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HOUSE DOCKET, NO. 4098        FILED ON: 10/26/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 3764

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The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

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In the Year Two Thousand Eleven

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AN ACT RELATIVE TO STRENGTHENING OVERSIGHT OF EDUCATION COLLABORATIVES.
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1.  Section 4E of chapter 40 of the General Laws, as most recently amended by section 2 of chapter 12 of the acts of 2010, is hereby amended by striking out the section in its entirety and inserting in place thereof the following:-

              Section 4E.  (a) 2 or more school committees of cities, towns and regional school districts and boards of trustees of charter schools may enter into a written agreement to conduct education programs and services which shall complement and strengthen the school programs of member school committees and charter schools and increase educational opportunities for students. The school committees and boards of trustees of charter schools shall collaborate to offer the programs and services; provided, however, the association of school committees and board of trustees of charter schools which is formed to deliver the programs and services shall be known as an education collaborative.

              The education collaborative shall be managed by a board of directors which shall be comprised of 1 person appointed by each member school committee or member charter board of trustees. All appointed persons shall be either a school committee member, the superintendent of schools or a member of the charter board of trustees. Members of the board of directors shall be entitled to a vote according to the terms of the education collaborative agreement. The commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall appoint an individual to serve as a voting member of the education collaborative board of directors. No member of said board shall receive a salary or a stipend for their service as a board member.  No member of said board shall serve as a member of a board of directors or as an officer or employee of any for-profit or non-profit entity that conducts business with or is affiliated with the collaborative. Each collaborative board member shall attend training developed by the department of elementary and secondary education.  Each collaborative board shall meet not fewer than 6 times annually.

              The written agreement which shall form the basis of the education collaborative shall set forth the purposes of the program or service, the financial terms and conditions of membership of the education collaborative, the method of termination of the education collaborative and of the withdrawal of member school committees and charter schools, the procedure for admitting new members and for amending the collaborative agreement, the powers and duties of the board of directors of the education collaborative to operate and manage the education collaborative and any other matter not incompatible with law which the member committees and charter schools consider advisable. The agreement, and all subsequent amendments, shall be subject to the approval of the member school committees, member charter schools and the commissioner of elementary and secondary education. The commissioner may suspend or revoke such approval for cause.

              Each board of directors of an education collaborative shall establish and manage a trust fund, to be known as an Education Collaborative Trust Fund, and each such fund shall be designated by an appropriate name. All monies contributed by the member municipalities and charter schools and all grants or gifts from the federal government, state government, charitable foundations, private corporations or any other source shall be paid to the board of directors of the education collaborative and deposited in the fund.

              The board of directors of the education collaborative shall appoint a treasurer who may be a treasurer of a city, town or regional school district belonging to the collaborative. The treasurer may, subject to the direction of the board of directors of the education collaborative, receive and disburse all monies of the trust fund without further appropriation. The treasurer shall give bond annually for the faithful performance of his duties as collaborative treasurer in a form approved by the department of revenue and in a sum not less than the amount established by the department, as shall be fixed by the board of directors of the education collaborative. The board of directors of the education collaborative in its discretion may pay compensation to the treasurer for his services. No member of the board of directors of the education collaborative shall be eligible to serve as treasurer of the collaborative.

              The treasurer of the education collaborative board of directors shall have the authority to make appropriate investments of the monies of the Education Collaborative Trust Fund consistent with section 54 of chapter 44.

              (b) Each board of directors of an education collaborative shall keep an accurate account of all its activities and all its receipts and expenditures and shall annually cause an independent audit to be made of its accounts consistent with generally accepted governmental auditing standards.  Such audit and all management letters shall be filed annually on or before January 1 with the department of elementary and secondary education and the state auditor and shall be in a form prescribed by the state auditor; provided, however, that the purchase by a government unit of social service programs, as defined in section 22N of chapter 7, from a collaborative, shall require the collaborative to adhere to the uniform system of financial accounting, allocation, reporting and auditing requirements of the bureau of purchased services of the operational services division, in accordance with the requirements of section 22N of chapter 7. Copies of such audits shall also be sent to each member school committee or member charter school and shall be posted on the collaborative’s website.  The state auditor may investigate the budget and finances of education collaboratives and their financial dealings, transactions and relationships, and shall have the power to examine the records of education collaboratives and to prescribe methods of accounting and the rendering of periodic reports. 

              The board of directors of an education collaborative may borrow money, enter into long-term or short-term loan agreements or mortgages and apply for state, federal or corporate grants or contracts to obtain funds necessary to carry out the purpose for which such collaborative is established; provided, however, that the board of directors has determined that any borrowing, loan or mortgage is cost-effective and in the best interest of the collaborative and its member municipalities and charter schools. The borrowing, loans or mortgages shall be consistent with the written agreement and articles of incorporation, if any, of the education collaborative and shall be consistent with standard lending practices.

