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Education Mandates Bill in Ways and Means Committee: H3722

H. 459 An Act Establishing an Education Mandate Task Force

  • H. 3722 combines four bills with similar intent, H. 459 by Chair Peisch, H. 375 by Representative James Dwyer, H. 512 by Representative Chris Walsh, and H. 528 by former Representative Marty Walz.
  • H. 3722 was favorably reported out of the Joint Committee on Education and is before the House Committee on Ways and Means.  MassPartners will continue to advocate for its enactment.

Educational Mandate Task Force: Act H.459

An Act establishing an educational mandate task force.

Be it enacted by the Senate

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and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

SECTION 1. There shall be an educational mandate task force to review existing state mandates placed on public schools and districts in the Commonwealth. The task force shall consist of 11 members: the

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house and senate chairs of the joint committee on education, or their designees, who shall serve as the co-chairs of the task force; a member of the general court appointed by the senate minority leader; a member of the general court appointed by the house minority leader; the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or a designee; and 6 persons to be appointed by the secretary of education, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association, and 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 persons nominated by the Massachusetts Administrators of Special Education.


The task force shall: (i) identify and review the state laws, regulations, and administrative directives that prescribe requirements for school districts, including those that require school districts to prepare and submit reports and data to the department of elementary and secondary education; (ii) identify the state laws that require the department of elementary and secondary education to submit reports to the legislature based on information

it must obtain from school districts; and (iii) develop recommendations to streamline, consolidate, or eliminate such mandates or reporting requirements that are outdated, or duplicative of or inconsistent with current laws, regulations or practices. In developing its recommendations, the task force shall consider the feasibility of creating a single master reporting form to prevent duplicate information from being reported by

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school districts more than once yearly. Such recommendations shall also include a process for ensuring that new state laws or regulations do not duplicate existing reporting requirements.


The first meeting of the task force shall take place within 60 days of the effective date of this act. The task force shall file a report containing its findings and recommendations, including legislative recommendations, if any, with the clerks of the house and senate not later than12 months following the first meeting of the task force. Prior to issuing its recommendations, the task force shall conduct at least one public hearing to receive testimony from members

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of the public.

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Education

Testimony of Mary Ann Stewart, Chair of the Board

Good morning; I am Mary Ann Stewart, Chair of the Board of MassPartners for Public Schools and legislative advocacy chair for the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association. I also serve on the school committee in Lexington.


Three of my MassPartners colleagues join me on this panel. This is the first time in many years that the members of MassPartners for Public Schools feel so strongly about a problem that we wanted to speak with you out of a concern that we all share.


MassPartners is a coalition of the major education organizations in the state. The Board of Directors meets regularly and its members are generally the chief executive of each organization. The organizations that are members are the

  • American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts,
  • Massachusetts Association of School Committees,
  • Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents,
  • Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association,
  • Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association,
  • Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association, and the
  • Massachusetts Teachers Association.


We are here today to support four bills that you are considering: H. 459 by Chair Peisch, H. 375 by Representative James

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Dwyer, H. 512 by Representative Chris Walsh, and H. 528 by former Representative Marty Walz.


We are concerned that there is inordinate growth in requirements that are placed on our schools at a time when schools are working on three major change initiatives that will reshape public education in major ways. These are RETELL, educator evaluation, and aligning to the new common core and PARCC test, which will replace MCAS.


Educators have been afraid to speak up about the problem of increasing regulatory demands for fear of being labeled as not willing to change or stuck in the old ways. Today, I suggest you will hear the concern spoken clearly and we thank you for the opportunity.


On behalf of all the members of MassPartners, please accept our thanks for considering our concerns. We believe that teachers, students, and taxpayers deserve a comprehensive analysis of the true costs of excess regulations and paperwork.


We are united in our support of these four bills. MassPartners members are listed as participants in the work that will be required in these bills and we welcome the chance to take a comprehensive look at the initiatives and their demands. Our goals are to develop a well-thought-out plan, a strategic timeline, and more useful reporting rules and procedures.


