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Downing honored by Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools
February 14, 2012

Receives 2012 Recognition Award for outstanding support of and dedication to Massachusetts regional school districts
Boston – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) was honored by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) this morning for his leadership during the Massachusetts Senate’s FY 2012 budget debate, as his efforts ultimately secured an additional $3 million in funding for regional school transportation costs. 
“I worked to secure this funding last year because it was the right thing to do,” said Downing. “The Commonwealth pledged to fully fund regional school transportation reimbursements years ago. In 2008 we achieved a reimbursement rate of 81%. Without the adoption of this budget amendment, our regional school districts would have faced the challenges of crafting a budget with only a 44% reimbursement rate.”
“We appreciate Senator Downing’s willingness to step forward for regional schools.  When the reimbursement rate goes down, the district must take funds from other areas in order to transport students to school safely. Senator Downing understands the importance of transportation reimbursement to regional schools,” said Maureen Marshall, President of MARS.
Downing’s advocacy was recognized during MARS’ general meeting, held at Nashoba Valley Vocational Regional High School in Westford. A video of his remarks from last year’s budget debate was viewed, after which Downing was presented with the 2012 Recognition Award thanking him for his support and dedication to Massachusetts regional school districts. 
On June 2, 2011 Senator Downing took the floor of the Senate to speak in support of a budget amendment providing a $3 million increase to the regional school transportation reimbursement account. After his remarks the amendment was adopted by the Senate; this increased funding amount was included in the final FY 12 state budget. A total of $43,521,000 was appropriated for regional school transportation in FY 12, resulting in a reimbursement rate of 57% for regional school districts statewide.
“When towns join to form a regional school district, they can provide students with a comprehensive education with more academic opportunities. However, regional districts cover a larger area then a single community; as a result, transportation costs can increase,” noted Stephen Hemman, Executive Director of MARS. “The Commonwealth had promised to provide regional schools with transportation financial assistance and we thank Senator Downing for continuing with that commitment.”
The mission of the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools is to promote the best possible educational opportunities for students attending regional schools throughout the Commonwealth. In order to fulfill this mission, the Association studies and seeks solutions to regional problems and provides for closer cooperation among an effective communication between all administrators and school committees of regional school districts.
Video of Downing’s debate speeches can be viewed from his YouTube channel at
Photo caption: (L to R) Stephen Hemman, Ex. Director of MARS; Maureen Marshall, President of MARS; Senator Ben Downing; Lynn Lyan, VP of MARS with the Senator’s 2012 Recognition Award.
Photo credit: Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools.
**An electronic file of this image is available for use and publication. Contact Bethann Steiner in Senator Downing’s office.


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