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Commissioner's Weekly Update - June 14, 2013

Update on Background Checks Law:

This week, the Commonwealth posted a Request for Responses (RFR) seeking a vendor to implement a statewide system for taking and processing fingerprints under the state's new background checks law. When the process is completed and a vendor has been selected to begin implementation of the national fingerprint-based criminal background checks system, state education and public safety agencies will notify schools, programs, and providers of the next steps to begin taking and processing fingerprints of new employees. ESE will provide additional guidance this summer. For additional info, and to check for further updates on the process and timelines, go to http://www.mass.gov/edu/2013newsupdates/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-background-checks.html. In the meantime, schools and programs will continue to run CORI checks on employees, as required under current state statutes.

Provision of Instructional Supplies, Including Tablets or Computers:

ESE has received a number of questions related to whether Massachusetts public schools may require students to purchase tablets or computers. Generally speaking, public schools may not charge a fee for students to enroll or to participate in required or elective courses given for academic credit. Under Chapter 71, Section 48 of the Massachusetts General Laws, school districts must purchase at public expense textbooks and other instructional materials and supplies intended for use and re-use over a period of years. Districts then in turn "loan" those instructional materials free of charge to students, who must return them at the end of the school year.

The exception to this general rule is consumable supplies - those supplies that typically are used up by students during the course of the year. Schools may ask students to supply their own notebooks or binders, papers, pencils and pens, and tissues. ESE does advise schools to keep these types of consumable materials on hand so that students who do not have such supplies will not miss any instruction.

In contrast, costly tools such as a tablet or other computer or graphing calculator fall in the category of instructional materials and supplies that, similar to textbooks, are intended for schools to purchase and use and re-use over a period of years. If such technology is required, the school may encourage each student to purchase these devices. Students are likely to do so because they may need those devices for future classes and other use outside of school. We advise schools to be prepared to provide such devices free of charge to students whose families do not choose to buy them or cannot afford to do so. If students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments, schools must provide that access.

Board to Meet on June 24-25:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet on June 24 and 25 in Malden. At the June 24 special meeting, the Board will hear an overview of how the first cohort of Level 4 schools is progressing after two years of data and the decision process for exiting Level 4 status. At the June 25 regular meeting, the Board will vote on the virtual school application submitted by Greenfield Public Schools, the Commissioner's annual performance evaluation, and school finance regulations related to reimbursement for transportation for homeless students. The Board will hear updates on Innovation Schools, the Fiscal Year 2014 state education budget, and the work of the Advisory Council on School and District Accountability and Assistance.

For Your Info:

  • Special Education Advisory Council: ESE is recruiting new members to serve three-year terms on the Special Education Advisory Council. The council, which has been in existence for more than 30 years, consists of parents and professionals who provide guidance to ESE on matters relating to special education policy. Individuals who are interested in applying to serve on the council should submit a letter of interest and resume to Sarah Whitman at swhitman@doe.mass.edu by Friday, July 12, 2013. For more info on the council, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/sac/sped/default.html.
  • Grant Assurances Document: ESE has posted the Fiscal Year 2014 Grant Assurances Document at http://www.doe.mass.edu/grants/grants14/rfp/assurance14.html.

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Last Updated: June 26, 2013
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