Press Release: 2023-05-31

Boston Business Journal: Commentary: Education Reform Can Mend Workforce, Equity Gaps

Boston Business Journal: Commentary: Education Reform Can Mend Workforce, Equity Gaps

With nearly 300,000 job openings across Massachusetts, the ongoing disconnect between worker skills and employer needs represents both a fundamental challenge to our economy and an unprecedented opportunity to advance the goal of more equitable success for all.

In particular, a shortage of skilled workers, both college-educated and non-college-educated, is impacting a wide range of industries. The Mass Technology Leadership Council’s tracking data shows the high-paying tech sector faces significant struggles. At its annual meeting, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) shared data from a recent study by MassINC that projects that the working-age college-educated population of Massachusetts will decrease by 192,000 people by 2030. The commonwealth will also lose some 92,500 of the working-age, non-college-educated people who drive manufacturing, the building trades and the hospitality and other service industries.

As other industries, including healthcare, are also sounding the alarm, action is clearly necessary to get back on course. We encourage employers and policymakers alike to find innovative yet stable solutions to address these unique workforce challenges by advocating for inclusive economic growth that brings as many people as possible into the workforce and leaves no one behind.

Boston Globe: Massachusetts Has Passed Just 10 Laws this Year, the Fewest to Open a Legislative Session in Decades

Five months into the year, Massachusetts lawmakers have touted passing “historic funding” and holding a budget debate that’s never been “smoother.” They can also lay claim to something else, a Globe review found – perhaps the least productive start to a legislative session in at least 40 years.

With major bills still lumbering along and committees haggling over internal rules, just 10 pieces of legislation have passed into law since state lawmakers opened their two-year session in early January. The slow start is likely historic, and, current and former Beacon Hill officials say, reflective of a Democratic-controlled body where power is overly concentrated at the top and where leaders increasingly rely on hulking, omnibus legislation to move important policy.

Boston Globe: Massachusetts Must Take Charge of its Narrative

Massachusetts does a rotten job of telling stories about itself.

And if you aren’t good at shaping the narrative, others will do it for you.

The story of the last two years in Massachusetts has been this: if you like a state with high housing prices, a crumbling public transit system, cold winters, downtown neighborhoods that are as populated as Boston was in “The Last of Us,” and a new tax on income above $1 million, we are the place for you.

That’s not a good story under any circumstances, but it’s an especially tough tale at a moment when employees have unprecedented flexibility about where they work, companies are rethinking their commitment to physical office space, and venture capitalists who used to prefer backing startups inside of Route 495 are now placing their bets globally.

Axios: A $20 Million Fund Encourages Investing for “Ordinary People”

Investing is no longer just for millionaires, and we’re not talking about crypto.

The Boston Impact Initiative is raising money for a $20 million fund, and the nonprofit impact investment group is recruiting a number of middle-income residents for smaller investments, CEO Betty Francisco tells Axios.

The minimum for these lower- and middle-income residents, or “non-accredited investors,” is $1,000.

That’s a lot of money for the average person, but it’s far smaller than typical venture capital fund minimums, which range from $500,000 to $5 million or more.

The fund will go toward startups and projects owned by entrepreneurs of color and community-governed real estate projects that prevent displacement in the Northeast.

It’s the latest example of VC funds, particularly impact funds, tapping into middle-income residents who want to get involved in low-risk, mission-driven investments that could uplift their communities.

“This gives an opportunity to ordinary people — a market that we’ve always kind of ignored — to have the ability to invest in impact [startups and projects],” Francisco says.

State House News: Bureau Reports 200 Public-Assistance Fraud Cases In First Quarter

A bureau charged with investigating public assistance fraud allegations identified fraud in 14 percent of the cases it examined between January and March.

