UPDATE: ALL Public and Private K-12 Schools in Massachusetts (excluding residential and day schools for students with special needs) will be closed for three weeks beginning on Tuesday, March 17th. Thank you to Governor Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for taking this crucial step. For more information, please click here.
PRESS RELEASE from Chair Peisch About COVID-19:
March 13, 2020 – BOSTON – Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, has called on Governor Baker and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to close all schools in the Commonwealth to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 virus, while ensuring access to vital services for vulnerable student populations. This would keep public schools in line with the Governor's directive earlier today to limit the congregation of people to under 250 people as most schools have more than 250 students, teachers, staff and administrators in their buildings.
"Preventing community spread, practicing important hygiene as advised by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and limiting your interactions by social distancing and staying home as much as possible have been advised throughout the Commonwealth and across the country," said Representative Peisch. "As events unfold and society adjusts its behavior, it seems prudent to close all schools for the time being so families and schools can plan as best they can for an evolving crisis. While we have not seen widespread positive cases throughout the public school system at this point, closing schools at this stage may be critical in helping slow down the spread of COVID-19 and will help us protect vulnerable populations statewide."
I was honored to be reappointed House Chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education for the 2019-2020 session, and for the opportunity to continue working on legislation to improve education in Massachusetts. This session I have filed education bills that are focused on improving teacher preparation and certification, dropout prevention and re-engagement, special education finance, and high quality early education. In addition to these important policy efforts, the Education Committee will be working on a number of bills files to improve the mechanism by which public schools receive Chapter 70 funding. Massachusetts has the best public schools in the nation, but there is still work that needs to be done to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed. I look forward to working with Governor Baker and my legislative colleagues on these and other issues over the next two years.
Education Funding Legislation Signed Into Law
The Student Opportunity Act
The Student Opportunity Act makes an unprecedented $1.5 billion new investment in Massachusetts public education, ensuring public schools have adequate resources to provide a high-quality education to students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level. Assuming inflation, over time the bill could provide an estimated $2.2 billion. The Student Opportunity Act significantly helps school districts that serve high percentages of low-income students. At the same time, all school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as school buildings and special education.
These new investments, coupled with policy updates, are designed to monitor and measure progress, support effective approaches to closing opportunity gaps, and deliver results for all students.
This bill modernizes the K-12 education funding and policy landscape in four areas:
1) Fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) to ensure that the school funding formula provides adequate and equitable funding to all districts across the state. Provides an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the next seven years.
2) Provides additional state financial support to help public schools and communities deliver a high-quality education to every student.
3) Implements policy updates designed to maximize the impact of new funding in improving student outcomes and closing opportunity gaps.
4) Identifies education policy areas requiring further analysis.
Representative Peisch’s Education Priorities
House Bill 546, An Act Relative to Improving Teacher Preparation and Certification
In an effort to ensure that all students have access to effective educators, this bill establishes a master teacher corps program that creates incentives for highly effective educators to work in high-needs schools, and would recognize and reward those educators for their service. The bill would also require the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to regularly review educator preparation programs and annually publish data on such programs, including the approval status of said programs. The bill also directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to convene a task force to study the feasibility of requiring all teacher candidates in education preparation programs to participate in a teacher residency program.
House Bill 550, An Act Relative to Dropout Prevention and Re-Engagement
While Massachusetts lays claim to the best public schools in the nation, the dropout rate continues to be a significant barrier to closing the achievement gap. This bill would help reduce the dropout rate by establishing a three-year pilot program focused on dropout prevention and re-engagement strategies in high schools with annual dropout rates greater than 4%. Such programs will utilize methods including alternative education, success mentors, outreach programs, and expectant and parenting student supports.
House Bill 549, An Act Relative to Hazing Training for Student Athletes
In an effort to ensure that student-athletes in Massachusetts property understand state laws prohibiting hazing, this bill would require that every student-athlete participate in a hazing training program prior to the start of their athletic season. The training program would help student athletes understand the types of activities considered hazing, the legal ramifications of hazing, and the potential negative impacts on all involved.
House Bill 554, An Act Relative to Special Education Finance
Approved private special education schools, otherwise known as Chapter 766 schools, do not currently have school profiles and student achievement data readily available to the public. This bill requires the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to annually publish a report containing student achievement data and establishes a commission to determine the role of Ch. 766 schools. In addition, this bill outlines the role and responsibilities of the operational services division, which annually determines the price for special education programs based on the enrollment of students, and requires Ch. 766 schools to annually file financial reports to the department of elementary and secondary education and the state auditor.
House Bill 553, An Act Relative to High Quality Early Educators
With the goal of linking professional development and educational credentials to increased compensation and leadership opportunities in the field of early education and care, this bill directs the Department of Early Education and Care to develop a career ladder.
House Bill 551, An Act Relative to Grants for High Quality Early Education
Studies have shown that increasing access to high quality early education is one of the most effective tools for closing the achievement gap. This bill builds on the lessons and outcomes of the Federal Pre-School Expansion Grant program by establishing a statewide grant program through the Dept. of Early Education and Care that would support districts in developing high quality early education programs for children from birth through age five.
House Bill 552, An Act Ensuring High Quality Early Education
This legislation is a re-file of a bill engrossed by the House during the 2017-2018 session in order to ensure high quality early education and care throughout the Commonwealth. The bill achieves this by directing the Dept. of Early Education and Care to develop a rate structure for providers and a sliding scale fee structure for participants, as well as a mental health consultation program and a scholarship program for early educations so they can obtain the training they need to provide high quality early education and care for our youngest students.
About the Education Committee
Over 300 bills have been referred to the Education Committee this session. The Committee plans to hold hearings on these bills over the course of this year, during which the Committee will collect and review testimony and conduct research on each individual bill prior to taking action on them by next February.