STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - LUNCH EDITION - MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

REPORT: MASS. EDUCATION PROGRESS STALLING OUT, OVERHAUL NEEDED

A business group announced plans Monday to bring together stakeholders with the goal of making Massachusetts schools the best in the world over the next two decades, kicking off its campaign by releasing a report that concluded growth in student achievement in the state has slowed or stalled out. The report commissioned by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education concluded that other countries are outpacing Massachusetts in the important work of educating the next generation of highly skilled workers. According to the alliance, Massachusetts school districts and instruction need to be "transformed" if the state wishes to hang on to its reputation as a "hub of innovation." The report, prepared by international education experts led by Sir Michael Barber, calls for a new approach to education that "moves away from state mandates and compliance to one that drives authority and accountability down to the schools and creates the conditions in which schools continuously advance their own performance." In a statement, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education Chairman Henry Dinger said, "We have grown complacent about public education and have failed to recognize the risk that without significant changes our schools will increasingly fall behind those of our global competitors.


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" The report also calls for a district redesign competition, new models of schooling where students "can learn anytime, anywhere," and a statewide network providing opportunities for "gifted and talented" students to excel in a range of fields. The report also recommends a higher standard for teacher licensure and re-evaluation, incentivizing the application of innovative technologies, and investments in universal pre-kindergarten and extended school days and years. - M. Norton/SHNS

LAWMAKERS TIE $$$ PLAN TO CHARTER CAP PROPOSAL

With the clock ticking to reach a compromise on legislation to lift the cap the charter cap in underperforming school districts, the Senate co-chairwoman of the Education Committee and the lead sponsor of cap-raising legislation on Monday outlined the contours a deal they reached over the weekend that still has several major hurdles to clear. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Rep. Russell Holmes, both of Boston, presented a compromise offer that would gradually raise the cap on charter school enrollment provided that the state fully funds its reimbursement program for school districts. "I'm still hopeful, down to the last minute, that we'll be able to reach a compromise," Chang-Diaz said during a press conference in the State House. The Education Committee is expected to meet Tuesday to consider charter school legislation, and the House chair of the Education Committee - Rep. Alice Peisch - has gone on record in opposition to the proposal. Holmes said he has not been able to reach many of his colleagues on the committee to gauge their level of support. He said the proposal was about making sure families in his district have a choice about where their children are educated without pitting charter schools against traditional public schools. "Let's all get in the same boat and start rowing together," Holmes said. The charter reimbursement program was underfunded in the current fiscal 2014 budget by $28 million and House and Senate leaders are still drafting the fiscal 2015 budget. - M. Murphy/SHNS

WALSH TO DISCUSS GUN TRAFFICKING, BUY-BACK PROGRAM

With bills to address gun violence bottled up in committee on Beacon Hill, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh plans to talk about his plans to address gun violence in the city on Monday. Walsh will announce a citywide gun buy-back program, a regional summit on gun trafficking, and a renewed focus on a program that helps young people get summer jobs. Walsh plans a press conference at 1 p.m. with Police Commissioner William Evans, pastor Liz Walker and community representatives at Dr. Loesch Family Park on Wainwright Street and Brent Street in Dorchester. Beacon Hill lawmakers have been mulling over ways to reduce gun violence since the legislative session began 15 months ago. Bills addressing gun violence remain before the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. - M. Norton/SHNS

SENATE CANCELS FORMAL SESSION PLANS

The Senate does not plan to hold a formal session this week. Senate President Therese Murray outlined a scheduled last week calling for a formal session on Thursday, but those plans were wiped out on Monday when the Senate met for 15 minutes and agreed to meet next on Thursday during an informal session, usually a lightly attended affair where non-controversial bills are taken up. - M. Norton/SHNS