Examiners at the Bureau of Special Investigations uncovered more than $4 million worth of fraud over the three-month period, including $1.6 million in Medicaid fraud and $1.3 million in fraud connected to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Auditor Diana DiZoglio, whose office runs the bureau, informed legislators of the fiscal 2023 third quarter numbers in a May 23 letter that was posted last week to the Legislature’s website. The bureau identified fraud in 200 of the 1,407 cases it investigated. The bureau’s investigative authority extends to any assistance program administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Division of Medical Assistance, which administers MassHealth (the state’s Medicaid program).

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is not included in BSI’s enabling statute, but the bureau works with the department through a memorandum of understanding. The bureau said its fraud cases are referred to agencies for administrative actions and that “fraudulent overpayments are recovered through civil agreements, individuals are disqualified from programs for specified periods of time, and cases are prosecuted in state and federal courts.”

State House News: Life Sciences Jobs Tied To $24 Million In Tax Incentives

Gov. Maura Healey and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center announced $24.4 million in tax incentive awards Tuesday that they expect will help 43 life sciences companies create nearly 1,600 new jobs in the sector.

More than 1,000 of the job commitments are outside of Boston and Cambridge, including the site of the largest incentive – Moderna’s Norwood manufacturing facility, which received a $3.135 million incentive and committed to 209 new jobs through its expansion there.

“Countless companies with their [research and development] base in Kendall Square are finding their manufacturing footprint can be in Worcester, in Woburn, in Framingham,” Life Sciences Center CEO Kenn Turner said at the announcement event at Norwood’s Moderna site.

The latest awards include a $1.875 million tax incentive for Takeda Pharmaceuticals, which committed to 125 new jobs in Lexington, and Sarepta Therapeutics, which plans to expand with 100 jobs in Cambridge and received a $1.5 million incentive.

Boston Globe: Has Massachusetts Lost its Economic Mojo?

The question invariably comes up in most conversations I have with local business leaders these days: Is Massachusetts losing its economic mojo?

We’ve long taken justifiable pride and comfort in the state’s status as a world leader in higher education, medicine, and biotech. Our tech and finance industries punch above their weight. And the Massachusetts workforce is one of the most highly educated and skilled in the nation.

But complacency is a real risk. It’s easy to assume that the successes of the past 40 years will continue in the years ahead. Yet as they warn, in the investment world, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results.

The strong headwinds facing the state are the focus of a new report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation that paints a concerning picture.

Voters’ approval of the “millionaires tax” in November has put the issue of the state’s economic competitiveness back on the front burner.

Boston Globe: Is Mayor Wu Giving a Cold Shoulder to the Business Community?

Is Mayor Michelle Wu giving the cold shoulder to the business community?

Depends on who you ask. Take, for example, Boston venture capitalist Jeff Bussgang.

“I’m representative of the tech and entrepreneurship community so I can only speak about my experience,” said Bussgang, who met Wu a decade ago when she first ran for City Council. “She has always been thoughtful, engaged, proactive, and reactive.”

In March, when customers of Silicon Valley Bank were frozen out of their accounts and feared it would fail, Bussgang recalled how Wu immediately reached out to him and other tech players about what the city could do. Wu and her administration worked closely with state and federal officials to help avert a crisis — one that was resolved when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took the unusual step of guaranteeing all deposits.

Wu also leaned on Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, shortly after she was elected mayor in November 2021. She asked him to organize a sitdown with other top venture capitalists on how Boston can remain a leader in the innovation economy and a magnet for talent, in particular entrepreneurs.

Boston Globe: Cities Need Better Public Transit. That makes Massachusetts a Laggard.

In the center of this city of around 600,000, cars seem to be an afterthought. Some streets don’t allow them at all, and others have various lanes dedicated to mostly electric tram and bus lines stretching more than 130 miles, in every direction. Cyclists whiz by fear-free on pedestrianized streets lined with outdoor dining tables and bike racks instead of parked cars. A 49 Euro monthly transit pass works countrywide.

Boston, this is not.

