BOSTON — Friday’s Education Committee hearing was into its fourth hour, with hundreds of people still packed into both Gardner Auditorium and an overflow space upstairs, when House Chairwoman Alice Peisch acknowledged “the first time we’ve had a panel here that may have something of real significance to add to the debate” — a group of students and teachers.

The latest debate over the best way to update the state’s education funding formula has been a long-swirling one — dating back, by one measure, to the release of a 2015 state report that found the current formula underestimates major cost drivers to the tune of $1 billion or more, or by another measure, to the passage of different bills in the House and Senate last session and lawmakers’ failure to reconcile them.

During the daylong hearing, New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty said he was “disappointed” the Legislature couldn’t reach a deal last year, and Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley told the committee it would be “really unfortunate if there was a delay this year.”

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