Jan 25
State Representative John W. Scibak  joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives in passing legislation on Tuesday that will improve the governance, financial accountability, and state and local oversight of regional education collaboratives. The legislation establishes new procedures that will increase transparency and oversight of these education collaboratives including new ethics requirements for board members and personnel, more oversight by the Attorney General, State Auditor, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and more strict reporting requirements on programs, services, and progress. Much of the current legislation seeks to address deficiencies in current law that became apparent after a string of audits and investigations conducted by the State Auditor and Inspector General in recent months and years. The proposed legislation was drafted after a comprehensive oversight hearing process conducted by the Joint Committee on Education in the wake of those audits and investigations. “I applaud my colleagues in the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Joint Committee on Education for their tireless work in crafting this essential legislation,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “In these tough fiscal times, it is more imperative than ever that there be proper oversight and efficient use of all public expenditures. This bill brings transparency, accountability, responsible governance to education collaboratives and will improve the quality of education in our Commonwealth.” “This legislation will help to ensure that the education collaboratives function in a way that provides the students of the collaboratives with the proper education that they have a right to while continuing to allow municipalities and regional school districts to pool resources in order to save on high costs,” Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means said. “This legislation will go a long way towards improving the governance and oversight of education collaboratives, which play an invaluable role in the Commonwealth’s education system,” Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education said. “I commend House leadership for taking such swift action on this important matter.” “I am particularly grateful for the leadership of Speaker Bob DeLeo and Chairmen Brian Dempsey and Alice Peisch in taking swift action to remedy the deficiencies found within the collaborative system,” State Auditor Suzanne Bump said. “I look forward to this bill reaching the Governor’s desk soon. I am hopeful that this process not only ends fiscal abuse, but provides for the efficient and effective delivery of high quality programs to the students the education collaboratives serve.”  Under this legislation, several requirements for the governance of education collaboratives are set forth. The bill first requires that an education collaborative be managed by a board of directors consisting of one person appointed annually by each member school committee or member charter school board. The board is required to meet six times annually and each board member must report back to his or her appointing school committee on a quarterly basis. The legislation also requires that the board of directors of a collaborative must appoint an outside treasurer to handle investments and maintain a fiscally responsible financial accounting system. An annual audit report from each collaborative will be submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state Auditor, and each member school committee for review. Each collaborative must also prepare and submit an annual report detailing the programs and services provided as well as their financial standing. Additionally, this legislation establishes an 11-member commission to study the role of education collaboratives in Massachusetts. The commission will be responsible for filing a report with its recommendations with the Clerks of the House and Senate no later than 12 months following its first meeting.