If the world is going to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, cities are going to have to look more like Leipzig, a city with a similar population to Boston, according to findings from a new report released Wednesday at the International Transport Forum, an annual gathering of transportation leaders.

In the report, researchers urge governments to discourage driving and improve public transit, biking, walking, and car sharing, and to electrify all modes of transportation, including freight, as soon as possible. Instead of simply meeting existing and future transportation demand, governments are urged to make transportation investments to quicken emissions reductions.

Wired: Boston Isn’t Afraid of Generative AI

After Chat GPT burst on the scene last November, some government officials raced to prohibit its use.

Italy banned the chatbot. New York City, Los Angeles Unified, Seattle, and Baltimore School Districts either banned or blocked access to generative AI tools, fearing that ChatGPT, Bard, and other content generation sites could tempt students to cheat on assignments, induce rampant plagiarism, and impede critical thinking.

This week, US Congress heard testimony from Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, and AI researcher Gary Marcus as it weighed whether and how to regulate the technology.

In a rapid about-face, however, a few governments are now embracing a less fearful and more hands-on approach to AI.

New York City Schools chancellor David Banks announced yesterday that NYC is reversing its ban because “the knee jerk fear and risk overlooked the potential of generative AI to support students and teachers, as well as the reality that our students are participating in and will work in a world where understanding generative AI is crucial.”

And yesterday, City of Boston chief information officer Santiago Garces sent guidelines to every city official encouraging them to start using generative AI “to understand their potential.” The city also turned on use of Google Bard as part of the City of Boston’s enterprise-wide use of Google Workspace so that all public servants have access.

Gazette: Restaurant Group Sees Possible Minimum-Wage Ballot Question as ‘Threat’

Restaurateurs and other small business owners are wary of a looming “threat” of a 2024 ballot question that could raise the state’s minimum wage beyond the $15 hourly rate that took effect in January.

Profitability for restaurants is down in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the biggest impacts stemming from inflation and labor costs, said Stephen Clark, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association.

Lifting the minimum wage by $1 per hour can translate into a $1,000 increase per employee, which sparks a cascading effect for all workers throughout the industry, Clark warned at a small business advocacy day Wednesday hosted by the National Federation of Independent Business, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, among other partners.

“Truthfully speaking, I don’t think the minimum wage fight is something that’s going to happen this year. I think if we look at the legislative calendar, it’s probably more of a conversation for 2024,” said Clark, as he implored small business owners gathered at the University of Massachusetts Club to discuss the issue with lawmakers at the State House later Wednesday during their lobbying efforts.

Boston Herald – Pot Café Pilot Program Scrapped; Regulators Green-Light Statewide Approach

The state’s cannabis board is giving pot cafes the green light.

The regulators tasked with creating the rules around “social consumption sites” have scrapped a pilot program that would have tested out weed cafes in a dozen locations and will dive right into licensing and regulation.

Voters approved adult use of marijuana in Massachusetts in 2016 and many have been legally partaking since the first adult-use pot shop opened late in 2018.

Along with allowing adults to purchase and smoke marijuana at home, the law also calls on the state to come up with rules to allow Amsterdam-style pot cafes to open and adults to spark up at the counter.

The Cannabis Control Commission on Monday voted to move forward with the process by eliminating a planned pilot program that would have allowed 12 selected municipalities to open pot cafes while regulators gauged how well the idea worked.

The problem, according to Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, was that starting small when the whole state requires the same regulations is a waste of both time and money.

“Right now, to help direct our work, we don’t feel that the pilot program is needed as it’s written. So help us take that work off our plate,” Stebbins said. “Our feeling is that eliminating the pilot program will help us dive into building that licensing and regulatory framework.”

Boston Herald: Boston City Council Passes New Redistricting Map

A contentious redistricting process ended with relatively little fuss Wednesday when the Boston City Council passed a new map via a 10-2 vote.