We think the partnership of practitioners, policy makers, and legislators that would be created by these bills is the kind of partnership that “has the power to make changes”.


MassPartners members who will join me in providing testimony are Glenn Koocher, Tom Scott, and Julia Johnson. Thank you.


Testimony of Glenn Koocher, Executive Director

Massachusetts Association of School Committees

I am here to support H. 459 and to voice support for the other bills designed to limit the volume of regulation imposed on local school districts by gathering data, identifying the costs of compliance, determining the time necessary to fulfill directives, and to address in general the regulatory culture that prioritizes obedience, compliance, and fulfillment of directives that come from someplace other than the community.


We speak directly to the amount of time and energy that educators and policy makers commit not only to follow the law which we respect, but to adhere to literally hundreds of pages of directives at a time when we are under pressure to make continuous improvement in the achievement of our tops-in-the-nation student population.


It’s one thing to drive people harder to help students achieve academically when we have the highest performing students in America – and when even our achievement gap shows the kids at risk outperform their out-of-state counterparts.


Or to continue to sell to the public how rigorous and disciplined our rules and regulations are and how zealously the state ensures that educators and administrators are in full compliance with the nation’s highest standards and voluminous compliance requirements.


Or to continue to operate a ranking system that stigmatizes schools and districts based on standardized testing that uses the highest proficiency standard in the United States to measure progress.


But it’s another matter altogether to realize that, to date, no one has really tallied the cost of compliance with regulations, obedience to voluminous directives, and adherence to highly prescriptive processes.


We found over 800 pages of regulations, guidelines, instructions, advisories, model procedures, and matrices have been issued for educator evaluation alone.


We have cooperated and collaborated but still, in the last two years we’ve had to deal with more than a half dozen significant regulatory requirements:

  • We’re well on our way to implementing the new state evaluation system as instructed.
  • We’re working through all that needs to be done to identify the district determined measures of student achievement to make the system work.
  • We’ve accepted the obligation and expense to implement the common core curriculum and to make it work.
  • We’re preparing for the infrastructure that will administer the PARCC examinations even though many districts still don’t have wireless Internet or the hardware to do it.
  • We’re having our teachers endure the 30+ hours of additional training to meet the demands of federal bureaucrats for educating English language learners.
  • We’ve implemented comprehensive legislation to address bullying.
  • A new state nutrition regulatory system is being put in place.
  • We’re preparing to implement new legislation to ensure that students who face suspension and expulsion will still be educated.
  • Many of us are trying out the Innovation School concept.
  • And our teachers are still diligently trying to educate the nation’s highest performing students in the classroom and close the gap between rich and poor which the bureaucracy doesn’t seem to understand takes the whole school day by itself.


And this is all in the last two years. That’s why all these organizations, and every state school boards association in America has joined in a call to state capitals and Washington where legislation has also been filed to:

  • Identify the cost and time required to obey all new regulations.
  • Limit the right of the Departments of Education to issue new regulations without the expressed consent of the legislatures.
  • Curb regulatory abuses where the appointed, but unelected, add to the volume of work educators and local policy makers must complete.


We urge you to join us in the national call to measure the cost of compliance with rulemaking and to bring a halt to any regulations that do not improve services to children in their classrooms.


Testimony of Tim Sullivan, Vice-President

Massachusetts Teachers Association

On behalf of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, I want to express our strong support for the intent of four bills before you today: to establish a task force, special commission or working group to address the growing concern by educators, administrators, educational leaders and local officials that the current state mandates imposed on our public schools and districts have become unworkable and perhaps even counter-productive.


One of the most serious problems that we have identified is that the rules and regulations developed to implement the required initiatives are often developed without sufficient input from those who are required to administer the initiatives. They are also often developed separately for each new initiative, as if one initiative has no relation to, or effect on, another. This development of rules and regulations within separate “silos” has resulted in an incomplete picture of the effect of various initiatives on our schools and more importantly, on student learning.


