After months of hard work, I am pleased to announce that my $38 million amendment to fund internet infrastructure development in schools that are not PARCC ready has successfully been added as an amendment to H3330, the Governor's IT bond bill, and has been reviewed favorably out of the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets.
My amendment seeks to ease the burden on the 23% of school districts in Massachusetts that are not PARCC ready. It creates a new matching grant program, capped at $38,000,000, to be distributed to school districts for them to upgrade their internet infrastructure to become PARCC ready. The grants will be determined via the formula contained in section 9 of Chapter 70B of the General Laws and administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This is a Bond authorization at the committee level. This does not require making cuts or raising taxes. We have a state budget for bond expenditures, which this falls under.
The bill with the updated language now moves on to the House Committee on Ways and Means. I have already secured the support of the Senate Bond committee chair, and the Secretary of Education, and the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. I have been working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) since February, from the inception of this idea.
Over the next year, the Commonwealth will be transitioning from the MCAS assessment to PARCC. PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and is used nationwide as a form of standardized assessment. PARCC is administered on computers and not all schools in the Commonwealth have the capability, the broadband, to do the testing online.
The state has imposed the PARCC test on school districts. The PARCC test is designed to be implemented online. Technically, it is not an unfunded mandate because there is a pencil/paper version of the test available. However, we will be comparing apples to oranges when comparing schools that use the online assessment versus schools that use pencil; and paper. Therefore, it is imperative that we level the playing field and close the gap with online assessment.
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