Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Joseph McGonagle recently announced that the state Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation to support those experiencing homelessness and provide testing and budgetary flexibility to school districts. The bill, which is the latest action by the Legislature to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts, has now been signed into law by Governor Baker.
“This legislation is the latest step from my colleagues and I in the Legislature to provide much needed relief to our Commonwealth’s families and most vulnerable residents,” said DiDomenico. “I am particularly pleased to report that this bill includes a MCAS waiver for the current academic year. Our students and educators are facing enough stress and educational disruptions due to COVID-19 without the added pressure of having to prepare for the MCAS. This was absolutely the right course of action during this unprecedented time, and I was proud to support this change for our students.”
Said McGonagle, “Too often, major crises unfairly harm our most vulnerable populations, such as children and the homeless. This legislation, which comes from a great partnership of the House and Senate, proves collectively how we are working to protect those vulnerable people.”
This latest relief package known as An Act to Further Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, School Districts and State authorities Resulting from COVID-19, includes the following components.
•Student Requirements and District Operations. To address disruptions caused by the closure of K-12 schools due to COVID-19, the legislation waives the MCAS requirements for the 2019-2020 academic year and allows DESE to modify or waive competency determination requirements related to high school graduation.
In order to comply with measures under the newly implemented Student Opportunity Act, the legislation would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner to extend the deadlines for school districts to submit their three-year plans to address educational disparities in student subgroups. This deadline shall be extended to May 15, 2020, or later, as determined by the Commissioner.
The legislation also provides budgetary flexibility for regional schools as a result of COVID-19.
•Helping Vulnerable Populations. In keeping with the Legislature’s commitment to protecting vulnerable populations, the legislation repurposes existing homelessness funds that currently support services that can’t be provided due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The legislation redirects funding to address immediate and critical homelessness needs resulting from the public health emergency.
•MBTA Budget Flexibility. The legislation also provides the MBTA additional budgetary flexibility amid the COVID-19 emergency.