Cultivating allies in the business community with Early College expansion

The Gateway Cities Journal

Massachusetts’ state Senators gather under the golden dome for a historic floor debate on education funding today. The $1.5 billion Student Opportunity Act is a game-changer for Gateway City school districts, and a Massachusetts economy thirsting for skilled workers to replace aging Boomers. Today’s Globe records this moment as a debate about who gets what. This parochial framing is a disservice to our most disadvantaged students, and forward-thinking state legislators, who clearly recognize that their constituents are not always best served by more state funding for their district in a Commonwealth with growing divides.

But the Globe is not entirely off the mark. If this landmark legislation moves forward, Gateway Cities must rise to the occasion and prove that they can be responsible stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars in order to keep the funds flowing.

Expanding Early College High Schools is the surest way to deliver. Gateway City educators have already shown tremendous brawn getting these complicated K-12/higher education partnerships off the ground. As research MassINC published earlier this year demonstrates, Early College at scale is the most promising strategy these communities have to dramatically increase post-secondary degree completion and prepare more youth for jobs in the state’s knowledge economy. If Gateway Cities can provide opportunities for many more students to participate in these programs, everyone in Massachusetts will win. Rigorous cost-benefit analysis shows every dollar expended on Early College generates $15 in benefits.

This incredibly high rate of return has caught the eye of the state’s business leaders. Led by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a large coalition of business groups have thrown support behind worthy amendments offered by Senator Anne Gobi (Amendment 46) and Senator Barry Feingold (Amendment 47). These provisions establish dedicated funding within the Chapter 70 formula for Early College. By incorporating this language into the final bill, the Legislature could send a loud signal to Gateway City educators that they are fully behind Early College expansion, and in fact see it as a signature component of an act whose primary purpose is to increase student opportunity.

However, Gateway City educators shouldn’t despair if this amendment campaign is unsuccessful. Instead, they should take note of the business community’s support and cultivate the relationship. As they scale their Early Colleges, Gateway City school districts will need the Legislature to remain true to the act’s seven-year implementation plan, which calls for incremental increases in funding each fiscal year. Allies in the business community will be extremely helpful in ensuring Beacon Hill makes good on this commitment, if and when the fiscal picture makes it more challenging to deliver on the funding promise.

Housing & Economic Development

Brockton cuts the ribbon on 24 brand new market-rate residential apartments.

Fitchburg and four central Massachusetts towns receive funds to incorporate energy efficiency into neighborhood stabilization efforts (as recommended in the January 2019 MassINC/MACDC policy blueprint).

Leominster cleans up and revitalizes its downtown shopping area, thanks to a $400,000 grant from the state.

New Bedford’s city council approved the applications of three marijuana dispensaries.

Mayor Tyer of Pittsfield suggests using money from the city’s Economic Development Fund to subsidize an investment to build an extraterrestrial simulator in the city’s new innovation hub.

Pittsfield proposes a $160,000 grant and a $45,000 tax break to lure Electro Magnetic Applications to the Berkshire Innovation Center.

Developers say Quincy Center is entering a new phase of development.

Worcester receives its largest grant to date for lead hazard reduction in low-income housing.


Brockton’s city planning department unveils a series of concepts to redesign the downtown street grid, including protected bike lanes, two-way traffic, and wider sidewalks.

Chelsea will expand its commuter rail station and increase accessibility.

Four communities, including Lynn and Quincy, apply for MBTA ferry service pilot projects. 

A dozen states from Massachusetts to Virginia work to tackle climate change by reducing emissions and funding greener transportation options with carbon pricing.

The MassINC Polling Group releases a new poll demonstrating strong public support for more frequent and affordable commuter rail service.

The state is trying to rein in the RTAs.

Three new studies show that density doesn’t always reduce car travel.


A state report reveals over half of the schools in Fall River are in need of assistance or intervention.

Pittsfield outlines efforts to increase educator diversity before the state board of education. 

The long-awaited education finance bill is a major win for Gateway Cities. SouthCoast Today describes it as “a grand slam for New Bedford.” 

Quincy plans to create an $8.5 million special education center. 

Worcester State University receives a $100,000 grant to build an Equity and Engagement Consortium. 

The Rennie Center holds a conversation on the status of education in Western Massachusetts in Springfield next week.

Creative Placemaking 

The Barr Foundation will increase the Creative Commonwealth Initiative grants, benefiting the communities of New Bedford and Fall River. They also provide $500,000 dollars to creative placemaking in Gateway Cities through MassDevelopment’s TDI program.

 The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem open a new wing, making it one of the country’s largest museums.

Communities & People

The EforAll Summit in Lowell draws Gateway City entrepreneurs, including Lawrence-native Jorge Veloz.

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