Sen. Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, and Rep. Dave Rogers, D-Cambridge, recently lauded the efforts of House and Senate leaders following the release of the Student Opportunity Act on Sept. 19.
The bill, S.2348, would implement all five recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, investing $1.5 billion to support Massachusetts public education through Chapter 70 funding over the next seven years. This legislation would ensure that public schools have adequate resources to provide high-quality, comprehensive education to all students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level.
“Every child — regardless of their socioeconomic status — should have access to a quality education that allows them to excel,” said Friedman. “This bill is a huge step in the right direction toward providing students in Arlington with the educational opportunity they deserve. I applaud my colleagues on the Education Committee for producing a landmark bill that benefits every child in our community and the commonwealth.”
“In a victory for all of our public schools in Massachusetts, this legislation invests $1.5 billion to our public schools over the next seven years,” said Garballey. “As a former member of the Arlington School Committee, some of the aspects of the legislation that I am most proud of include returning the definition of low income to 185% of the federal poverty level, the inclusion of special education transportation costs, and increasing the foundation rates for guidance and psychological services. Ensuring education opportunities for all students regardless of zip code and strengthening our support to those who learn differently has been and will continue to be one of my most passionate priorities.”
“Providing the highest quality of education possible is a fundamental mission of state and local government. The Student Opportunity Act builds on the major increase in aid to education in the state budget just passed, by now taking the next step: addressing structural problems in our education formula. I am particularly pleased that this legislation both boosts education aid to Arlington, while also making big increases to communities with the highest concentrations of low-income students across the commonwealth,” said Rogers.
Among the many aspects of the bill that would benefit the town of Arlington, the Student Opportunity Act would create a “21st Century Education Trust Fund” to support schools and districts pursuing innovative approaches to learning, increase the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s annual spending cap by $150 million to allow for more school building and construction projects, set up a three-year timeline to fully fund charter school tuition reimbursements, and expand a special education reimbursement program to include transportation costs.
The bill would also establish a commission to investigate challenges facing rural schools and tasks state officials with analyzing the ways local contributions are determined in the Chapter 70 formula. Under the bill, school districts would be required to set targets for closing persistent achievement gaps and make plans publicly available on how they will spend the money targeted for English learners and low-income students.
Finally, the impact of the Student Opportunity Act would expand outside of academia, raising rates for guidance and psychological services designed to increase students’ access to mental health and social-emotional services.
To continue tracking the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2348.