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Smith Prof's Maps Lead to Legislative Change

A map comparing the Senate Ways and Means FY2007 budget proposal to FY2003 funding levels for municipal school districts

A Smith College research team was recently honored for creating maps that were influential in the passage of legislation to change the state’s education aid funding formula.

Nathanael A. Fortune, associate professor of physics at Smith, was named to the “2006 All State School Committee” in recognition of maps that he, Amanda Nyren '06, and Jon Caris, Smith Spatial Anaylsis Lab coordinator, developed using the college’s Spatial Analysis Lab and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology.

The maps reflect inequities in the “local aid” funding formula to public schools since 2002. As a result, the state legislature has voted to revise its funding formula and take into account each community's average income instead of just property values, said Fortune.

“I knew we had something worthwhile when I learned that legislators were using the maps in their discussions with each other,” he added.

In recognizing the work of the Smith researchers, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC) noted: “Using state-of-the-art software and mapping technology, [Fortune] and his team developed valuable illustrations that demonstrated how many Massachusetts communities were still disadvantaged by key legislative proposals. His attentiveness to detail and his commitment to disseminating timely information to the MASC membership and legislative leadership was vital to the funding discussion and changes that took place this year.”

12/4/06   Kristen Cole
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