By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker has signed into law a bill that would provide $1.5 billion in new spending on the state's K-12 education system when fully phased in over seven years.
Supporters of the measure say it will help ensure schools have the resources needed to provide high quality education for students across Massachusetts, regardless of zip code or income level.
The Republican signed the bill Tuesday at The English High School of Boston, the first public high school in America, founded in 1821.
Baker said the legislation is aimed at providing students "with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed including accountability measures that are essential to supporting underperforming schools."
Legislative leaders say the new law will help schools that serve high numbers of low-income students while also benefiting districts across the state with updates to the state's existing school funding formula.
The law also requires school districts to develop three-year plans to close student achievement gaps. The plans can use expanded learning time, increased counseling, expanded early learning and pre-kindergarten programs, early college and career readiness pathways, and a more diverse teacher workforce to help close those gaps.
Democratic Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka said the passage of the measure shows state leaders "are reaffirming our commitment to the idea that providing a quality public education is not a luxury — it is both our greatest responsibility and our greatest opportunity."
The Massachusetts House and Senate unanimously passed the legislation earlier this month.
The new law won applause from teacher unions and education advocates who has long lobbied for the changes.
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy called the new law "a huge victory for students, for educators, for communities and for racial and economic justice."
"Much of that money will go to low-income districts, disproportionately communities of color, that have been left behind by our commonwealth's outdated and inequitable funding system," Najimy said in written statement.
The law also requires the secretary of education to collect data on student preparedness for college and careers by school district and high school, including student participation rates in college and career readiness programs, college acceptance and graduation rates.
Under the law, school districts will see increased reimbursements for transporting students to out-of-district special education placements.
The law also raises a cap on state funding for school building projects from $600 million to $750 million; fully funds charter school reimbursements; and creates a grant fund for innovative educational approaches.
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