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Governor Baker signs education funding bill; means more for Fall River public schools



BOSTON – Today, Governor Charlie Baker was joined by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Senator Jason Lewis, Representative Alice Peisch, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and a broad coalition of educators, business leaders and other members of the Legislature to sign S. 2142, An Act relative to educational opportunity for students, which boosts investment in public schools by $1.5 billion annually when fully phased in over the next seven years. These investments will ensure school districts have additional resources to provide high-quality education to all students by revamping the formula used by the state to calculate the cost of educating students by updating costs related to health care and special education, as well as educating English Language Learners and low-income students.

“I am pleased to sign legislation aimed at providing students across the Commonwealth with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed including accountability measures that are essential to supporting underperforming schools,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This funding builds on the over half a billion dollars in new Chapter 70 funding our Administration has supported since taking office. We thank our partners in the Legislature for their hard work and we look forward to implementing this legislation for every child in every school district in Massachusetts.”

“This investment in our Commonwealth’s public schools will provide better opportunities for all students to learn, achieve and succeed at whatever they choose to do in their futures,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We appreciate all the hard work of our colleagues in the Legislature, and the many educators, parents and other stakeholders who spent years making sure we passed legislation that enables schools and teachers to provide a brighter future for all Massachusetts students.”

Fall River Superintendent of Schools Matthew Malone was very pleased with the passage.

“Today is a great day for the children of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are so thankful to the parents, teachers, students, agencies, activists, who have supported this bill since the Foundation Budget Review Commission began its work in 2014. There are many many many people who deserve recognition, you know who you are. Our children are always at the center of our work in Massachusetts.”

Both branches of the Legislature unanimously passed the legislation earlier this month after it was released by the Joint Committee on Education. The Student Opportunity Act provides significant new funding resources to schools, particularly school districts with high percentages of low-income students and English Language learners who often live in some of the highest-need communities in the Commonwealth.

“Every child in Massachusetts deserves the opportunity for growth and success, both inside and outside of the classroom, and we are proud to have worked with our partners in the Legislature to increase critical funding in Massachusetts public schools that will go toward expanding access and availability of necessary resources for students and families across the Commonwealth,” said Education Secretary James Peyser.

“Low-income districts have been waiting a long time for additional money to help them offer all of the academics, support services and enrichment opportunities that prepare students for life after high school,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley. “This legislation addresses those needs, acknowledges the value of accountability, and dedicates a trust fund to close achievement gaps, an important goal that requires resources as well as our best thinking.”

The Governor signed the bill at The English High School of Boston, the first public high school in America, founded in 1821. Originally called The English Classical School, it was renamed The English High School upon its relocation in 1824. The current building is located in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, and has nearly 600 students enrolled in grades 9-12.

“This bill marks the culmination of years of advocacy and hard work from so many people who came together to say that students in all school districts across Massachusetts deserve a high-quality education,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “It is an incredible and historic moment that we have reached together as we celebrate the signing of this bill which treats every district and student with equity, recognizing the different challenges our students face and empowering schools to help our students rise up and reach their dreams.”

“Today is an extraordinary day for our students,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. “Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to the idea that providing a quality public education is not a luxury—it is both our greatest responsibility and our greatest opportunity. I am proud of the diligent and thoughtful work of Senator Jason Lewis, the education committee and the conferees, as well as the tireless advocacy by students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others to bring this bill across the finish line. I have personally fought for more equity, predictability and adequacy in public education funding for almost two decades, so I am honored to lead the Massachusetts State Senate as we make this landmark investment in our future.”

“Access to high-quality educational opportunities for all students has long been a priority for the House, and this historic $1.5 billion investment will go a long way supporting the most vulnerable students of the Commonwealth,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo. “The Student Opportunity Act is the result of a successful partnership spearheaded by our legislative chairs and members with the unwavering support of stakeholders from across the state. This legislation ensures Massachusetts’ students have the types of classrooms and supports they need and deserve.”

“This landmark legislation, years in the making, recommits our Commonwealth to one of its most fundamental values – that every child deserves access to a high quality public education. Massachusetts will now have the most progressive school funding formula in the nation, designed to address the troubling opportunity and achievement gaps that persist in our public education system,” said Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Education Committee. “We have a lot of work ahead of us as we now implement the Student Opportunity Act, but I’m excited that this legislation and the historic level of new funding it will provide to our public schools will make a meaningful difference for students and educators today and for future generations to come.”

“The Student Opportunity Act will lead to greater resources for public school students across the Commonwealth. The Legislature’s overwhelming support of this bill, along with today’s signing by Governor Baker, is a clear indication of our commitment to ensuring that all students, and especially low-income students and English learners, have full access to the high quality education that Massachusetts provides its children,” said Rep. Alice Peisch, House Chair of the Joint Education Committee. “While this bill is a major step forward, it is not the end of our efforts aimed at narrowing the achievement gap and expanding access. I look forward to continuing to work with the Baker Administration, Speaker DeLeo and my colleagues in the House on education legislation that will keep Massachusetts a national and international leader in public education.”

In addition to historic increases in state investments, the bill requires school districts to develop three-year plans to close achievement gaps using evidence-based programs and supports, such as expanded learning time, increased counseling and psychological services, professional development, expanded early learning and pre-kindergarten, early college and career readiness pathways, and a more diverse teacher workforce. The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education will establish statewide targets for addressing persistent achievement gaps among student groups, and will review each district’s plan to ensure it sets measurable goals for student improvement, with credible strategies for achieving them. Districts must amend any plan deemed by the Commissioner not to conform with these standards.

The bill also requires the Secretary of Education to collect data on student preparedness for college and career success by school district and high school, including student participation rates in college and career readiness programs, college acceptance and graduation rates, as well as the percentage of students in internships and earning industry-recognized credentials. The annual report will be developed in consultation with a data advisory commission, school districts, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Higher Education and other state agencies.

Under the legislation, school districts will see increased reimbursements for transporting students to out-of-district special education placements. It also raises a cap on state funding for school building projects by $150 million from $600 million to $750 million; fully funds charter school reimbursements; and creates a grant fund for innovative educational approaches.​​

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