High Standards and Accountability - Better Schools Make a Brighter Future
The enactment of the landmark Education Reform Act in June 1993 has led to the largest sustained investment in the Commonwealth's public educational system in history. Since 1993, the Administration has invested more than $1.8 billion in new funding for Education Reform. Direct funding to cities and towns for education aid has increased by more than 117%. This investment has resulted in reduced class sizes, modernized classrooms, increased and improved professional development, and higher expectations for all of the Commonwealth's students.
In Fiscal Year 2000 we reached the seven-year Education Reform goal of bringing every community to a foundation level of education spending. In Fiscal Year 2001, the Cellucci-Swift Administration will continue its investment of the past seven years and will seek to further enhance the quality of education in the Commonwealth. This is, in fact, the most critical phase of education reform - the era of high standards and accountability. This next phase will determine the Commonwealth's ability to prepare our young people for the economy of the 21st century, and, in turn, develop the skilled workforce needed to continue our economic boom.
The Administration is proposing a number of new legislative initiatives aimed at improving accountability and enhancing the quality of the state's education system.
In order to heighten the level of competition in the education marketplace and provide parents with more choice, the Administration is seeking to increase the cap on the number of charter schools in the Commonwealth from 50 to 120.
The Cellucci-Swift Administration is committed to ensuring quality education for all the Commonwealth's children. For this reason, the Administration is proposing that students enrolled in schools declared to be under-performing are able to seek "sanctuary" in a more successful school, regardless of whether their school system participates in the school choice program.
The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) examination is the state's litmus test for gauging students' abilities. Starting in 2002, all students will have to pass the examination in order to graduate from high school. The Administration is committed to having the most qualified and knowledgeable teachers in schools to afford students the best possible chance for success. Therefore, the Administration will require that all secondary math teachers have a math degree by 2005.
To further improve and enhance the system of education accountability in the Commonwealth, the Administration is proposing increased authority at the local level to allow for more rapid
decision making on important education issues. The Fiscal Year 2001 budget includes recommendations to:
In Fiscal Year 2001, the Cellucci-Swift Administration will continue its strong commitment to education in the Commonwealth by ensuring that every school system remains at or above the recommended level of spending. The Fiscal Year 2001 budget recommendation includes a $132 million increase in direct education aid to cities and towns, reflecting the Cellucci-Swift Administration's commitment to maintaining the investments made in education reform.
Included in the $132 million increase is $5.5 million to address the disparate wage differences that occur in the various labor market areas within the state. This represents a pledge to raise wage adjustment factors in the foundation budget to equalize the salary levels upon which the formula is based.
The Fiscal Year 2001 budget recommendation also includes funding for the following new initiatives to improve educational quality in the Commonwealth:
The budget recommendation also includes expansion for several existing programs:
The Administration is also proposing three new grant programs dedicated to performance and improvement. The performance grant pilot project will award grants to schools agreeing to become "performance schools" with no job guarantees or annual raises for teachers unless they are tied to student performance. The improvement grant program is designed so that the Board of Education may award grants to school districts displaying improvement on the MCAS examination. Finally, grants will be provided to establish Commonwealth Academies, after-school programs focused on preparing students for the MCAS examination.
Department of Education Restructuring
The Administration is proposing several reorganizations affecting the Department of Education. The first entails establishing the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. This independent office will be charged with conducting district and school performance evaluations, as well as collecting, managing and reporting data on the MCAS examination.
The Fiscal Year 2001 budget recommendation also includes comprehensive legislation intended to overhaul and enhance the quality and effectiveness of the School Building Assistance program. In addition, this fiscal blueprint establishes the School Facilities Commission, the new agency responsible for administering the School Building Assistance program, within the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Finally, the Administration is recommending consolidating all early childhood development and related family support services into the newly created Department of Children, Families, and Learning. This centralized department will create a more comprehensive and integrated system of services and support for young children and their families.
The Administration is also recommending a number of accountability initiatives which do not require legislative action, including:
The Cellucci-Swift Administration will continue its efforts to attract the best and the brightest teachers to the state through our aggressive teacher recruitment programs, and the Administration will seek to target those efforts to individuals specializing in math and science. The regulations associated with three existing recruitment programs-Attracting Excellence to Teaching, the state's loan forgiveness program for teachers; Teacher Quality Endowment, the program that provides a $20,000 signing bonus to teachers graduating in the top 15% of their class; and the Tomorrow's Teachers Program, which provides full scholarships to high school students graduating in the top 25% of their class who agree to teach for four years after graduating from college- will be enhanced to target and attract teachers specializing in math and science.
Education is one of the most important investments the Commonwealth can make. The initiatives outlined above will improve accountability and enhance the quality of the state's education system. The prosperity of the Commonwealth, its students, and its communities all depend on the success of these efforts.