Massachusetts Senate passes education reform bill

  • SEN. JO COMERFORD, D-Northampton

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2019 11:50:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Massachusetts Senate passed a $1.5 billion education reform bill in a 39-0 vote Thursday night, and Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, is quite happy with the result.

“I worked really hard to try to get this bill passed,” said Comerford.

The bill promises to provide additional relief to cities and towns.

The senator said that four areas where the state has lagged behind have gotten more money in the bill: health care, English language learners, special education students, and low-income students.

Comerford said the bill increases the payments toward health care costs to school districts under the Chapter 70 formula.

“The state has not kept pace with the rising cost of health care,” she said.

On English language learners, Comerford said the bill increases the money provided for the education of all students in this category under the formula, while providing additional increases for English language learners in middle school and high school.

“It’s a smart tweak,” she said.

She also said that the number of students assumed to be receiving special education services under the formula goes up under the bill, although an amendment she put in that would have increased this assumption even more failed.

The bill would also change the formula to count more students as low income, raising the threshold to 185 percent of the federal poverty line, which Comerford said would result in about 40,000 additional students being counted.

She also said that in addition to increasing money for school districts for the education of low-income students, the bill would change the formula to give poorer districts even more funding for their low-income students.

The bill would also fully fund charter school mitigation for public school districts, the senator said.

“We will keep that promise,” said Comerford.

Additionally, she said that the bill would direct state agencies to study the effects of Proposition 2½ on education, something that was inserted into the legislation thanks to a successful amendment from Comerford.

In order to become law, the bill will also have to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the governor. Comerford said she thinks the bill has a good chance of passing the House, as identical bills were introduced in both chambers and the Senate didn’t make substantive changes to the bill.

She also said that she believes the governor will sign it.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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