Spilka: Lewis will help spur ed reform
House veteran sees Senate focus on results over rhetoric
SENATE PRESIDENT KAREN SPILKA said on Tuesday that she hoped the appointment of a new chair at the Education Committee would help move foundation budget reform forward in the Legislature.
“Education reform was the reason I ran for the Legislature in the early 2000s,” she said as she walked to her office from a midday event at the State House. “As chairman of Ways and Means, we implemented the ed reform, the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, three times in the last two sessions. Clearly it’s a top priority and it remains one.”
Asked whether she thought her appointment last week of Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester as the Senate chair of the Education Committee (replacing Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Jamaica Plain) was a key step in moving the legislation forward, Spilka said: “I believe so.”
The education legislation stalled at the end of last session, with Chang-Diaz blaming House leadership for blocking the bill and repeatedly “moving the goal posts” during negotiations. “I’ve never seen so many rationalizations and double-standards employed to avoid doing what’s right for kids,” she said.
Rep. Angelo Scaccia of Boston, the longest-serving member of the House, applauded Spilka’s appointment of Lewis, saying it signals an emphasis on results over rhetoric.
“They want to put a pragmatist there to get something done,” he said, adding that both Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo tacked toward the center of the political spectrum in most of last week’s committee assignments.
“They promoted people who tend to be center-short-left, not far left; not far right. I just love the picks in both the chambers,” said Scaccia, who fended off primary challenges last fall. “I think they picked people who can get things done rather than going into how far you are left or right on issues. They picked positive people who’ll do positive things.”
Some lawmakers may have been eager for a new assignment and the chance to focus on a new set of issues, but it is clear that Chang-Diaz is still invested in making changes to education funding policy.
The Jamaica Plain Democrat filed a bill earlier this year, before she was reassigned, that would substantially boost funding for local education, and sharply criticized Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to do something similar, saying it “falls short” in several areas. After the new committee assignments, Chang-Diaz said in a statement that she would continue working on her legislation, dubbed the PROMISE Act.
Chang-Diaz and Rep. Alice Peisch of Wellesley, who was her co-chair throughout her tenure leading the Education Committee, have failed over the years to reach agreement on proposals to increase the number of charter schools allowed in a given district and to rework the state’s funding of local school districts. Peisch will remain House chair of the joint committee, and Chang-Diaz will take on two new positions atop committees dealing with marijuana policy and children, families, and persons with disabilities.
“I can’t get into the weeds on specific appointments, but I think the message is clear. We have an abundant group of individuals with tremendous talent willing to work together in the Senate and move an agenda forward that the president has outlined – issues she’s concerned with – and getting along with the House and the administration to get things done,” Rush said. “That’s what this is all about.”