Student Opportunity Act will invest $1.5 billion in public education

BOSTON – Last week, State Representative David Biele and his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed historic legislation that invests $1.5 billion into the Commonwealth’s public education system. 

Known as The Student Opportunity Act, the legislation invests funding and resources in public school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students, like the Boston Public School system, in order to address disparities in student achievement. 

The bill modernizes the K-12 public education funding and fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, providing an estimated $1.4 billion in new Chapter 70 aid.  Under the legislation, the City of Boston is projected to receive an additional $115 million for public education under Chapter 70 over the next several years.

 “We have a responsibility to invest in our youth, their education, and their future,” said Rep. Biele.  “This landmark legislation will help ensure that Boston Public Schools, and public schools across the state, have the necessary resources to provide high-quality education to students regardless of income level or zip code, giving our students the tools they need to succeed and thrive.”

The legislation addresses the needs of districts educating high concentrations of low-income students, like Boston Public Schools,by:

  • Providing additional funding based on the share of low-income students in each district;
  • Returning the definition of low-income to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, as opposed to the 133% level that has been used in recent years; and
  • Increasing special education enrollment and cost assumptions to more accurately reflect district enrollment and costs

The bill provides additional state financial support to help public schools and communities deliver a high-quality education to students by:

  • Fully funding charter tuition reimbursements, which provide transitional aid to help districts when students leave to attend charter schools, within a three-year timetable;
    • Expanding the special education circuit breaker, which reimburses districts for extraordinary special education costs, to include transportation costs in addition to instructional costs, phased in over four years; and
    • Lifting the annual cap on Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) spending for school building construction/renovation by $150 million (from $600 million to $800 million), enabling the MSBA to accept more projects across the state into its funding pipeline. 

The legislation also requires school districts to develop and make publicly available plans for closing gaps in student performance. These plans will include specific goals and metrics to track success.

The bill now heads to conference committee.