One of our particular concerns right now is the new educator evaluation system. It will undoubtedly foster new relationships and accountability in our schools and we, as the workforce in our schools, want to make sure we all get it right.


Within the framework of the proposed legislation, MassPartners suggests the following guidelines:


First, there needs to be an evaluation of every requirement to determine whether the costs in time and money are worth the value of the requirement toward improving student learning.


Second, there needs to be an examination of all rules, regulations and reporting requirements to consolidate and to eliminate duplicative or unnecessary requirements.


Finally, after the evaluation and examination, we need a comprehensive plan that coordinates and clarifies the timelines, costs, and benefits of all such rules, regulations and reporting requirements.


Thank you for your consideration of our concerns and we look forward to working with you on this important legislation.

Testimony of Thomas Scott, Executive Director

Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents

Thank you for the opportunity to speak in support of House Bills 375, 459, 512 and 528.


I am joined today by 85 superintendents from across the Commonwealth as an expression of support for these bills and our desire to reduce the impact of mandates on the daily functioning of our schools. These superintendents represent our colleagues around the Commonwealth and an expression of how important this issue is to us.


The good news is that they will not all be testifying. We will have two panels of superintendents representing multiple perspectives on the mandate, the impact these mandates have in our districts, and expression of support for the House Bills.


We want to be clear. Our desire is not to eliminate many of the important reform initiatives under way. Educator Evaluation, RETELL and Common Core alignment and PARCC are demanding and do require a reasonable timeline for implementation. We are looking for increased flexibility in getting this work done right. We are working with DESE on these concerns.


But taking on these major initiatives with all the other mandates pressing on us is very problematic. We are seeking long term relief from the magnitude of mandates and regulations. Are they all necessary, are there redundancies, what are the costs and how do we minimize their impact on time and other resources in our schools?


During the fall of 2012, the Taunton Public Schools estimated that the cost of state and federal rules, regulations, and reporting requirements would cost an additional $6.7 to their $78 million budget over the next few years.


This analysis is included in a packet of information we are providing the Joint Education Committee. Also included is a comprehensive list of mandates required of local school districts.


As a snapshot of the increasing number of regulations and documents requiring action by local districts we looked back in the DESE web site:

  • A content search for regulations on DESE web site shows there were 5,382 multiple page documents between 2009 – 2013 (average of 1077 each year) contrasted to 4,055 for the previous 13 years (or an average of 312 each year). In the last four years we have seen four times the rate of regulations since the inception of the 1992 Education Reform Law.


On one of our current major initiatives we have seen over 4,972 documents requiring action in the past 4 years.


We are interested in an overall review of the fiscal impact, uncovering duplicative efforts, naming unnecessary and outdated mandates, and streamlining requirements wherever possible.


In the 1993 Ed Reform Act, section 93 provided the powers of a Regulatory Relief Commission. “This Commission was created to review and evaluate all statutes and regulations to simplify compliance and reduce regulations.”


We do not know if anything resulted from this Commission. What we do know is that in 1993 the legislature recognized that regulatory relief was necessary. Based on our brief review of the past 20 years, the problem cited in 1993 has been amplified multiple times.


We respectfully request that you support these bills or resurrect Section 93 of the 1993 Education Reform Act. Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Public School Community Raises Red Flag on Regulatory Overload

At the June 27th hearing of the Joint Committee on Education, MassPartners for Public Schools will plead the case that teachers, students and taxpayers deserve a comprehensive analysis of the true costs of excess state regulations and paperwork.

According to Mary Ann Stewart, Chair of the MassPartners Board of Directors, the public school community wants to keep the focus on effective teaching – NOT on expensive or unnecessary regulations and paperwork. “We want the public to understand the true costs of current state regulatory practices and mandates, which are wasting taxpayer dollars and taking resources away from classrooms,” she said.

