My commitment to public education is personal. I believe in the promise of excellent public education.
My father was a public school teacher. My mom and sister were public school librarians. My aunt was a public school social worker. My wife, Ann, is a public school social studies teacher and served on the Northampton School Committee. Our two children attend Northampton public schools.
I use the phrase “I have skin in the game” when I talk about my commitment. It’s far from ideological. It’s personal.
Please take a moment to look at the education bills I have filed this session.
You can also view all bills I’ve co-sponsored this session here.
Reduce Youth Suicide
SD.298, An Act supporting student mental health
The state’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15 percent of students across grades 6 through 12 seriously considered suicide during the previous year, with 12 percent making a plan and 7 percent attempting suicide. My bill directs that newly printed ID cards for public schools in grades 7-12 and higher education include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, the Crisis Text Line number, and the local campus security or non-emergency number.
Demonstrate Achievement without MCAS
SD.409, An Act expanding opportunities to demonstrate academic achievement
The high-stakes MCAS test required for graduation in Massachusetts offers little benefit for students but instead lays bare and perpetuates the inequities in our education system. Teaching to the test narrows the curriculum and hinders students from developing advanced thinking and problem-solving skills. COVID has further disrupted learning, making the test a wholly inappropriate requirement for graduation. My bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to permit students to demonstrate competency required to graduate high school without passing a standardized test like MCAS, and sets up demonstration programs to explore new ways to assess school performance.
Reinvest in Higher Education (CHERISH)
SD.410, An Act committing to higher education the resources to insure a strong and healthy public higher education system
The Commonwealth has not been making major investments in higher education to lower the cost of college. Funding for higher education has not even kept up with inflation. Our public university and college institutions have had to subsist on fewer resources year after year, enduring a 31% state cut in per pupil funding since FY2001. My bill (known as the CHERISH Act) would increase state funding for higher education to the inflation-adjusted per pupil level it was in 2001 in order to address skyrocketing tuition, the student debt crisis, and more.
Abolish Racist School Mascots
SD.417, An Act prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the Commonwealth
It is long past time for Massachusetts to grapple with our history and correct injustices that have been done and continue to be perpetrated on Native Americans. School mascots that demean Native Americans are one such continued affront. My bill would stop the practice of allowing school team names, logos, and mascots that refer to Native Americans, including aspects of Native American cultures, and specific Native American tribes.
Fund Special Education
SD.419, An Act establishing a Special Education Funding Reform Commission
The state’s formula for providing funding to school districts for special education costs relies upon an assumption that often does not come close to meeting the actual costs. Our children with disabilities suffer from inadequate resources due to this funding formula that shortchanges our school districts. My bill sets up a Commission to review the Commonwealth’s system for funding special education and make recommendations for a more equitable system that will provide adequate funding to local school districts to meet the costs of providing high quality education to students with disabilities.
Equity in School Building Assistance
SD.420, An Act promoting equity in school building assistance and ensuring best practice incentives are available for all school building projects
An arbitrary cap built into the formula for state school building assistance hurts our local school districts, and there is no requirement that equity be taken into account in distributing funding. As a result, many low-income and rural areas of the state cannot take advantage of additional assistance provided for school building projects that adhere to best practices. My bill will require the school building assistance formula to consider equity and ensure that all local projects can take advantage of best practice school building incentives.
Expand Access to Affordable Higher Education
SD.421, An Act improving access to affordable higher education
Massachusetts has over 30 separate higher education financial aid programs. These overlapping programs are confusing to students and complicated to administer. Students may decide it is too confusing or too challenging to navigate both the financial aid process and the application process, presenting a barrier to accessing higher education. My bill directs the Department of Higher Education to propose improvements to our fragmented and overlapping higher education assistance programs and to streamline the college application process, including automatic admission to community college for high school graduates.
Higher Education for Adopted Foster Children
SD.422, An Act expanding access to higher education tuition and fee waivers for adopted foster children
A loophole in our financial aid system for adopted foster children blocks these children from using financial aid for courses taught at night or by outside experts with knowledge in their field. My bill allows adopted foster students to use financial aid to pay tuition and fees for any course offered by a state institution of higher education.
Make all Schools Healthy and Green
SD.579, An Act for Healthy and Green Public Schools
Long before COVID, we knew that too many students were forced to spend their days in substandard school buildings that were unhealthy places to learn. The pandemic has made this problem a visible crisis. My bill directs the state to set standards for healthy and green schools that provide students a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while efficiently using energy and resources, and a plan to equitably meet these standards for all schools by 2050.
Recognize Dinosaur History
SD.698, An Act establishing the official dinosaur of the Commonwealth
My bill declares the Podokesaurus holyokensis, a dinosaur whose fossils were first found in western Massachusetts, as the official dinosaur of Massachusetts. Its fossils were discovered near Mount Holyoke in 1910 by Mignon Talbot, the first woman to name and describe a dinosaur. Understanding how a bill goes through the legislative process is important but can be complex, this bill will allow our young people to connect with the legislative process in an unforgettable way.
The response to the COVID pandemic has disrupted education at all levels. Teachers and families have struggled with technology and students have missed weeks and weeks of instruction. These disruptions have hit particularly hard in vulnerable communities, which face inequitable challenges with standardized testing even in normal years. The state expects to waive the MCAS graduation requirements this year, as it did last year, and my bill would direct the state to seek a federal waiver to allow the MCAS test to not be administered at all for this school year.