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News Briefs: Hinds staff office hours; Rural School Aid grant funding program restored

By Wednesday, May 8, 2019 News

Hinds’ district aides to hold office hours

Lee — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D-Pittsfield, has announced that his district aides will visit the Lee Town Hall, 32 Main St., Wednesday, May 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for their monthly staff office hours.

All residents of hinds’ Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Senate District are invited to participate in these sessions if they have ideas, questions or comments about state government they wish to share, or if they require assistance from the senator’s constituent services team.

Since early in 2017, Hinds has directed his district staff A.J. Enchill and Jon Gould to hold roving office hours outside of their primary work locations once a month in an effort to increase office accessibility for every constituent. Enchill is based in the Hinds’ Pittsfield office Gould splits his time between Pittsfield and Williamsburg.

Last year Hinds’ district staff traveled to 19 towns and met with hundreds of local officials and residents. So far in 2019, staff office hours have been held in Adams, Alford, Blandford, Heath, Lenox, Plainfield, Rowe and Windsor, while Hinds has participated in public forums in Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield and Westhampton, and is scheduled to be in Huntington Monday, May 13.

Appointments are not necessary but can be booked in advance by calling the Pittsfield office at (413) 344-4561.

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Senate committee restores funding for Rural School Aid grant funding program

Boston — Sen. Adam G. Hinds, D- Pittsfield, has announced that S.3, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means fiscal year 2020 budget proposal released Wednesday, appropriates $1.5 million for the Rural School Aid grant program. This represents level funding for the grant program, which was established by Hinds a year ago.

Hinds, who serves on the committee, has worked with Chair Michael J. Rodrigues, D-Westport, this session to secure this funding for the grant program, which provides financial assistance to the Commonwealth’s most rural school districts. Hinds successfully championed the idea of creating this new grant program for the Commonwealth’s most rural school districts during the 2017–18 legislative session.

Rural School Aid helps school districts with low population densities and lower-than-average incomes address fiscal challenges and take steps to improve efficiency. Administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Rural School Aid is intended to supplement the FY’20 operating budgets of eligible school districts.

In order to be deemed eligible by DESE to receive a Rural School Aid grant, a school district must have a student density of “not more than 21 students per square mile and an average annual per capita income of not more than the average annual per capita income for the Commonwealth for the same period, as reported by the United States Census Bureau.” Further, rural school districts serving fewer than 11 students per square mile are prioritized to receive funding.

This session Hinds has championed the Fair Funding for Rural Schools campaign, sponsoring S.2185, legislation to add a rural factor to the state’s Chapter 70 education funding formula and, until that is implemented, securing funding for the Rural School Aid grant program. On Feb. 28, Hinds hosted Rural Schools Advocacy Day in the State House, during which school district administrators, local officials, teachers, parents and students from across the state visited with legislators and staff to talk about the needs of rural schools.

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