The public school community is calling for an analysis of all state initiatives and reporting requirements – and for necessary corrective action to improve learning and reduce costs. MassPartners supports Joint Committee Chair Alice Peisch, Representative James Dwyer, Representative Chris Walsh, and former Representative Martha Walz, who filed House Bills 459, 375, 512, and 528 respectively; each requires a review of state mandates followed by legislative recommendations for correcting duplicative, cost-inhibitive or unnecessary requirements.

In 2012, the Taunton Public Schools estimated that state initiatives cost that district $6.7 million out of a $78 million budget.  The statewide coalition of education organizations cites an example of the kinds of things that require review: between 2009 and today, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) posted 5,382 listings on its website on the topic of regulations or an average of 1,077 each year. In all of the thirteen years prior, there were 4,055 postings or an annual average of 312.  A content search under educator evaluation reveals 4,972 postings between 2009 and today or an average of 995 each year and 4,023 in the prior thirteen years or an annual average of 310.

To keep the focus on education – not regulations and paperwork – schools are asking for a review of all the rules, regulations and reporting requirements at play in PreK-12 education. The review would be rolled into legislative and policy changes and a strategic plan that defines timelines, projects costs, and coordinates all of the disparate initiatives.

MassPartners Board member Thomas Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents said, “The education community sees tremendous value in current education initiatives, and we want to do a good job on the work that’s been laid out. But excess mandates and reporting requirements without a game plan could derail these good programs.”


PITTSFIELD — Public school districts are feeling regulatory overload from the state, and on Thursday morning, a number of school principals, superintendents, representatives of teacher and other education groups spoke out on Beacon Hill and proposed a new solution.

View Article

MERA::Reality Check

The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 (MERA) launched an ambitious plan to provide an adequate education for our children. The law ushered in an era of standards-based assessments (MCAS), an increase in charter public schools, and a new school-funding formula (Chapter 70). While progress has been made, we are still struggling to fulfill the promise of MERA:

  • MCAS held that if school districts and educators were accountable for improving student outcomes, as measured against common criteria, then student academic outcomes would improve. The result has had the unintended consequence of a narrowed curriculum, too much time focused on standardized test preparation and testing, increased bureaucracy, large gaps in proficiency and rising dropout rates, and failure to measure achievement of individual learners. Going forward requires a rich and varied curriculum and nimble, flexible assessments for children.
  • Charter schools are independent public schools operating under five year charters.  The contract frees charter schools from many of the regulations with which district public schools must comply. Charter public schools were touted as “labs of innovation”; they were going to experiment with innovative practice then share what they learned with district public schools. This has not happened.
  • MassBudget’s in-depth report on Chapter 70 adequacy (Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program) shows that the education-funding formula (developed in 1991) understates rising costs of special education and health care by more than $2 billion a year. Too much funding today is being siphoned away from the people and things our students need: teachers and classroom materials. The genius of the original foundation budget was the commitment by so many to address education challenges facing Massachusetts.  Maintaining the genius of the financing plan requires that it be updated to reflect curriculum standards and new practices in teaching, learning, and leading schools.

MERA made bold promises to and for the students of Massachusetts. Yet other promises remain unfulfilled. For too many students, lack of academic achievement continues and drop-out rates remain high. Improving our schools continues to be a vitally important strategy for promoting economic opportunity and achieving educational excellence and equity, but schools cannot do this work alone.

Partnering with families and communities is integral to children’s success in school – and in life. We need to support children’s learning everywhere they learn: at home, in preschool programs, in school, in before- and after-school opportunities, in recreation programs, and in faith-based and community sponsored opportunities.                           

Advocacy on this issue can take many forms and decision-makers at every level need to hear from an engaged constituency. Massachusetts PTA seeks to be not only a voice, but also a resource for increased family and community understanding of the education reform landscape.

