A comprehensive amendment to the statute authorizing education collaboratives (G.L. c. 40, § 4E) was recently enacted as Chapter 43 of the Acts of 2012. This new legislation, called An Act Relative to Improving Accountability and Oversight of Education Collaboratives, provides for sweeping changes in the operation and accountability of education collaboratives. The new law strengthens state oversight, financial accountability, and governance for education collaboratives. It addresses serious problems and gaps that were identified by the Office of the State Auditor and the Inspector General. It also establishes a special commission to examine and make recommendations on the future role for education collaboratives in the Commonwealth.
The law requires increased oversight by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ("Department") and new stringent accountability standards and timelines to be met by member school committees and charter school boards and those appointed to serve on collaborative boards. The Department has created a new Educational Collaboratives section on our School Finance webpage. In the coming months, additional information and timelines will be posted to provide advice and guidance on the new requirements. Here is a summary of the key provisions of the new law:
Eliminates a provision that allowed a superintendent or school committee member appointed to a collaborative board to designate another person to serve in his/her place;
Authorizes the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education ("Commissioner") to appoint one independent voting member to each collaborative board in the Commonwealth;
Requires each collaborative board to conduct a minimum of six board meetings annually;
Mandates training for newly appointed board members within 60 days of appointment, which will be provided by the Department;
Prohibits collaborative board members from receiving a salary or stipend for their service as board members;
Requires independence of the collaborative board members, executive director, or any other collaborative employee from any position at a non-profit or for-profit entity that conducts business with or is affiliated with the collaborative;
Requires all collaboratives to obtain annual independent audits of their financial statements and for the Department to make those audit reports available to the public online;
Requires any collaborative established under the previous law to revise its agreement to conform to the new law and submit it to its members and to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education ("Board") for approval;
Authorizes the Commissioner to place a collaborative on probation to allow the implementation of a remedial plan, based on an audit or information indicating that the viability of the collaborative is at risk or that there are demonstrated deficiencies in programmatic quality or significant malfeasance; and if the plan is unsuccessful, authorizes the Commissioner, in consultation with the Secretary of Administration and Finance, to withhold public funds from the collaborative until the deficiencies are addressed;
Authorizes the Board to suspend or revoke a collaborative's operating agreement for cause, upon recommendation of the Commissioner;
Authorizes the Board to adopt regulations as needed to carry out the new law;
Requires the Department to develop a model collaborative agreement;
Requires the Department to create training for collaborative board members.
The accountability and monitoring standards that are outlined in Chapter 43 will require substantial changes in how collaboratives operate and will expand the responsibilities of the Department as well as local school committees and charter school boards to ensure that these standards are met. These standards will increase accountability and transparency and will also serve to highlight the important role performed by education collaboratives over the last forty years.
I have directed our school governance office to manage outreach efforts to the education collaboratives and other constituent agencies. Christine Lynch, our school governance director, has been designated as the liaison to all education collaboratives and to the Massachusetts Organization of Educational Collaboratives (MOEC). Questions related to the new requirements of Chapter 43 may be directed to her at 781-338-6520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to working with the collaboratives, constituent groups and local officials to implement these important changes.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
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