              (c) The board of directors of the education collaborative may employ an executive officer who shall serve under the general direction of the board and who shall be responsible for the care and supervision of the education collaborative.  Said executive officer shall not serve as a board member, officer or employee of any for-profit or non-profit entity that conducts business with or is affiliated with the collaborative.

              The board of directors of the education collaborative shall be considered to be a public employer and have the authority to employ personnel, including teachers, to carry out the purposes and functions of the education collaborative. No person shall be eligible for employment by the education collaborative in a position that is covered by section 38G of chapter 71 unless the person has been granted a certificate by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education under section 38G of chapter 71 or an approval under the regulations promulgated by the board of elementary and secondary education under chapter 74 with respect to the type of position for which he seeks employment; provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent a board of directors of an education collaborative from prescribing additional qualifications. A board of directors of an education collaborative may, upon its request, be exempted by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education for any 1 school year from the requirements of this section to employ certified or approved personnel when compliance therewith would in the opinion of the commissioner constitute a great hardship.

              The education collaborative shall be considered to be a public entity and shall have standing to sue and be sued to the same extent as a city, town or regional school district. An education collaborative, acting through its board of directors, may, subject to chapter 30B, enter into contracts for the purchase of supplies, materials and services and for the purchase or leasing of land, buildings and equipment as considered necessary by the board of directors. 

              A school committee of a city, town or regional school district or board of trustees of a charter school may authorize the prepayment of monies for an educational program or service of the education collaborative to the treasurer of an education collaborative, and the city, town or regional school district or charter school treasurer shall be required to approve and pay the monies in accordance with the authorization of such school committee or charter school board of trustees.

              (d) Upon receipt of information by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education regarding an education collaborative which, in the opinion of the commissioner, indicates the presence of circumstances at the collaborative that impede its viability or demonstrate significant malfeasance, financial or otherwise, by any board member or employee of such collaborative, the commissioner may remove the offending board member or members, after a hearing.  Upon receipt of such information, the commissioner may also direct school districts and charter schools to withhold payments of public funds to such collaborative, and the commissioner may, in consultation with the secretary of administration and finance, withhold state funds being directed to the collaborative.  Any withholding of funds that occurs under this paragraph shall conclude when the commissioner of elementary and secondary education acknowledges in writing to the member school districts and member charter schools that sufficient corrective actions are being taken by the collaborative to address the concerns that resulted in the withholding of funds.  If the commissioner removes a board member or members under this paragraph, the commissioner shall develop a plan to ensure the continuity of the services of the collaborative as appropriate.

              (e) The board of elementary and secondary education shall have the authority to promulgate, amend and rescind such reporting requirements, rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this section.

              SECTION 2.  Any education collaborative formed under section 4E of chapter 40 of the General Laws before the enactment of this act shall revise its agreement to conform to the provisions of this section, as amended by this act, within 18 months of its enactment.

              SECTION 3.  There shall be a commission to examine the future of education collaboratives.  The commission shall consist of 14 members: 1 of whom shall be the chair of the commission, to be appointed by the governor; 2 of whom shall be the co-chairs of the joint committee on education; 1 of whom shall be a member of the house of representatives appointed by the minority leader; 1 of whom shall be a member of the senate appointed by the minority leader; 1 of whom shall be the secretary of education, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be the secretary of health and human services, or her designee; 1 of whom shall be the commissioner of the department of elementary and secondary education, or his designee; 6 of whom shall be appointed by the secretary of education, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by a representative of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by a representative of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by the American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts, 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and 1 of whom shall be selected from a list of 3 nominees offered by the Massachusetts Organization of Educational Collaboratives.

              The commission shall examine and make recommendations on topics including, but not limited to, the following: (1) developing efficient and effective strategies for creating a statewide network of regional education service agencies to implement new programs and provide technical assistance in partnership with the department of elementary and secondary education; (2) identifying a funding stream to support regional activities; (3) maximizing the capacity of collaboratives and aligning their respective missions with the commonwealth’s educational goals and priorities; (4) the relationship between education collaboratives and affiliated for-profit and non-profit organizations, in consultation with the attorney general, the inspector general and the state auditor; (5) reviewing the compensation levels of collaborative employees; (6) assessing the merits of merging or consolidating existing collaboratives, including the effect on collective bargaining agreements, staff, operational systems and debt obligations; (7) reviewing the provision of adult services, in consultation with the executive office of health and human services; and (8) adopting appropriate time frames for implementation.

              The commission shall conduct its first meeting not less than 45 days after the date of enactment of this act and shall issue a final report containing recommendations within 12 months of such enactment.  The commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall consider such recommendations in implementing the provisions of this act.  The commission shall report to the general court the results of its study and its recommendations, if any, together with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out such recommendations, by filing the same with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives who shall forward the same to the chairs of the joint committee on education and the chairs of the senate and house committees on ways and means. 

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