Mary Ann Stewart (@MAStewartMA) is a Lexington School Committee member, Chair of MassPartners for Public Schools, and the immediate past president and current Chair of State & Federal Advocacy for Massachusetts PTA.

A Cheer and a Half for Education Reform in Massachusetts

There are a few important things that people must recall about the Education Reform law and its federal compendium, “No Child Left Behind,” that came a decade later.  The 20th anniversary of education reform should consider the impact of one upon the other.  We certainly celebrate the continued best-in-the-nation performance of our students.   We welcome the infusion of funding that helped sustain the state law during unprecedented prosperity of the late 1990s. Finally, the quality of teaching has markedly improved as it became harder to obtain teaching credentials and even more difficult to remain a teacher under standards that represent the nation’s highest bar.   But these must be considered in context.

A literary reference notes that “Pleasant news will come and go; unpleasant news will refuse to leave.”  So we have to recognize the unpleasant fact that an achievement gap persists between the academic achievement of socially privileged students and the economically disadvantaged children and families.

Forgotten fact #1:  the Education Reform Act was passed a few days prior to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision that our school financing system was unconstitutional.  That was fortuitous timing, because public policy makers took advantage of the anticipated court decision to enact some major changes not only to funding, but also to the way education is delivered.

Forgotten fact #2:  the bill’s advocates never anticipated the federal No Child Left Behind Act a statute so poorly conceived and carelessly written that that few will speak up for it today.  NCLB came with a testing mandate and a system that required students and schools to make “adequate yearly progress” toward proficiency or be labeled as failures.  Many states gamed the system with very low proficiency scores (Mississippi’s proficiency score was less than half of ours), but in the hands of an anti-teacher, pro-privatization state board of education, Massachusetts chose a mathematically unreachable bar – an abuse of public policy that allowed state regulators to hide behind a federal statute and claim it was all in the name of student achievement.

Forgotten fact #3:  Both statutes empowered state and federal bureaucracies to create huge volumes of regulatory paperwork and a system of sanctions that resulted in the labeling of schools and students based on standards that varied widely from state to state.  Each state was allowed to set its own proficiency standard, and Massachusetts set the highest bar in the country.

The system that it created brought a strict, and now widely acknowledged unreasonable system for using state test data (MCAS) that was created for one purpose (to measure learning based on state standards) to be used for another purpose (to measure progress towards a target).  This allowed bureaucrats to brand schools that failed to meet goals that were mathematically unattainable.  At one point we had not only the highest performing students in the country, but also the highest percentage of schools labeled with some form of sanction. Some of our “underperforming” schools would be doing quite well in many other states.  Even our disadvantaged students outperform their counterparts in other states.  That’s not an acceptable excuse, but it does argue for giving credit where it is due – to the people who actually teach children in schools and the people who back them up locally, advocating and supporting them. They are the people who created the Massachusetts Education Phenomenon.

So, let’s be grateful for the new school financing system that, however complicated it is, helped communities at risk provide more support to their children.

We must also recognize that empowering school administrators to oversee the operations of schools helped ensure that standards of accountability could be pursued without unnecessary interference.  Underperforming educators have been coached out of the profession, and curriculum is more appropriately prescribed to help students succeed.  Coupled with higher standards for entering the teaching profession and the virtual elimination of political patronage, we have the most outstanding achievement of the Education Reform Act.

Let’s also recognize some of the disappointments.  Our students are being overtested at several levels adding a measure of stress and tension that young people don’t need.  Young children actually fear that their test scores could impact their teacher’s jobs.  Adults fear that test results will be used inappropriately.  Composite scores of schools and districts have been covered in newspapers like the stats on the sports page.  The merits of the standards and the value of testing continues to be a focus of controversy.