A last-minute compromise over District 4 and 5 changes, the subject of a bitter exchange that saw councilors arguing for more than six hours on Tuesday, appeared to be a contributing factor to the final, lopsided vote.

Three councilors who voiced dissent Tuesday over a Mattapan precinct that would have been moved from District 5 to District 4 voted in favor of the amended map that Councilor Ruthzee Louijeune brought before the body Wednesday — which undid the change she had initially proposed for that precinct, 14-14.

Voting in opposition were Councilors Kendra Lara and Julia Mejia.

“This was obviously a very contentious process,” Louijeune said. “Whenever legislators are drawing lines there’s a lot at stake for people individually. And you always have to remember to center what’s most important to the voters.”

The City Council was able to reach consensus on a new redistricting map just in time to avoid a delay to the Sept. 12 preliminary election. Mayor Michelle Wu had informed the body that it had until May 30 to take action on a new map, and had even offered her own redistricting proposal to try to move the process forward.

Worcester Business Journal: Tenants, Landlords Affected by Senate’s Anti-Eviction Amendment

Judges would be instructed to dismiss an eviction claim for failure to pay rent after state aid fully reimburses a landlord, while tenants could only get eviction cases paused if they seek financial assistance “in good faith” under a budget rider the Senate approved Tuesday.

Senators voted to adjust a pandemic-era eviction prevention program that both branches are seeking to make permanent in their fiscal year 2024 budgets. That program, known as Chapter 257, requires eviction cases for nonpayment of rent to be paused if a tenant has a pending application for rental assistance through a program such as the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).

The budget amendment, filed by Housing Committee Co-chair Sen. Lydia Edwards, would keep that mandatory pause in place and add language with a few new requirements that the Boston Democrat said would “make sure [the program is] a true ability to have a second chance.”

WBUR: Airplane Cleaning Service Employees Allege Unsafe Working Conditions at Logan

A group of Logan airport workers spoke out against their employer on Wednesday after claiming concerns about their safety have been ignored.

Workers gathered outside of Logan’s Terminal E to discuss their treatment by the company Swissport, which provides cleaning services and helps maintain airplanes.

Swissport workers described being transported in vans with questionable brakes and exposed seat springs that poke them. They also said they are given very little time to clean human feces and blood in airplane bathrooms.

One of those employees, Rosa Sanchez Ortiz, said in Spanish that some cleaning crew members don’t get gloves during a shift because there aren’t enough to go around.

Sanchez Ortiz, who has worked for the company for seven years, said cleaning supplies like mops are hard to come by, and her colleagues are often forced to clean human waste with paper towels or toilet paper. She said the lack of personal protective equipment like gloves is dangerous, especially when handling waste and harsh cleaning chemicals.

Health Care

Boston Business Journal: MGB Wins Grant to Offer Free Nursing Instructor Courses to RNs

The state’s largest health system is looking to build up its workforce of nursing educators to address workforce shortages.

Boston Business Journal: Moderna gets $3.1 Million Tax Break for Norwood Jobs

Moderna Inc. is getting $3.1 million in tax incentives from the state to create more than 200 jobs at its new manufacturing facility in Norwood.

Eagle Tribune: Health Centers Could Receive Infusion of Federal Funding

BOSTON — Community health centers that serve some of the state’s most marginalized residents could be getting a fresh infusion of federal funds under a proposal teed up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday voted to approve legislation that would pump more than $8.4 billion over the next two years into the federal Community Health Center Fund — the primary source of funding for such centers — a 5% increase over current funding levels.

It would also provide more federal funding for medical education programs at teaching health centers, including the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, with $175 million a year beginning next year, rising to $275 million by 2029.

Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Westford, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, said the funding is crucial to supporting community health centers that serve the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“Community health centers in Massachusetts alone serve over one million patients each year, and the grant funding we’re moving through committee today is critical to their operations,” she said in remarks during Wednesday’s hearing. “We must ensure there is not a loss of funding – which would be devastating as we continue to improve access for all communities.”

