Statement of Christopher R. Anderson – President, Massachusetts High Technology Council and former Chairman, Massachusetts Board of Education

For the first time in nearly two decades, Massachusetts has acted to improve its public education system in a substantial way. The final conference committee report, released last night and expected to gain approval this week, will help Massachusetts maintain its national and international education leadership positions as well as close inexcusable achievement gaps that were leaving far too many students behind. The CEO members of the Massachusetts High Technology Council are very pleased that state leaders recognized the longstanding sense of urgency among business and community leaders to fix the state’s education system.

The final version of this bill is an enormous victory for reformers of the education status quo. Its passage will ensure that more students and teachers have access to innovative school options, including charter public schools, which have proven to outperform traditional schools in urban or low-income settings and also proliferate best practices that benefit students in any school model. This important new law will also provide superintendents and the state Education Commissioner with unprecedented tools and powers to turn around failing schools. Furthermore, the creation of new Horace Mann charter schools will no longer be handcuffed by mandatory approval of teachers unions, instead primarily leaving those decisions to local school boards. While there is still work to be done on education reform, this bill will provide a pathway to college and career success for thousands more Massachusetts students.

The Council had been the only business association to publicly support the 2010 ballot question to eliminate all charter school caps in Massachusetts. With the decisive and positive action of the conference committee, the Council and its partners in the charter school expansion effort will be suspending the ballot question and working with all parties to implement the provisions of this bill. As we said all along, the ballot question was a backup plan if the state failed to produce a meaningful reform package before the federal Race to the Top funding deadline. In fact, many members of the Legislature attributed support for the education reform bill in order to avert a ballot question this year.

The Council would like to thank the members of the Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives, including Senate President Therese Murray, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Senate Ways & Means Chairman Steven Panagiotakos, House Ways & Means Chairman Charley Murphy, House Assistant Majority Leader Ronald Mariano, and Education Committee Co-Chairs Senator Robert O’Leary and Representative Marty Walz, for their leadership throughout this historic process. In addition, we would like to recognize Governor Deval Patrick for his significant contributions to this effort, including filing the initial reform legislation.