Student Opportunity Act (Education Funding Legislation)

As many of you are aware, the legislature is considering a bill to address the disparities in our Education budget as well as to implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. I have met with Chairwoman Peisch and submitted my concerns regarding education in this letter.

On September 19th, the Joint Committee on Education released the Student Opportunity Act, which makes an unprecedented $1.5 billion new investment in Massachusetts public education. I am continuing to sift through the provisions of the bill and would love to hear your input. In the meantime, here is a general outline of what the bill addresses:

Foundation Budget Review Recommendations
This bill 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. It does this by:

  • Estimating school districts’ employee and retiree health care costs using up to date health insurance trend data collection by the state’s Group Insurance Commission.
  • Increasing special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment
  • Increasing funding for English learners that is differentiated by grade level to reflect greater resources required to education our older EL students
  • Addresses the needs of districts educating high concentrations of students from low-income households

Additional State Financial Support for Public Schools:

  • Increases foundation rates for guidance and psychological services that will support expanded social-emotional supports and mental health services
  • Fully funds charter school tuition reimbursements, which provide transitional aid to help districts when students leave to attend charter schools, within a 3 year timetable.
  • Expands the special education circuit breaker, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education costs, to include transportation costs in addition to instructional costs, phased in over 4 years.
  • Lifts the annual cap on Massachusetts School Building Authority spending for school building construction/renovation by $150 million.

Policy Updates for Closing Opportunity Gaps:

  • Establishes the 21st Century Education Trust Fund to provide flexible funding to districts and schools pursuing creative approaches to student learning and district improvement.
  • Makes it so that school districts must develop and make publicly available plans for closing the opportunity gaps. These plans must include specific goals and metrics to track success.
  • Tasks the Secretary of Education with collecting and publishing data on student preparedness in each district and high school for post-graduate success in college and the workforce
  • Establishes a Data Advisory Commission to help improve the use of data at the state, district, and school levels to inform strategies that strengthen teaching, learning, and resource allocation.

Identifies Education Policy Areas Requiring Further Analysis:

  • The Department of Revenue and Department of Education are directed to analyze the method of determining required local contributions in the Chapter 70 formula for the purpose of improving equity, predictability, and accuracy.
  • Establishes a Rural Schools Commission to investigate the unique challenges facing rural and regional school districts with low and declining enrollment. The Commission will make recommendations for further updates to help impacted communities.

FY 2020 Final Budget

On July 31st, Governor Baker signed the $43.32 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2020. The budget included historic levels of investment in critical areas such as education, health care, addressing the opioid crisis, and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. To read the budget in full, click here. Below are some highlights of what was included:

Local Earmarks:

  • $50,000 for Phase II of the Magazine Beach Restoration project in Cambridge
  • $75,000 for security needs of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra hatch shell concert series
  • $25,000 for operational costs of the West End Museum

Environment:

  • $47.25 million for State Parks and Recreation (DCR)
  • $61 million for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
  • $1.5 million for Watershed Protection
  • $2.2 million for the implementation of strategies that address climate change mitigation and preparedness

Education:

  • $20 million for the Early Education Rate Reserve, providing an increase to reimbursement rates for subsidized early education and care
  • $41,045,000 for Adult Basic Education services including English as a Second Language, basic literacy, and citizenship classes; This is a $7.7 million increase from FY19.
  • $345,154,803 for the Special Education Circuit Breaker

Labor & Economic Development:

  • $7 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund
  • $500,000 to establish a specialized prevailing wage and construction investigatory and enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office
  • $16 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth

Transportation:

  • $345,813,615 for transportation and infrastructure improvements across the Commonwealth
  • $125 million for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to design, construct, maintain, and operate our highways, bridges, and tunnels.

Public Safety & Judiciary:

  • $4.5 million for a new community based re-entry program
  • $24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income defendants
  • $11 million for Shannon Grants which address heightened levels of gang violence
  • $520,400 for a neighborhood-based gun and violent crime prevention pilot program

Housing & Homelessness:

  • $116 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
  • $72 million for Public Housing Subsidies
  • $8 million for Alternative Housing Voucher Programs
  • $53.4 million for homeless individual shelters
  • $6 million toward veteran’s homelessness services
  • $2 million for the Search Job Connect Program, helping people experiencing homelessness or previously homeless families receive employment support, job training, and job search services.

Intern With Jay Livingstone – Fall 2019 Application

Internship Program

Jay’s office is constantly seeking talented individuals with a passion for Public Policy to join the team. On a rolling basis, Rep. Livingstone accepts interns from all walks of life. If you are a motivated individual that wants to learn more about public service and the legislative process then this could be the internship for you!

Click Here to Learn More

We are still accepting internship applications for the Fall of 2019. Please send your resume and cover letter to Caitlin Duffy, Rep. Livingstone’s Legislative Aide, via email: Caitlin.Duffy@mahouse.gov

 

Offering balance to debate over ROE Act

Editor, Townsman:

This letter offers balance to points made in a letter to the editor by Ms. Theresa Gorey which was recently published in The Eagle-Tribune and The Andover Townsman.

Ms. Theresa Gorey states that the ROE Act (House Bill 3320) is Rep. Tram Nguyen’s bill. Actually the ROE Act is sponsored by Reps. Patricia A. Haddad (5th Bristol) and Jay D. Livingstone (8th Suffolk). Rep. Nguyen is just one of an additional 100 House members from all over the commonwealth who have co-sponsored it. Readers interested in this issue should download the bill from the Massachusetts House website (https://malegislature.gov/bills) and develop their own conclusions.

In my opinion, Ms. Gorey’s choice of words in her interpretation of the House Bill 3320, does not reflect the intent of the bill, nor is her interpretation shared by the legislators who have signed on to support this bill. Demonizing trained medical professionals and duly elected legislators by suggesting they would support and advocate for a bill to kill an unborn child is grossly unjust. Further her omissions on important language within the bill, such as “A physician, acting within their lawful scope of practice”, “physician’s best medical judgment”, “pregnant patient’s written informed consent on a form prescribed by the Commissioner of Public Health”, “duly licensed”, etc. weaken her position.

Lastly, I have found Rep. Nguyen to be open and accessible to constituents. She has made it clear on many occasions that while she may not always share the viewpoint of constituents, she is ready to listen respectfully. My personal observation is that conversations, impassioned or not, as opposed to uninformed accusations, are always welcome.

Yes, I am a supporter of Rep. Nguyen and I have a close working relationship with her. I am also a strong supporter of facts and civil discourse. One does not preclude my support of the other.

DIANE RIEMER

Andover

https://www.andovertownsman.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/offering-balance-to-debate-over-roe-act/article_004aa915-0a72-53fa-bd5e-5c8a6dab7d0c.html