Trahan cited research showing that most of the physicians who are trained at community teaching health centers go on to practice in the specialties they trained in, with more than half practicing in medically underserved areas.

Budget and Taxation

WBUR: Four Big Issues to Watch as State Lawmakers Broker a New Budget

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a debt ceiling deal over the weekend, but negotiations are just about to get underway back here on Beacon Hill.

While you were busy planning your Memorial Day weekend, the state Senate passed its $56 billion budget proposal late last week. However, the proposal includes some notable policy disagreements with the House’s spending plan, beyond the line items and earmarks.

Now, as the two sides work out the differences in closed-door meetings over the next month, here are the four big issues to watch:

  1. Free community college: The House adopted Gov. Maura Healey’s proposal to offer tuition-free community collegeto residents 25 and older who haven’t yet gotten a college degree. But the Senate’s plan goes even bigger, proposing to cover costs for community college nursing students, too.

  2. In-state tuition: The Senate budget would also extend in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges to undocumented immigrants(as long as they went to a Massachusetts high school or have a GED, along with some other requirements). Healey has been a vocal supporter of the idea, but the House hasn’t gotten on board.

  3. Online lottery: The House wants to let the Massachusetts Lottery take its products onlinein order to compete with mobile sports betting. So does Healey. But the Senate rejected an attempt to add the proposal to its budgetlast week.

  4. Free school meals: The House budget would extend the state’s pandemic-era universal free school meal programthrough the next academic year, following suit with Healey’s initial proposal. But it wasn’t in the plan passed last week by the Senate. (Senate leaders reportedly want to tackle the issue in a different bill.)

Lawmakers technically have until July 1 (the beginning of the next fiscal year) to pass the annual budget — but don’t necessarily expect action by then. It’s become commonplace in recent years for a deal to not get done until weeks, even months, after that deadline.

Boston Globe: Advocates Seek $250 Million to shore up Rent-Relief Program

It was a pandemic-era success story.

A little-used emergency rental assistance program proved to be a key piece of the puzzle of policies that warded off a wave of evictions in Massachusetts during the height of the pandemic, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to struggling renters and their landlords over the last few years.

Funding for that program, known as Rental Assistance for Families in Transition, or RAFT, was supercharged by federal COVID relief aid that’s now dwindling. But advocates in a new report argue that RAFT’s success during the pandemic has proved that flexible rental aid programs could be a crucial short-term solution to a housing crisis that disproportionately harms renters, and should be a top focus for legislators in next year’s budget.

The report — published Thursday by The Boston Foundation, the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the United Way of Massachusetts — argues that an infusion of $250 million from the Legislature, along with some key policy tweaks, would allow RAFT to meet the demand of vulnerable renters even as the pandemic eases.

“The reality of the housing crisis is that we know there are still a significant number of tenants who are really struggling and at risk of losing their home, and there’s not enough RAFT money to go around,” said Jessie Partridge Guerrero, a research manager at MAPC. “Fully funding this program, and tweaking it to make sure it reaches the people who need it most, is a key strategy.”

Boston Herald: In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants Remains in Senate Budget

The state Senate will move forward with a plan to allow some undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at state schools after an amendment to remove the proposal was rejected following impassioned speeches from several Democratic lawmakers.

The Senate met in formal session for a second straight day on Wednesday, when they dispensed with more than 300 of the over 1,000 amendments lawmakers have appended to the already more than $55.8 billion spending plan.

Among the proposed changes to the budget document rejected by lawmakers was an amendment offered by Republican state Sen. Ryan Fattman which struck language from the spending bill aimed at providing an easier path into higher education for young undocumented residents.

To qualify for in-state tuition, according to the plan as written, a student must graduate from a Massachusetts high school and have been a resident for three years.

