Investing in Education


Fast Facts:

  • Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Education
  • Served on the Conference Committee Responsible for writing the Student Opportunity Act
  • Served on the Conference Committee Responsible for writing the Look Act

Active Advocate of the Student Opportunity Act (Foundation Budget Review Commission Legislaion)

  • As the ranking member of the Education Committee, Senator O’Connor was a key player in the passage of the SOA, having served on the 6-member conference committee to consolidate the final legislation and pass into law.
  • This legislation is the most significant change to public education funding since 1993 and represents an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in our education system ($2.2 Billion when accounting for inflation).
  • The Student Opportunity Act:
  • Adjusts the education funding formula in order to better assess the necessary costs of each individual district, distributes resources more evenly, and enables schools to provide the opportunity every child deserves.
  • Adjusts the formula better account for the rising cost of employee health care, and increases in special education and English learner enrollment.
  • Makes another major policy change to the funding formula includes returning the definition of “low-income” to 185% of the Federal Poverty Level as opposed to the 133% level that has been used in recent years.
  • Fully funds charter tuition reimbursements, includes transportation costs into the special education reimbursements, and lifted the annual cap on Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) spending by $150 million.
  • Makes additional policy updates include providing funding to districts and schools pursuing creative approaches to student learning, and ensuring the Secretary of Education collects and publishes data on student preparedness in each district and high school for post-graduate success in college and the workforce.

Passing the LOOK Act (An Act Relative to Language Opportunity for Our Kids)

  • Senator O’Connor actively worked to pass landmark legislation that will finally address the achievement gap that exists between students who are English Learners and those who are not.
  • In 2009, a report found that only 20% of Sheltered English Immersion students achieved proficiency - there are simply too many of these students falling through the cracks.
  • The bill afforded local school districts the flexibility to implement programs that they believe work best for their community, gave parents a say in what they believe is best for their child, and equipped the state government with the tools it needed to efficiently implement and monitor an effective English Language curriculum.

Support for Universal Free Full-Day Kindergarten

  • During the debate of the Massachusetts FY21 Supplemental Budget, O’Connor secured $250,000 to assist the Town of Weymouth in implementing their free full day kindergarten program. In November 2019, Weymouth committed to providing free kindergarten for families in the 2021 school year. This funding will assist Weymouth in setting the program in motion.
  • Senator O’Connor has sponsored and pushed for legislation that would create and offer a grant program designed to help schools establish or maintain free full-day kindergarten. This grant program would be designed to offer matching grants to communities looking to establish a new free full-day kindergarten program when they didn’t have one already, or to communities who currently offer free full-day kindergarten but are at serious financial risk of losing that program.

Supporting School Safety

  • Secured $75,000 in the FY2019 Budget for Weymouth to fund new security features and emergency training exercises for school staff at WPS.
  • Secured $113,794 in the FY2017 budget for Hull to cover the salary, benefits, and training for a School Resource Officer in the Hull Public Schools as well as for security camera enhancements.
  • Secured $100,000 in the FY2017 budget for Cohasset to cover the salary, benefits, and training for a School Resource Officer in the Hull Public Schools as well as for security camera enhancements.
  • Secured $111,500 in funding for a Public School Multi-Hazard Plan for Hingham Public Schools in May of 2016. The Multi-Hazard Plan establishes protocols, responsibilities of school and public safety personnel, and evacuation guidelines for a variety of potential situations. This amendment will provide funds for safety training, exterior cameras, expanded coverage of PA speakers, and outfitting twenty school buses with surveillance cameras with recorder capabilities. 
  • Secured $332,842 in funding through the Commonwealth’s Safer Schools and Communities Initiative to assist schools in the district in making critical school security upgrades. The funding was used by districts to invest in door locks, surveillance video cameras, panic alarms, and secure single-entry point equipment.
  • Cohasset: $34,670
  • Duxbury: $60,000
  • Hingham: $56,980
  • Scituate: $24,476
  • Weymouth: $78,358
  • South Shore VoTech: $78,375

Sponsored Legislation

  • An Act relative to charter school reimbursements
  • An Act establishing a tax credit for teachers purchasing supplies
  • An Act creating a special commission to study classroom temperatures
  • An Act relative to the screening of prospective school employees for prior investigations into child abuse or sexual misconduct
  • An Act relative to safe internet access in schools
  • An Act relative to the accessibility and affordability of trade school education
  • An Act promoting local control and effective training of school resource officers
  • An Act creating a school resource officer grant program and fund


As your Senator, I have invested a great portion of my efforts in expanding educational opportunities and finding solutions for schools throughout the Commonwealth. If Massachusetts were a standalone country, we would rank top ten in the world for reading, science, and math. However, our education system also has one of the worst achievement gaps that puts low-income or disadvantaged students at a loss. That is why I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Joint Committee on Education to strive for heightened quality in academics in the South Shore and across the state.

I supported the report of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which set forth recommendations to overhaul and modernize the way Massachusetts funds our public schools. We have not had comprehensive education funding reform since 1993, so the House and Senate passed a bill that would implement the FBRC’s recommendations. I was proud to be selected to serve as a member of Conference Committee to pass this bill, and we will be continuing our work into the next legislative session.

The Plymouth & Norfolk district will be awarded $71.3 million in state aid to public elementary and secondary schools for the 2019 fiscal year, which is a $3 million increase from the time I was sworn in. The South Shore is lucky to be home to state of the art educational facilities and exemplary faculty, and we are always working with local governments to secure added resources for each school.

While Charter schools present their own set of opportunities, I believe in investing in higher quality public schools first. Charter schools divert significant state funding from public schools and have no oversight by local School Committees. We have also seen discriminatory acceptance statistics and the risk of failure. I want to see our existing schools improved to their greatest potential before we invest in alternative education methods.