Student Opportunity Act Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 24, 2019
Representative Barrows supports comprehensive reform bill to promote education equity and accountability
BOSTON – State Representative F. Jay Barrows, R-1st Bristol, is supporting legislation that calls for a seven-year, multi-billion dollar investment in the state’s public schools to help ensure that all Massachusetts students have access to a quality education.
House Bill 4137, An Act relative to educational opportunity for students, seeks to implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which determined in its 2015 report that the state is underfunding public education by as much as $1-$2 billion a year. The bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on a vote of 155-0 on October 23, represents the first major change to the education funding formula since the passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act.
In keeping with the Commission’s recommendations, the Student Opportunity Act revises the state’s funding formula to specifically address the needs of English learners, low-income students, special education programming, and the municipal costs associated with employee and retiree health care benefits. It also raises the annual cap for school building assistance projects to $800 million, with future caps adjusted for inflation, while providing expanded funding for out-of-district special education transportation costs and establishing a timeline for fully funding charter school reimbursements.
Representative Barrows noted that House Bill 4137 also sets strong accountability standards for school districts. The bill authorizes the Commissioner of Education to establish statewide targets and annual benchmarks to address persistent disparities in student achievement, and requires school districts to develop 3-year plans to meet these targets. School districts will also be required to submit annual reports to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to demonstrate that they are making progress in closing existing opportunity gaps among students.
The Student Opportunity Act also:
- establishes an educational mandate task force to review existing state mandates placed on public schools and districts that are not fully funded by the Commonwealth;
- creates a Data Advisory Commission to ensure that resources are allocated effectively at the district and school levels;
- sets financial literacy standards as a statewide educational goal so that all public elementary and secondary school students have an understanding of personal finances; and
- establishes a Twenty-First Century Education program, along with an Advisory Council and Trust Fund, to provide competitive grants to public schools and districts to help address achievement disparities and increase efficiencies.
The proposed reforms included in House Bill 4137 would be phased in over a seven-year period, beginning in Fiscal Year 2021, with the changes fully implemented by 2027.
The Senate previously approved its own version of the education reform bill. A six-member conference committee will now be appointed to work out the differences between the two branches’ proposals, with the goal of producing a final bill that can be sent to Governor Charlie Baker for his signature