Fattman told his colleagues that after the Senate budget was made public, despite its multi-billion dollar scope and the many projects covered by the plan, the most common concern he heard coming from his constituents about the proposal were questions of why the upper chamber wanted to give something away to non-citizens while so many in the state are struggling with the cost of living.

Despite this assertion, the Worcester senator’s colleagues could not have disagreed with him more.

Energy and Environment

State House News: Gas Prices Up Coming Off Holiday

As the long wait for targeted tax relief continues, Massachusetts gas prices are on the rise coming out of Memorial Day weekend.

AAA Massachusetts reported Tuesday that the average gas price in Massachusetts of $3.52 per gallon is up 8 cents from last week. Prices are up 3 cents per gallon compared to a month ago, but are down $1.21 per gallon compared to this time last year when Republican lawmakers were unsuccessfully pushing gas-tax relief plans.

The national gas price average rose 3 cents to $3.57 per gallon, which AAA analysts attributed to higher demand leading into the holiday — the auto group forecasted that Memorial Day road trips would be up 6 percent this year over last year.

Gas-tax relief did not figure into a House-approved tax relief bill this year. Senate Democrats have yet to outline a tax relief plan but are believed to be weighing many of the same items that were included in the $1.1 billion multi-year House plan, including relief for parents, caregivers, renters and seniors. Changes to the short-term capital gains tax and estate tax also cleared the House.

Cape Cod: Massachusetts to Compete for Federal Clean-Energy Grants

Massachusetts is applying for upwards of $250 million in federal grants for clean-energy projects.

Governor Maura Healey recently announced that an application for the Cleaner Grid New England Project has been submitted by the Department of Energy Resources, in collaboration with National Grid and Eversource, to the federal government.

That money, offered through the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, would be utilized for offshore wind and solar power plans.

Healey said federal aid on these matters could accelerate the generation of clean energy while also minimizing the cost to residents.

These developments come as Eversource is planning to break ground to boost the electric grid on Cape Cod as well as to connect offshore wind farms throughout the New England region. Wind power projects such as Vineyard Wind and SouthCoast Wind have proposed constructing turbines off the coasts of the Cape and Islands.

The federal government’s Grid Innovation Program is expected to offer more than $1.8 billion in grants to anywhere from four to 40 projects nationwide.

WGBH: Gov. Healey Describes ‘All Hands on Deck’ Approach to Climate Policy

A Supreme Court ruling last week limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate wetlands won’t derail climate and sustainability efforts in Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healey said.

The high court’s 5-4 decision Thursday narrowed the categories of wetlands covered under the federal Clean Water Act, a move Healey called a “sad commentary on where things are at.”

Healey said Friday on Boston Public Radio that she’d discussed the ruling with her energy and environmental affairs secretary, Rebecca Tepper, during a cabinet meeting earlier in the day.

“I think the good news is, we’re going to continue to be strong here in Massachusetts,” Healey said. “We have important regulations in place when it comes to wetlands, when it comes to protecting the environment, so there’s nothing about the decisions that disturbs that.”

The wetlands ruling was one of a handful of climate-related topics Healey addressed during her hourlong appearance on Boston Public Radio. The governor said her administration is taking an “all hands on deck” approach, pursuing a climate agenda across all areas of government.

She mentioned that her climate chief, Melissa Hoffer, is setting up a youth climate council so young people from around the state can become “activists within their communities driving policy.”

Healey said her team is also competing for federal funding to support climate and clean energy efforts.

“We need to focus on the infrastructure,” she said. “I think about infrastructure as the grid, the transmission — because we can build the turbines offshore, but that energy needs to get distributed to homes and to businesses around the state. We’ve got a lot of work to do as a state on that, and it will require a lot of work in coordination with utilities.”

