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Wednesday, April 24, 2023

 

“Good afternoon to all my colleagues, what tremendous energy in this chamber. I wish to deliver your remarks on the consolidated A, the education budget through the leadership of the speaker and the dedication and commitment of the chair of Ways and Means, and the considerable advocacy and dedication of the Education Committee members and our colleagues. This budget demonstrates the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ continued commitment to students’ families and educators in the state and reaffirms Massachusetts leadership on education in our nation in K through 12 and early education.

As members of the House of Representatives, we are deeply connected to the values of our constituents in our districts. In Massachusetts, one of those greatest values is education. Collectively as representatives, we represent over 1.3 million children under the age of 18, 343,000 of them are under the age of 5, and nearly 915,000 are enrolled in public schools. 29,000 of those students are homeless, and there are more than 75,000 educators in the system.

As I begin this presentation, I want to express my respect for the educators, for the staff, for the school nurses. The social and economic prosperity of our state is conditional on our foundational work with our children. The “what” of the budget is the funding level we attached to it today. I want to discuss with you the “why.” Early education is a major focus for us after the pandemic of our economic recovery. The lesson we have learned is to inject direct state dollars into our most vulnerable children. Centerpiece investment in childcare, financial assessment, and rate increases for our neediest children are committed to a permanent sustainable operational grant program is an investment in the educators through scholarships.

Since last fall, the Education Committee has led a tour. Committee members have led us on tours of the ECE providers in the district. I would like at this time to express my gratitude, appreciation, and respect for the committee members. In these visits, we saw how state subsidies and C3 grants have allowed a lot of programs to keep their doors open, invest in capital improvements, and retain staff. Across these many site visits, we saw the clear commitment from educators and the joy of children as they began that journey and first steps in lifelong learning. The House budget includes more than $750 million for childcare financial assistance, and $45 million to sustain the fiscal year 24 rate increases, an additional $20 million in rate increases. You have likely heard a great deal about the C3 operational grants. This program was funded by the federal government in the pandemic and yet the last budget cycle, Massachusetts was the only state in the nation to continue funding the program through state dollars and we are now still one of the only a handful of states continuing to fund this program. Now that we are committed to state dollars, we have the opportunity to design the program. And our proposal strengthens the relationship between providers and includes state data collection and accountability.

The budget also includes an increase for Head Start, and $8 million for grants to ECE providers for costs associated with their own personal childcare on the issue of K-12 education, where many of the representatives have spoken to me and members of the Education Committee about the concerns of their districts.

I want to talk to you about the “why” of this, right? But when we talk about public education, it’s easy to get lost in billions of dollars. Children learn foundational math, English, and science skills — they do not see our commitment to public education as dollars. They see our commitment in their desks, pencils, textbooks, their teachers who show up year after year, and the many services that help students to stay in school and become happy, healthy learners. This budget will help students living with varying abilities who need special education students who may reside in low-income communities. And students for whom language barriers exacerbate the learning needs of the pandemic We are now we are committed to our students by fully funding year for the Student Opportunity Act, funding universal school meals, funding the special education circuit breaker, investing in early literacy and beyond that, most meaningful in your districts I am sure, we have increased the minimum per pupil age from $30 per pupil to a record high level $100 per pupil, a 247 percent increase. This ensures that every school district in your district will see an increase in your Chapter 70 funding. Importantly, the House budget accounts for the undercounting of low-income students in a small number of districts, and many thanks to the representative from Pittsfield, for her work on this.

We recognize the necessity and urgency of strengthening the workforce pipeline of educators. And to that end, the house has included $10 million dollars for scholarship and loan payment assistance programs that public graduates and public institutions of higher education institutions who commit to working as public school educators. A learning experience for me in this past session is that there are many good programs out there that are available in many ways but very poorly understood, and doing our homework on this can make a major difference.

We also recognize that students face mental health challenges exacerbated and illuminated by the pandemic. This budget supports student mental health by doubling the funding for student wellness school supports, and for many of you, there are earmarks that you requested related to your own school districts.

And then the public libraries, the Education Committee oversees the budget for the public libraries and the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Culture oversees the policy. So on a budget issue, we know that so much learning occurs in the classroom, and our public libraries engage learners of all ages. Free and public libraries of the console of democracy. The education budget appropriately funded school libraries, with $17.6 million for state-aid public libraries and $16.7 million for regional libraries.

The House budget is a firm commitment to public education for every school district across Massachusetts. I am available, like all the members of the education committee, to provide you with more details or in any way to help you as you’re making your presentations in your school districts about this incredibly strong budget in the education of which you can be very proud. Please join me in support of the consolidated amendment.”

 

 

To read a summary of the House Budget Debate from Wednesday, April 24, click here.

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