State unanimously passes landmark education funding bill

BOSTON — State lawmakers have unanimously passed a monumental education funding bill that one advocate has called a "generation changer."

On Wednesday, both the Senate and House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass the Student Opportunity Act. The bill is expected to bridge a gap that we've seen between the performance of schools in lower-income communities compared to higher-income areas.

The majority of the $1.5 billion set aside in the bill will go to lower-performing and underfunded school districts, which means adding more teachers, bringing back art and music classes, and increasing funds for students from low-income households.

The Student Opportunity Act:

  • Brings the definition of "low income" from 133% to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Increases funding for English learners
  • Ups district reimbursement for Special Education programs
  • Updates district' healthcare costs
  • Requires districts to make public plans to invest in programming and close opportunity gaps
  • Develops a Data Advisory Commission to keep estimated costs and strategies up to date

In recent years, school districts in areas like Brockton and Revere have been forced to make millions of dollars worth of budgeting cuts. Those cuts came mostly in the form of teachers' jobs.

The President of the Massachusetts Teacher Association told Boston 25 News reporter Natalie Rubino, "It's a great day to be an educator in the Commonwealth."

"It is a milestone day for the students of Massachusetts particularly our communities of color and our students who come from low-income families because they will be getting 1.5 billion dollars in public education funding over the next 7 years," said Merrie Najimoi.

This bill is the first education funding bill passed in the Commonwealth since 1993. It will go into effect in the 2020 school year and the funding will be distributed over the next seven years.

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