Reformers rallying around overhauled Senate education bill

By Katie Lannan | Jan 09, 2019

Six months after education funding reform talks among lawmakers collapsed in the final minutes of formal legislative sessions, the next go-around is officially kicking off.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat who was the main architect of the Senate's $1 billion school funding bill last year, Wednesday morning filed a similar bill -- dubbed the Education Promise Act -- that includes language addressing some concerns raised with the previous version.

Like last year's irreconcilable House and Senate bills, the new bill implements 2015 recommendations of a commission that found the state's school funding formula underestimates education costs by $1 billion to $2 billion a year by inadequately accounting for expenses associated with health insurance, special education and teaching low-income students and English language learners.

Boston officials had said that the previous Senate bill would not have given the state's largest school district the help it needs.

The new bill, according to Chang-Diaz's office, fixes "funding glitches" and aims to prevent "phase-in inequity." It allows school districts a different route for counting their low-income students, and "insures that all students in district public school receive their promised aid from the state after accounting for charter tuition factors."

The bill calls for the low-income, health care and minimum aid provisions to all be implemented at the same pace.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, lawmakers including Chang-Diaz and Reps. Mary Keefe and Aaron Vega, educators and advocates plan to promote the bill at a 11 a.m. press conference.

Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance executive director Charlotte Kelly said the bill would "make deep investments in school districts that have been underfunded for a generation."

"Without these funds, we are telling working-class students and students of color that they don't deserve a high-quality education," Kelly said in a statement. "Without these funds, districts will have to make even more budget cuts and increase class sizes. Without these funds, schools will have to cut nurses, librarians, arts, music, extracurriculars, and all of the activities and resources students need to thrive."

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Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, a former Education Committee chair and a leader on education funding reform, said, “This bill stands as our commitment that, in Massachusetts, zip code must not be destiny.”

"Our session today continues nearly a half-century of work for educational equity. And this bill would not exist without the generations of Bay Staters who tirelessly and passionately kept the cause alive. Who saw the work ahead and never gave up, even when political insiders believed the issue was dead."

Fulfilling the promise of public education as the great equalizer is our next big goal. Bay Staters believe in it. It’s a goal our constitution anchors us to. Now, that collective effort in advocating, crafting policy, and working together has given us a chance to deliver on it.

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Office of State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz

MA State House, Rm 111

24 Beacon St, Boston, MA 02133

(617) 722-1673 | sonia.chang-diaz@masenate.gov