Abolish Racist School Mascots
An Act prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by public schools in the Commonwealth
Indigenous leaders in the Commonwealth and the Indigenous Legislative Agenda are calling for an end to public school mascots that make caricatures of Native American words, symbols, and culture. My bill ends the practice of allowing schools to have team names, logos, or mascots that refer to Indigenous people or use inappropriate symbols. It also bans mascots that denigrate any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group.
Assist Local Communities with Foster Student Transportation Costs
An Act fairly reimbursing local school transportation of foster children
When a foster child gets placed with a family outside their original city or town, it is often best for the child to remain at their original school. The district where the child attends school is required to pay for the child’s transportation. There are limited federal funds available to cover the cost, and under federal law the state is supposed to make up the rest. However, the state does not make these payments, leaving local school districts with an unreimbursed cost of around $4 million. My bill directs the state to reimburse schools for any foster student transportation costs not covered by federal funds.
The high-stakes MCAS test required for graduation in Massachusetts offers little benefit for students, instead laying bare and perpetuating inequities in our education system. Teaching to the test narrows curriculum and hinders students from developing advanced thinking and problem-solving skills. My bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to permit students to demonstrate the competency required to graduate high school without passing a standardized test like the MCAS. The bill also sets up a process to identify and work with schools needing comprehensive support and improvement and allows schools to work with their local community to develop an improvement plan.
» Thrive Act (SD.2902) Fact Sheet from the Massachusetts Teachers Association
Expand Access to Affordable Higher Education
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 families and complicated and expensive to administer. Students may decide that it is too confusing or too challenging to navigate both the financial aid process and the application process, presenting a significant barrier to accessing higher education. My bill directs the Department of Higher Education to improve our fragmented and overlapping higher education financial assistance programs.
Fund Special Education Fairly
An Act establishing a special education funding reform commission
The state’s formula for funding school districts assumes that every school district has the same percentage of students who access special education services, rather than accounting for the actual number of students in each district who access special education services. This means that students with disabilities can suffer from inadequate resources due to a funding formula that shortchanges many 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.
Help Students Access Affordable Community Colleges
An Act improving access to affordable community college
Too many high school students are unaware of available financial aid and affordable higher education options. Additionally, a loophole in our financial aid system blocks students with tuition and fee waivers from using financial aid for courses taught at night or by outside experts. My bill directs the Department of Higher Education to develop and distribute materials, including an informational pamphlet and website, to high school juniors and seniors about affordable and accessible higher education and financial aid opportunities, particularly opportunities at public community colleges. The bill also ensures that all students are offered the opportunity to complete the free FAFSA form that is the basis for seeking college aid. The bill additionally allows students to use financial aid tuition and fee waivers for any course offered at a community college.
The Massachusetts constitution requires that we “cherish” public education, yet per-pupil state funding for public higher education has declined by over 30 percent since 2001. With incoming revenue from the Fair Share Amendment dedicated to reinvestment in higher education, my bill seizes the moment by providing students with an affordable, high quality education. The bill provides a framework for debt-free college education for all by increasing student assistance to cover living expenses as well as tuition and fees. The bill also invests in a long-term sustainable infrastructure for higher education by providing funding for capital and debt costs for public institutions.
» Cherish Act (S.816) Fact Sheet from the Massachusetts Teachers Association
Rural School Aid
An Act to provide a sustainable future for rural schools
Rural schools face many structural challenges, including declining enrollments as the population ages, reductions in local tax bases, increased transportation and special education costs, and a state funding formula that favors schools outside rural regions. My bill (An Act to provide a sustainable future for rural schools) addresses these and other issues by providing focused assistance to rural school districts. The bill provides funding for creating regional schools, for school building construction and renovation, and for exceptional transportation and special education costs. The bill also supports shared services among regional schools and looks for ways to reduce their health care costs.
Support Farm to School Programs
An Act establishing farm to school grants to promote healthy eating and strengthen the agricultural economy
Providing fresh, locally grown agricultural products to schools strengthens local farms and fisheries while promoting healthy communities by increasing the availability of nutritious food. The successful “Farm to School” grant program provides all students with access to nutritious, high-quality, locally grown food so they are ready to learn and grow. The program also provides an important financial boost to the Commonwealth’s food system, creating new jobs and strengthening the local economy. My bill permanently establishes a robust Farm to School Grant Program by codifying the program into state law.
» Farm to School Programs (S.243) Fact Sheet from Massachusetts Farm to School
Support Higher Education for Women of Low Income
An Act to expand access to the Higher Education Endowment Matching Program
The Care Center in Holyoke provides completely free two-year college education for young mothers and low-income women. The program successfully removes barriers that young women face in traditional college settings, enabling them to use their education to make extraordinary contributions to their families, their communities, and the Commonwealth. Scholarships and grants cover tuition and books, as well as transportation, child care, and meals. However, this unique program is not eligible for the state’s endowment matching funds program available for public higher education institutions. My bill provides these matching funds to assist the Care Center in building up its college endowment and continuing to uplift young women.