Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives unanimously passed historic legislation to invest $1.5 billion in the Commonwealth’s public education system. Known as The Student Opportunity Act, the legislation invests funding to support the needs of English learners and school districts that serve high concentrations of low-income students in order to help address persistent disparities in student achievement.

In addition, school districts across the Commonwealth will benefit from updates to the existing funding formula, along with increased state investment in other vital education aid programs such as transportation, guidance and psychological services, school buildings and special education. 

This update that will ensure the children of Woburn and Reading, along with the rest of the Commonwealth, are given the much-needed resources for them to receive a top-tier education. Being a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Education along with campaigning strongly on updating the Education Funding Formula, Rep. Haggerty strongly believes this bill will deliver the necessary support that school districts and our municipalities rightly deserve. The Representative gave his passionate maiden speech in front of the House Chamber yesterday on the importance of passing this landmark piece of legislation, which can be read below:

 “Thank you Mr. Speaker, and to the Honorable Members of the House for allowing me to speak on the pressing issue of education funding reform in our Commonwealth. I rise today to strongly support H.4137 – The Student Opportunity Act.

Today I would like to thank The Speaker, Chairwoman Peisch, the Education Committee, and all those who have championed the cause of updating our education funding formula. I am proud to join you on this historic day and send the message to every corner of our state, that we recommit ourselves to making sure Massachusetts remains a national leader in educating our youth!

As I begin, I ask everyone to reflect on how your education brought you to where you are today.

The hard work of teachers, the coach who was a little tough on you, the mentor who spent a little extra time with you, and the school counselors who have all made significant impacts on our lives. You see, we are privileged to have received the opportunities that arose from our productive educational backgrounds. As a state our commitment to academic achievement is unmatched, and we are proud that our students are ranked among the highest in the nation for math and reading test scores year after year after year.

The Student Opportunity Act does just that. It tells parents, it tells teachers, and most importantly it tells a young generation of leaders that we see them – we hear them – and education-funding reform will not wait another year.

I’m a Woburn public school kid and proud of it. I have three Aunts who were public school teachers, and I’m proud of them. I’m also proud to live in a state that evaluates how well we are educating our kids and looks to find areas where we can do better. We recognize that achievement gaps exist, across a variety of demographics.

But today we have the opportunity to say once and for all, “We are going to better educate you. Whether you are an English language learner or on an IEP – we are going to support you. Whether you are black or white – we are going to empower you. Whether you are rich or poor we are going to help you reach your full potential.

Because that is what we do in Massachusetts. We invest in every young person regardless of gender, race, ability, creed, sexual orientation or anything else.

You see – today there is a second grade kid in my district of Woburn and Reading learning about odd and even numbers or is learning about using capital letters correctly. This young person has no idea what lies ahead for them, no idea what the world holds for them. They have no idea a bunch of legislators are sitting on Beacon Hill debating a piece of legislation that will impact them for the next 10 years of their lives, maybe the next 50 years of their lives. A piece of legislation that could help decide so many other important parts of this young person’s life – where or even if they go to college, what kind of job they have, how well they’re paid,  whether they can support their family, whether they feel intellectually and personally fulfilled. In some ways it sounds so grandiose and then I pause think about and realize – it is.

Now to be fair there are some who ask the question, why now? Why should we make this kind of investment at this moment. Well the answer is simple – the world has changed and the responsibility we have to educate our youth must change with it. We are no longer preparing our students for the jobs of 30 years ago. We are no longer preparing our kids for the jobs of yesterday or even tomorrow. Now our teachers are preparing our kids for jobs that don’t event exist yet. That’s how fast our world is moving today – the world has changed and we must change with it.

All of our kids need to be ready to compete in a global world against kids from all corners of the globe and we need to give them the tools to do it. Not only do they need to compete against competitors half a world away but they need to compete against machines, automation, and a rapidly changing economy.

Investing in education also sends a clear message to educators. To our current teachers it says we value your work, we support you, and we are ready to put our money where our mouth is. To future teachers is says Massachusetts isn’t going anywhere – we are playing the short and the long game when it comes to properly funding education, and we are ready to show you how serious we are.

As a member on the Joint Committee of Education I can tell you this bill will deliver the kind of support municipalities need, and our school districts deserve. Each year there are School Committees across the state making the hard decisions of where to invest money and how to ring another dollar out of a tight budget. School officials are talking to a parent of a young student whose first language isn’t English, or an older student who’s acting out and needs more behavioral support.

The resources in this bill will provide these local officials and these districts more tools to close budget gaps, invest in a community’s priority areas, and better support the social and emotional needs of students.

The proposed legislation would address the main recommendations of the foundation budget review commission including stronger support for English-language learners and low-income students, additional funding for special education and associated transportation costs, along with more support for school employee health care costs.

So today is a big win for Massachusetts, a big win for communities, a big win for parents, a big win for teachers, and most importantly a big win for students.

I would like to thank the people of the 30th Middlesex District Woburn and Reading for the honor to represent them in this chamber. I would also like to thank my supporters, my family, and my wife Haley for their love and support.

Our Commonwealth has a long, storied history of educational activism, and today we reaffirm the words of Horace Mann:

‘Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.’ 

Today we take a big step forward to making great things happen for our students. Thank you.”