Around New England

Massachusetts Legislature’s Education Committee Recommends Bill That Would Replace Merit-Based Admissions For Vocational Schools With Blind Lottery

February 16, 2024

A Massachusetts state legislative committee has voted to recommend a bill that would replace merit-based admissions at public vocational high schools with a blind lottery, supporters of the bill said.

The Joint Education on Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature reported the bill out of committee, according to a press release Thursday, February 15 from Vocational Education Justice Coalition, which maintains that using grades, attendance, disciplinary record, and guidance counselor recommendations of eighth-graders “discriminates against Students of Color, English Language Learners, Special Needs Students, and Low Income Students.”

Massachusetts Senate Bill 257 (“An Act To End Discriminatory Outcomes In Vocational School Admissions”), filed by state Senator John Cronin (D-Fitchburg), states:  “No eligible applicant shall be required to submit anything to participate in the lottery other than the school the eligible applicant is currently enrolled in and contact information as determined relevant by the school.”

Cronin and another sponsor of the bill sent a letter to Governor Maura Healey in December 2023 asking her to “mandate lottery admissions at vocational schools to hold these institutions to the same equity standard our charter schools have successfully met for the past three decades: a standard where every applicant within a municipality, regardless of race, national origin, disability, or household income, has the same chance at admission to these public high schools,” as New Boston Post reported at the time.

The web landing page of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Education states that the vocational school lottery bill has been reported out of committee, but does not give further information about its status.

Unlike in most other state legislatures, most committees of the Massachusetts Legislature hold votes on recommending bills in private and do not make public how the legislators on the committee voted.

The state legislature, which is formally known as the “General Court of Massachusetts,” exempts itself from the state’s Open Meeting Law, which requires local and regional government boards and multi-member public bodies under the authority of the governor or legislature in ordinary situations to hold meetings in public. Instead, the Open Meeting Law (Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30A, Section 18) states that the term “public body” “shall not include the general court or the committees or recess commissions thereof …”


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