MAC’s legislative priorities for FY20

MAC has identified the following key legislative priorities as part of our strategic advocacy initiatives this year. To receive important updates on these items, including easy ways to contact your legislators to express your support, email communications@massadvocates.org.

Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism, and other Developmental Disabilities (H 1219, H 1218, S 756)

House lead sponsors: Rep. Haddad with Rep. Garballey;
Senate lead sponsors: Sen. Lovely with Sen. Rodrigues

These bills remove barriers to higher education by providing opportunities for persons with ID and autism to access our state colleges and universities in order to gain skills necessary to work and live independently in the community as adults.

Individuals with ID and autism who are unable to pass MCAS and who do not obtain a regular high school diploma would be able to enroll as non-matriculating students in courses with their nondisabled peers and participate in extracurricular activities and other aspects of campus life, with supports and services to facilitate inclusion. The House companion bill addresses the needs of individuals over age 22, with a delayed implementation date.

The bills allow state colleges and universities to establish guidelines governing admission of individuals with ID and autism as well as course selection and enrollment. The bills would require that the goals, mission statements and performance measures of our state colleges and universities provide for the inclusion of students with ID and autism. The bills would also codify the MAICEI grant program and allow the special education process to consider higher education as an option for students with disabilities ages 18 to 22 years old.

An Act Relative to Certification of Interpreters in Educational Settings (H 417)

Lead sponsors: Rep. Cabral, Sen. Welch

This legislation directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create standards and competencies for the training, hiring and use of interpreters in educational settings in order to provide limited English proficient (LEP) parents and students with competent interpretation services, as required by federal and state law. Implementation of the bill would be phased in, focusing initially on school districts designated as chronically underperforming, in order to enhance the ability to reach the goals of the districts’ turnaround plans. Implementation in other districts would be delayed until the department determines appropriate.

An Act Relative to Ensuring Equal Access to Education for All Students (H 432)

Lead sponsor: Rep. Decker

This bill will make information available to the public in order to assist the Commonwealth and local communities address barriers to education that students may face due to bias and discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, disability, English learner status, and/or sex.

This legislation directs DESE to publish data on the delivery of educational opportunities to students in a manner that will help ensure equity regardless of a student’s race, primary language, disability, or sex. With this information, educators will be better positioned to address identified disparities. In the future, this legislation will require that DESE publish data in a similar manner regarding access to special education services for students throughout the Commonwealth.

An Act to Improve Augmentative and Alternative Communications and Opportunities for Children with Disabilities (H 403)

Lead sponsor: Rep. Barber

This legislation amends teacher license regulations to require that all teachers who apply for an initial Massachusetts educator license receive instruction on the appropriate use of augmentative and alternative communication devices for children with disabilities who are nonverbal or who have limited speech. This bill will help improve outcomes for students as well as reduce costs for school districts by facilitating inclusion and supporting placement of children with disabilities who are nonverbal or who have limited speech in the least restrictive environment.