Last week, after a school funding fix broke down at the State House during the last minute, the imminently important issue for Everett, Revere and Chelsea drew a great deal of disappointment locally and in the Senate, and much of the frustrations seemed to be directed at House leaders Ð including Speaker Bob DeLeo.
This week, DeLeo told constituents and those in neighboring communities that the criticisms he and House leaders have received for the breakdown on school funding is not fair.
He was particularly disenchanted by comments made about House leaders from Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) and other Senate leaders working closely on education.
Many in that crowd seemed to be blaming DeLeo directly during the fallout.
“I have often been known to say there is what Sen. Chang-Diaz says and then there’s the truth,” he said this week. “She made some comments that the fact it didn’t get done was because of the House leadership. The truth of the matter is I was not involved in that at all. It was the [education committee] chair and the conferees. I was kept apprised of things, but it was the chair of education and the conferees who have much more knowledge of these education issues than I do. I pretty much took my cues from themÉI understand people will criticize you when you’re Speaker, but what I will not stand for is some of the negative comments that have been made in terms of this.”
DeLeo pointed to the many things that did get accomplished during the recent session, including some very important tightening of the gun laws in banning Bump Stocks and also one of the most comprehensive reforms of criminal justice laws in a generation. He said that education funding Ð as well as the health care bill that didn’t pass Ð were complex and there were others who weren’t happy with the proposals in the last hours.
One of them was Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who along with Gov. Charlie Baker, weren’t happy with the dollar figures.
“The Mayor of Boston called Ð I think Sen. Chang-Diaz represents some of Boston Ð and he was not happy with the way the formula was and he had asked for us to take a second lookÉNeither was the governor too happy and he had concerns,” said DeLeo.
That was all compounded by the fact, DeLeo said, that there were three different leaders in the Senate over a short period of time. That, he said, played into the difficulties in getting such complex things done.
“In addition, from the House’s perspective, in a relatively short period of time, we were dealing with three different Senate presidents,” he said. “There was a change there in leadership and the last change occurred just three weeks before the end of the session. That made getting some things done a little difficult. That’s not a criticism of any Senate president, but it changes the dynamics when you’re trying to get things done.”
Within the details of the education funding fix was the fact, DeLeo said, that the Department of Education (DESE) was unable to get them firm, concrete figures in time to get the bill completed. DeLeo said he’s not into grandstanding on the issue, and only wants to see something put in place that will work for everyone.
“We had studies, but we never had final figures to give us the proof needed to show that none of our communities would get short-changed,” he said.
“One thing I’ve tried to impress as Speaker; one thing I’ve tried to stress with many members is we want something that will work and stand the test of time,” he continued. “In the history of many pieces of legislation, sometimes it takes more time and work before you get something passed through both houses. I dare say this was just one of those things. I’m not the type who likes to make a headline to say something is passedÉbut guess what? It doesn’t work.”
In that spirit, DeLeo assured that education funding Ð which will dramatically help his home district of Revere Ð would be addressed. In fact, he said, it is being addressed now.
“I will tell you that now we’re going into the next session and moving forward this is an issue,” he said. “I’m already starting to talk to stakeholdersÉI have not yet arranged to meet with stakeholders, but we’re meeting with those in my office and looking at the best way to come to some finalization so we’re ready.”
He said they hope to find something that is fair for everyone.
What wasn’t fair, he said, was the blame game levied against the leaders of the House on the matter.
“For some to place blame on certain people for not getting done just isn’t fair,” he concluded.