Massachusetts committee reviewing education bills promoting school choice, transparency

(The Center Square) – Education-related bills pertaining to school choice, curriculum transparency and student representation are under review within a Massachusetts legislative committee.

The state’s Joint Committee on Education took written testimony through May 4 on the trio of bills in its most recent step in reviewing the legislation.

State Rep. William Galvin, D-Canton, presented to the committee with House Bill 4692, legislation that would allocate state funds for parents opting to enroll their children in nonpublic schools. Galvin introduced the bill on behalf of Paul McAuliffe, a petitioner in his district.

“In short, the objective here is to give families who can’t afford it, the opportunity to choose a school environment that best suits the needs of their child(ren),” McAuliffe wrote in testimony to the committee. “The aim is to create a ‘scholarship fund’ … where a family would be able to be reimbursed for eligible homeschooling expenses or tuition at a qualifying private/charter school.”

In his argument in support of school choice, McAuliffe pointed to the options parents have for prekindergarten, higher education and food subsidy programs.

“My question would be, if food, higher education and pre-k operate under the premise of parents choosing where to spend their earmarked funding because they know what’s best for their child(ren), why wouldn’t K-12 schooling operate the same way?” McAuliffe said.

A Real Clear Opinion research poll conducted a year ago indicated bipartisan support across the U.S. for school choice. McAuliffe, who presented the study in his testimony, also pointed to the racial and ethnic support toward the concept.

House Bill 4693 concerns school committee oversight and sharing information on curriculum with parents. Galvin also served as the presenter of the bill, and McAuliffe as the petitioner.

The legislation, in particular, focuses on sexually transmitted infections and would give parents and guardians the right to inspect instructional materials. It also would require school committees overseeing such curriculum to notify parents and guardians in advance of STI instruction and provides provisions for excusing students without cause.

McAuliffe’s testimony in support of HB 4693 focused on the generalities of providing transparency of the curriculum taught within classrooms.

“In recent years, it has become apparent that the curriculum taught in public schools has, in pockets of the country, deviated from the standard and traditional reading, writing and arithmetic that we all know and mostly trust our institutions to teach,” McAuliffe wrote.

He added, “Some academic professionals, all the way up to school committees themselves, have gone rogue by implementing materials and include in their instruction curricula with an emphasis on political, racial and gender ideologies.”

State Rep. Adam Scanlan, D-North Attleborough, presented the committee with House Bill 4691, which would give students the opportunity to serve as nonvoting members of a charter school’s board of trustees. Scanlan also serves as the bill’s petitioner.

Michael Canavan, a legislative representative with the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, provided the committee with testimony in support of HB 4691.

“Currently, there is no requirement for student representation at charter schools,” Canavan wrote. “In contrast, every high school in a city, town or regional school district is required to have five-member student advisory committees meet with the school committee once every other month.”

The Joint Committee on Education did not receive any written testimony against any of the three bills, according to documents Massachusetts legislative officials sent to The Center Square.