Massachusetts Reform Bill To Be Reintroduced

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An omnibus education-reform bill that was to mark Massachusetts' entry into the current wave of state improvement activity failed to make it through the legislature's upper house by the Dec. 31 deadline and will have to be re-introduced in the new session that began Jan. 2.

"The bill made it through 50 amendments in the House, but just never saw the light of day in the Senate," said Susan Lane, deputy director for Gov. Michael Dukakis's office on educational affairs.

After two weeks of debate, the legislation had passed in the House by a vote of 116-25 just before Christmas. The Senate had three days to consider it and "just never took it up," according to Gregory Dillard, staff director for the joint committee on education.

The bill included provisions for a statewide minimum teachers' salary of $18,000, with a corresponding "ripple" effect on teachers already making more than the minimum; an early-retirement program; tougher teacher-certification standards; and an early-childhood-education program. (See Education Week, Dec. 5, 1984.)

The main stumbling block to passage of the bill appeared to be its cost, Mr. Dillard said, which was estimated at $565 million over a three-year period.

Mr. Dillard said the legislation would be refiled "in one form or another by several people." Representative James Collins, last session's chairman of the House Education Committee, plans to introduce a bill similar to the one he introduced in the previous session, Mr. Dillard said. Representative Collins's bill, including numerous amendments, was the one finally voted on by the House.

Mr. Dillard said the Representative's new bill would remain substantially the same but would cost between $250 and $400 million. He said the lower estimate is largely the result of recalculating the "ripple" effect for teachers' salaries, which would reduce the bill's cost by about $125 million.

"The bill came under excruciating debate in the second and third readings," Mr. Dillard said.

Governor Dukakis plans to introduce a separate bill in the House within the next few weeks, accord-ing to Gerard Indelicato, special assistant to the Governor. That bill would cost about $230 million over four years, Mr. Indelicato said.

In the last session, Governor Dukakis introduced several substantial amendments to Representative Collins's bill but did not offer separate legislation. "We never supported $565 million with no clear idea where it was going," Mr. Indelicato said.

The Governor's bill will address five areas, Mr. Indelicato said. These include:

The relationship between state and local government.

Testing evaluation and compensation for teachers.

A finance-equalization program for poorer communities.

Early-childhood education.

Computer training and technology.

The House is still recovering from a bitter fight for the Speaker's position and changes in committee chairmen, the spokesman said, so the Governor will wait a few weeks before introducing his legislation.

Vol. 04, Issue 17

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