MassLive: Uber is Working to Have Zero-Emissions by 2030

After quadrupling the number of its drivers using electric vehicles in the last year, Uber is leading the way in becoming a zero-emission mobility platform. In 2020, the global ridesharing company announced an $800 million commitment to achieving this goal in the U.S, Canada and Europe by 2030 and is now hoping to encourage more of its drivers to make the move to electric.

On May 24, Uber will host an event at its Saugus Greenlight Hub, offering drivers the chance to test out cars such as the Chevy Bolt, Ioniq 5, Tesla Model 3, and Polestar and to learn about the benefits of EVs. The event will also host a panel of Uber drivers, like Jack McDonald, who have transitioned to EVs. The 72-year-old retired collegiate athletics director recently purchased his second EV and hasn’t looked back since.

“When you can spend half as much money for a month to drive an electric vehicle, why wouldn’t you do it?” McDonald said. “It was a pretty simple solution.”


WCVB: Proposed Legislation Would Change Massachusetts Graduation Requirements

Massachusetts teachers’ unions, parents and students gathered at Beacon Hill on Wednesday to push for statewide changes to public education.

Gathered at Church on the Hill, across Bowdoin Street from the Massachusetts State House, the group argued that the state’s use of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test is having a negative impact on students. They’re supporting the so-called Thrive Act, which allows MCAS testing to continue but would end the use of standardized testing as a graduation requirement.

They say many of the schools have English-language learners and argue it’s not fair to require them to pass a test in English only.

“Many students in my district as well as Boston Public Schools, are first-generation English language learners that are required to pass this exam that is only in English,” said Soleei Guasp, a Harvard Student who attended Wednesday’s event.

“We’re asking our educators and students to learn a test that is not going to help them at all,” said Suleika Soto, a parent of a Boston student.

WWLP: School Aid for High Special-Education Costs Could be Coming

Lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey might take action in the next five weeks to steer more money to schools burdened by a sharp escalation in special education costs, according to a top Senate Democrat.

Education Committee Co-chair Sen. Jason Lewis said Wednesday that Beacon Hill power players are weighing further spending action beyond the annual state budget process to deploy funding toward special education, an area where some communities are bracing for increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars or even a few million dollars to serve the same number of students. With pandemic-era federal funding about to expire, districts are facing effectively a 14 percent increase in the tuition they pay to private special education providers.

The Senate’s fiscal year 2024 budget bill includes $20 million to offset some of those costs, Lewis said in a speech on the chamber floor, where he forecast that the annual spending bill might not be the only avenue of action before the calendar flips to fiscal year 2024 on July 1.

Conversations are underway between the House and Senate and the administration relative to a future supp budget, which we would hope to do before the end of the fiscal year,” Lewis said. “We are talking about additional funding support in that supp budget to help our school districts cover that 14 percent cost increase they are all facing for tuition rates for students that are placed out of district.”

Boston Globe: Cambridge to Launch Free Public Preschool for All 4-Year-Olds, Some 3-Year-Olds

Cambridge will offer free preschool for all the city’s 4-year-olds and some 3-year-olds starting in the fall of 2024, the city announced this week.

The move is aimed at increasing access to high-quality early education in one of Massachusetts’ most expensive cities, home to Harvard and MIT, where private prekindergarten costs $20,000 to more than $30,000 per year.

“Cambridge is known as an education hub in Massachusetts and around the world,” said Lisa Grant, executive director of the Cambridge Office of Early Childhood. “We just know those first five years [of life] are so critical and ensuring that every child who lives in this community has that strong start was really important.”

Studies show pre-K education can yield long-term academic and behavioral benefits. Students randomly assigned to attend Boston’s pre-K from 1997 to 2003 were significantly more likely to enroll in college than their peers, and more likely to graduate high school, have fewer suspensions, less absenteeism, and fewer legal-system problems, a February MIT study found.

Years in the making, the Cambridge Preschool Program will streamline the process for families seeking prekindergarten by giving them one application to submit for openings in public schools, city-run preschools, private centers, and home-based family child care settings.