Supporting and Protecting Public Education

Rep. Stanley strives to support and protect public education through legislation and budget initiatives to reduce costs and increase revenue for the state’s public schools.  As state representative, Rep. Stanley had made protecting public education a priority and has fought to ensure Waltham and Lincoln receive a fair share of local aid through the annual state budget. He also closely reviews state mandates on both school districts for fairness.

Here’s how Rep. Stanley supports and protects public education:

·         By supporting the creation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission in the FY15 state budget.  The Commission studied the ways in which MA funds public education and determined in its final report that the state was underfunding its obligation to cities and towns.

·         By cosponsoring House Bill 4531 (An Act Strengthening Public Education in the Commonwealth) which implements the findings of the Foundation Budget Review Commission and favorably adjusts the formula by which Chapter 70 aid to school districts and foundation budgets are calculated.

·         By cosigning and supporting a bipartisan letter to state budget leaders calling for an increase in minimum aid from the current level of $20 per pupil up to $50 per pupil for the upcoming fiscal year.  Statewide, the request would add about $20 million to the Chapter 70 line item.

·         By cosponsoring House Bill 472 (An Act expanding the special education reimbursement program) which will allow transportation costs to be factored into the Special Education Circuit Breaker, giving communities an increase in Circuit Breaker aid.

·         By cosponsoring the following bills seeking to unburden school districts from excessive, unfunded mandates:

o   House Bill 456 (An Act establishing an educational mandate task force) establishes an 11 member education mandate task force to review existing state mandates placed on public schools and districts.  The task force is charged with developing recommendations to streamline, consolidate or eliminate outdated or duplicative mandates.

o   House Bill 376 (An Act concerning unfunded education mandates) which creates a task force similar to H.456, but also establishes a moratorium on all new mandated education programs until the Task Force completes its recommendations.

o   House Bill 3391/Senate Bill 322 (An Act related to unfunded mandates on public schools) would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to conduct an analysis of all new state laws, regulations, or administrative directives to assess their impact on school districts.

·         By sponsoring House Bill 493 (An Act relative to charter schools) which would require local approval for proposed charter schools.

·         By testifying against House Bill 3928 (An Act to allow fair access to public charter schools) at a public education hearing on March 7, 2016.  This initiative petition would allow the authorization of up to 12 new charter schools every year. Charter schools divert funding from public schools. Raising the cap will drain limited resources public schools desperately need.

·         By leading the effort to create a new line item in the state budget to reimburse municipalities for homeless student transportation costs related to the federal McKinney-Vento Act.  Although this funding has only been partially funded due to budget cuts, Rep. Stanley continues to push for full funding and made DESE’s FY17 McKinney-Vento estimate of $24,312,389 one of his FY17 budget priorities.

·         By prioritizing increased state aid to school districts serving non-Gateway Communities with high populations of English Language Learners in the FY17 budget. The Waltham Public School system has experienced a dramatic increase in the enrollment of ELL students over the past several years (60% since 2011-12).  Waltham High School, in particular, has seen a nearly 100% increase in ELL students since 2011.  Many of these students arrive at school with little to no formal education for WHS to build upon.  WHS has very little time to close the learning gap, requiring costly staff-intensive interventions with support staff to meet this challenge.  Overall, this remarkable influx of ELL students has put a severe strain on the school system’s resources.

Waltham is qualified for and receives limited funds from the Federal Title III program but the funds do not cover the cost of educating ELL students.  Waltham’s income and college achievement levels are slightly above the state requirements for Gateway Communities which are eligible for certain economic development and educational state programs.  Despite Waltham educating some of the highest populations of ELL students (percentage-wise) in MA, the City is unable to apply for these state programs and grants.

o   Rep. Stanley filed House Bill 3220 (An Act relative to gateway communities)  which allows any municipality which has experienced a sudden increased in ELL enrollment to be eligible for any education programs and funding reserved for Gateway Communities.

o   Rep. Stanley urged the House Ways and Means Committee to include the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations regarding ELL students into the FY17 budget.

o   Rep. Stanley requested an outside section in the FY17 budget include increased enrollment of ELL students as a viable option for submitting a Statement-of-Interest (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Funding is not only needed for operational expenses to educate ELL students but for capital expenditures as well.  Many school districts in the Metro-West area are facing unique and significant population increases and don’t have the proper facilities to provide the highest-possible education to these students.