who represents Hamilton and Wenham, said he and state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, will be meeting with key legislators to help prop up efforts at the state level.

“Senator Tarr and I are planning to hold a legislative meeting the last week in October to help representatives understand the cost versus benefits analysis,” said Hill.  

The goal of the meeting is to have Tax Reform for Education board members give a presentation to legislators so that they fully understand the viability and carry the message to local selectmen and school committee officials in select areas of the state.

Tarr said the group will likely include “a ribbon of towns” on Cape Cod, Metro West and Western Massachusetts likely to rally for the cause.

Running in tandem with the anticipated meeting, Mayor says the coalition group will simultaneously conduct a mail drop to 100 communities and meet one-on-one with six communities, although no exact town names have been announced.

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