The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Amendments to Vocational-Technical Education Regulations, 603 CMR 4.00

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
February 21, 2015

At the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's November 25, 2014, meeting, the Board voted to solicit public comment on several proposed amendments to the regulations on vocational-technical education (603 CMR 4.00). This month I am asking the Board for a final vote to adopt the proposed amendments, with some modifications in response to the public comments.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore has given her approval for the Board to take this action this month, as an exception to the Governor's moratorium on new regulatory actions by executive branch agencies. We requested this exception to provide timely notice to vocational schools and prospective students as they begin the admissions process for the 2015 16 school year.

As we discussed last November, these proposed amendments deal primarily with operational issues related to vocational schools, including program approval, student admission, and non-resident tuition. They are intended to address various concerns that have been raised in recent years by superintendents in the vocational districts and in the districts that send students to vocational schools. They do not address the much larger policy question of how to expand vocational and career education opportunities for secondary school students within the fiscal constraints facing the state and our local school districts. Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito have already signaled a strong interest in expanding career education, and I am looking forward to discussing these issues with Secretary Peyser and the Board.

Synopsis of Proposed Changes

The complete text of the proposed regulatory changes is attached to this memorandum in two versions - a "clean" version and a "red-lined" version showing the material that has been added or deleted. The substantive changes are as follows:

Public Comments on the Proposed Amendments

We received comments on the proposed amendments from various groups and individuals. Copies of these comments are enclosed with this memorandum.

In response to these comments, we have made three substantive modifications to the draft you sent out for comment in November:

  1. We received a number of comments regarding the specialized agricultural programs offered at a small number of vocational schools1. In order to ensure continued student access to these important regional resources, the revised amendments will allow non-resident students to apply for admission to the ninth-grade exploratory program.

  2. The requirement for districts that are members of a regional vocational school district to provide the vocational school with the names and addresses of 8th graders has been extended to include 7th graders (recognizing that families' planning for secondary school admissions can often begin in that year), and a deadline of October 15 has been added to ensure the timely receipt of information.

  3. The proposal for "provisional approval" of Chapter 74 programs has been deleted. There was considerable concern that this could be interpreted as a lessening of the approval criteria, although this was never our intent. We have substituted a grace period until November 1 of each school for the approval of new programs.

We received a number of comments relating to the Chapter 74 non-resident tuition process, particularly as it relates to ninth grade admissions (for exploratory programs) and the proposed capital facilities surcharge. As is often the case when students attend school outside of their home district, we need to weigh the benefits of expanded choices for students against the impact of higher tuition payments. There are legitimate arguments on both sides of this equation and there is no solution that will please everyone. I believe the proposals relating to non-resident students that I presented last November represent a reasonable compromise, and so I have not offered any further changes.

We also received several suggestions that may be worthy of further consideration, including proposals to collect and post data on vocational school admissions, to ensure sending district participation in the development of individualized education programs for students with disabilities, and to grandfather certain teachers from the initial licensure requirements. Since these and other suggestions went beyond the scope of the November 2014 proposals that were circulated for public comment, they are more appropriately held for consideration in a future round of rule-making.


A suggested motion for the Board's approval of these regulatory changes is enclosed. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Patricia Gregson will be available at the February 24 meeting to answer questions.


Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Proposed Amendments to Vocational Technical Education Regulations-clean version
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Proposed Amendments to Vocational Technical Education Regulations-strike through version
Public comments
Board motion