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IN THE NEWS: Downing efforts lauded
February 15, 2012

By Ned Oliver

Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD — State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing won recognition Tuesday for his work to secure millions more in state funding this year to cover the transportation costs incurred by regional school districts.

The Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools said that without Downing’s help, regional school districts across Massachusetts would have only been reimbursed for transportation at a rate of 44 percent.

Instead, with a boost of more than $3 million to
that budget line, schools are being reimbursed this fiscal year for 57 percent of the cost of getting students to and from school. To school districts that embraced regionalization plans based in part on a promise from the state to reimburse the full cost of transit, the extra cash matters.

“Securing that funding let us focus ours on educational needs,” said Peter Dillon, the superintendent of the Berkshire Hills Regional School District. “Ben did a great job in
both understanding and advocating for additional regional transportation aid.”

The Association of Regional School Districts presented the Pittsfield-based Democrat with their 2012 “Recognition Award,” thanking him for his support and dedication to Massachusetts regional school districts.

In a statement, the organization’s president commended Downing for taking the floor last summer to support a budget amendment that yielded the increase to the regional school transportation reimbursement account. After Downing made his remarks, the Senate adopted the amendment.

Downing deferred credit for the additional funding to the entire Berkshire delegation. And he said he would have taken to the floor to advocate for proposal regardless.

“I thought it was especially important to remind my colleagues about that promise that had been made and why people felt like the state hadn’t lived up to that promise,” said Downing.

To reach Ned Oliver: , or (413) 496-6240.


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