By Bob Katzen
Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), the co-chairs of the Education Committee, unveiled a long-awaited consensus school finance reform bill that will invest $1.5 billion in its public education system over the next seven years. The bill, named the Student Opportunity Act, is expected to land on the Senate floor for debate and a vote sometime in October.
“The Student Opportunity Act builds on our ongoing efforts to support our neediest students and to close opportunity gaps,” said House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “The bill includes significant investments, placing a special emphasis on English learners and districts serving high concentrations of low-income students. In addition, this bill makes investments in school buildings, special education and transportation for districts across the state. Both the House and Senate have taken the noteworthy step of collaborating, side-by-side, to craft a bill that reflects a joint approach to support students.”
“I think this session, with the strong support of our leadership and all of the committee members, we have finally come to a consensus on a bill that as the Senate president and the speaker indicated, will fully implement all of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission,” said Peisch at a briefing for reporters.
“I think it’s fair to say that if this bill passes into law, we will have the strongest and most progressive education funding system in terms of how we reflect the needs of low-income students,” said Lewis. “However, we realize that even with all those changes in the increased Chapter 70 Aid that districts will receive, that there’s more that we can and must do to support the needs of all school districts and all students across the state, whether they are in rural districts, suburban districts, Gateway Cities or others.”
“It is critical that we act upon the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission and take the necessary steps to address some of the historic inequities in our school funding formula so that all students in the commonwealth can access the same educational opportunities to prepare them for college and the workforce,” said GOP House Minority Leader Brad Jones (R-North Reading.) “I look forward to reviewing the details of the Student Opportunity Act and whatever changes the Senate makes to the bill, with the hope that the House and Senate can reach agreement on a final bill this session.”
“In the past year, thousands of parents marched on Beacon Hill making it clear they wanted additional funding and also a plan for how that funding would immediately begin to address the achievement gap crisis in Massachusetts,” said Keri Rodrigues, Founder of Massachusetts Parents United. “Blank checks are simply not enough. The Student Opportunity Act fulfills our hopes for how the state can better support our children’s education.”