Senate OKs Picard’s bill seeking right to ‘equitable, adequate and meaningful’ education in state constitution
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard to place a question on the next statewide ballot asking voters to amend the state constitution to guarantee “an equitable, adequate and meaningful education to each child.”
Such a constitutional guarantee would ensure that systems that are failing children are addressed because the guarantee would be legally enforceable.
“The state constitution is the highest law in the state, and the statement of our dearest values. Public education is one of the most important duties of American government, upon which the success of not only individuals, but also communities, states and the nation hinges. We should make a very firm commitment to providing genuine educational opportunities for every single child, regardless of their circumstances or their Zip code,” said Senator Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland).
The legislation (2023-S 0072) now goes to the House of Representatives.
Senator Picard has introduced the bill numerous times in previous sessions, and this is third consecutive year it has passed the Senate. The effort is modeled on a similar constitutional provision added to Massachusetts’ constitution that helped transform its public educational system into one that is consistently among the best in the country.
If the question were put on the ballot and voters were to approve it, it would place the responsibility for providing an equitable, adequate and meaningful education to each child in the hands of the General Assembly and the state. It would enable people to seek court enforcement if they believe themselves injured because the state failed in its duty to provide an equitable, adequate and meaningful education to each child.
Senator Picard has also introduced two other bills aimed at better supporting public schools in communities that serve low-income students. The bills (2023-S 0087, 2023-S 0094) would adjust the state education funding formula to provide additional funding based on the number of students residing in qualified low-income housing and public housing, respectively.
“One of the ideas behind public education is that it is supposed to provide opportunity to all. But it’s well-documented that students growing up with fewer resources generally need more support to succeed at school than kids whose parents have more means. It’s equally clear from a look at the schools in our less-affluent communities that our funding formula isn’t providing that level of support. Those districts simply can’t afford to provide the opportunities their students need,” said Senator Picard. “Adequately resourced public schools are absolutely vital to providing an escape route from generational poverty.”