The historic legislation invests $1.5 billion in public schools, updates statewide education policy, and supports effective approaches to address student opportunity gaps
(BOSTON) – On Wednesday, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) along with her colleagues in both chambers of the Massachusetts Legislature, unanimously voted to enact the Student Opportunity Act. This legislation provides an unprecedented $1.5 billion in new investment in Massachusetts’ K-12 public education system, and ensures public schools have the resources to provide high-quality education to students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level.
Opportunity Act provides significant support to school districts that serve
English learners and high concentrations of low-income students. All school
districts in the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the funding formula,
along with increased state investments in vital education aid programs such as
special education transportation, school construction and renovation, and the
21st Century Education Program.
Opportunity Act makes a lasting and profound investment in the Massachusetts
public education system and places a special emphasis on English learners and
districts serving our low-income students,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “We’re building on our
ongoing efforts to support our neediest students and to close opportunity gaps.
I want to thank Chair Peisch for her leadership on this legislation, and Chair
Lewis for his hard work, and the conference committee especially
Representatives Tucker and Ferguson. This was a collaboration among the House
and the Senate, and I appreciate Senate President Spilka’s partnership as we
make this historic investment.”
historic legislation will ensure that every student in Massachusetts has access
to a high-quality public education,” said Representative
Benson. “I began my career in public service over 15 years ago
as a member of the Lunenburg School Committee, and I was extraordinarily proud
to cast my vote for this once-in-a-generation education equity bill.”
Opportunity Act fully implements the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation
Budget Review Commission (FBRC) in order to support the “educational programs
and services necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s educational goals” as
stated in the Commission’s mission. The bill provides an estimated $1.4 billion
in new Chapter 70 aid over and above inflation when fully implemented over the
next seven years. The bill modernizes the K-12 education funding and policy
landscape in four areas:
school districts’ employee and retiree
health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collected by
the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC).
- Increases special education enrollment and cost
assumptions to accurately reflect district enrollment.
- Increases funding for English learners (EL) and
differentiates funding by grade level to reflect the greater resources required
to educate our older EL students.
the needs of districts educating high concentrations of low-income students by:
additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district;
districts educating the largest percentage of low-income students will receive
an additional increment equal to 100 percent of the base foundation; and
the definition of low-income to 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, as
opposed to the 133 percent level used in recent years.
to implementing the FBRC’s recommended formula changes, the Student Opportunity
Act provides an additional $100 million in state financial support in several
categories to help public schools and communities deliver a high-quality
education to every student. Those fiscal supports include:
foundation rates for guidance and
psychological services in recognition of the growing need for expanded
social-emotional support and mental health services;
to fully funding charter school tuition
reimbursement, which provides transitional aid to help districts when
students leave to attend charter schools, within a three-year timetable;
the special education circuit breaker
program, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education
costs, to include transportation, to be implemented over the next four years;
- Raising the
annual cap on Massachusetts School
Building Authority (MSBA) spending for construction and renovation by $200
million (to a total of $800 million).
to new funding and other supports, the Student Opportunity Act establishes the 21st Century Education Trust Fund to
provide districts and schools access to flexible funding to pursue creative
approaches to student learning and district improvement.
In order to
track and reproduce successful school and district-level programs and policies,
the legislation calls on school districts to develop and make publicly available plans for closing
opportunity gaps. These plans will include specific goals and metrics to
To support efforts
to address education-funding challenges, the legislation also includes the
a Rural Schools Commission to
investigate the unique challenges facing rural and regional school districts
with low and declining enrollment and make recommendations for further updates
to help impacted districts and communities;
- Directs the
Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary
Education (DESE) to analyze the method of determining required local
contributions in the Chapter 70 school funding formula for the purpose of
improving equity, predictability and accuracy; and
- Requires the
Massachusetts School Building Authority to undertake a review of the current
program, now in its fifteenth year, to ensure that capital reimbursements meet
requires the FBRC to convene at least every ten years to review the way
foundation budgets are calculated and ensure the school funding formula
continues to reflect the needs of school districts across the Commonwealth.
The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.