Introducing “choice” into the system gave us a charter school program that has mixed results – helpful to some, neutral for others, and detrimental for some.  Charters were allowed to resegregate students by race and socioeconomic class and exclude certain high risk students, counsel-out others, or simply expel underperforming students back to their home districts.  More work needs to be done here, including continuing to repair the confiscatory funding system that punishes sending districts when they lose children to charters.

In fact, if there are big winners – and there are very big winners – it’s the “education reform” industry that profiteered while cheerleading for stronger standards, more testing, required professional development programming, and privatization of schools and distracted attention from themselves by demonizing teachers unions who, unfortunately, made themselves easy targets.

Finally, there are some dreams of education reformers that never came true but are worth reviving: The quality of instruction continues to improve, but we have still not yet attracted some of the best potential teachers because our liberal arts and technical colleges and universities do not always include teacher preparation training in the undergraduate curricula.

And, probably the most significant shortcoming, we have failed to mobilize the network of agencies and professionals who can provide the health, social, economic, and environmental support to overcome the effects of poverty, probably our most longstanding adversary helping every child to become successful.

So, one and a half cheers for education reform.

Realizing the vision of Ed Reform

In 1993, a head-clearing decision by the state’s highest court set the stage for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act. In McDuffy v. Secretary of Education, the Supreme Judicial Court declared that Massachusetts had failed in its constitutional duty to provide an adequate public education for all children, rich and poor, in every city and town in the state. The court based its decision on the wide disparities in educational opportunities available in the state’s richest and poorest communities.

The McDuffy decision kick-started the 1993 education law that is credited with helping Massachusetts students attain the highest scores in the country in mathematics and reading. Our students also score among the best in the world on international math and science tests.

Education Reform resulted in several positive changes, including establishing curriculum frameworks and a foundation budget intended to ensure adequate and equitable funding. It also led to the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and a requirement that new teachers pass licensure exams to prove they have the knowledge and skills needed to teach in their disciplines.

Last year, Massachusetts appropriately earned a waiver from the Adequate Yearly Progress requirement of the No Child Left Behind law because it was already implementing accountability and support systems for districts and evaluation standards for educators. The Massachusetts Teachers Association played a key role in developing those standards to help ensure the highest-quality learning conditions for students, along with good working conditions for teachers and staff.

Yes, overall our students do well. But as we move forward in preparing students for life in the 21stcentury, our progress as a Commonwealth should increasingly be measured with an eye toward narrowing the large and stubborn achievement gap that persists among students, especially in the state’s Gateway Cities. In 2012, Massachusetts’ overall state graduation rate was 85 percent, but African-American and low-income students trailed by more than 10 percentage points – with rates of 73 percent and 72 percent respectively. The rate for Hispanic students was 66 percent.

In December, the VIVA MTA Teachers Idea Exchange published a study, “Addressing Education Inequities: Proposals for Narrowing the Achievement Gaps in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities,” that outlined policy recommendations proposed by classroom teachers. The report concluded that change is possible with collaboration, shared professional development and additional funding.

Governor Deval Patrick has been a champion on the funding front, especially in protecting resources for preK-12 public schools and in his proposals for significant additions to public higher education and early childhood education budgets. But some in our Legislature balk at raising the revenues needed to invest, even though positive future returns are certain.

At this writing, a conference committee of House and Senate members is working out a budget for fiscal 2014 to send to the governor. One proposal

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would set up a Foundation Budget Review Commission to analyze funding resources. The foundation budget, intended to enable students to meet state standards as embodied in curriculum frameworks, has not been updated in any meaningful way since it was developed more than 20 years ago. This commission needs to be approved.

Public colleges and universities need more funding to help prevent tuition and fee increases during a still-vulnerable time for the economy, and scholarship support should be raised to help our students pursue higher education without taking on decades of debt.

In 1993, Massachusetts education officials looked forward to a day when all students would be educated in schools that receive adequate funding. If we put our minds and our resources together and continue to wrestle with the tough issues we face today, we will realize the vision that was put in place when Education Reform was adopted.