House passes historic education funding bill

House passes historic education funding bill

merrie addressing activists
MTA President Merrie Najimy spoke to a group of activists at the State House before representatives took up the Student Opportunity Act, legislation that will bring $1.5 billion in additional funds to public schools.

MTA President Merrie Najimy released the following statement after the House passed the Student Opportunity Act:

Today’s passage of the Student Opportunity Act by the House is a huge victory for our students.

After a yearlong grassroots advocacy campaign by the MTA and our allies in the Fund Our Future coalition, the House has followed the Senate’s lead by overwhelmingly endorsing the Student Opportunity Act. When fully phased in, this once-in-a-generation change will bring $1.5 billion more each year to our public schools, with most of the money going to districts serving low-income students who have been historically left behind by our outdated and inequitable school funding system.

The new funding will mean smaller class sizes, more enrichment programs and electives, an increase in guidance services, more classroom aides, improved programs for English learners and special education students and greater ability for districts to foster caring, effective, innovative schools.

mta members
Educators were on hand to greet legislators as they arrived at the House chamber. From left are MTA members Kathy Cleary of the Bourne Educators Association; Laurianne Gilbert, president of Bourne Educators; Mary Cowhey, a retired Northampton educator; and Shannon Taylor, president of the Norton Teachers Association.

There is still work to be done to improve the bill. The Senate language on accountability promotes greater input from parents and educators — the real experts on what students need. We supported an amendment in the House based on the Senate version. When the bill goes to a conference committee, we will keep the pressure on in support of the Senate’s language.

The bottom line is that this is a day to celebrate. Unionized educators, parents, students and local officials all came together to craft a vision for public education and then relentlessly fought for it — by writing, calling, marching, letting the public and the Legislature know that a quarter-century after the creation of our modern education funding system, public education funding had fallen shamefully behind, disproportionately impacting communities of color.

They made a powerful case and won the day. Our major challenge now is to get a strong and effective bill passed by both branches and signed by the governor — or approved over his veto if that’s necessary. Our students can’t wait.

mta supporters
Public education activists from across the Commonwealth gathered at the State House before the historic House vote.