The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Weld’s proposed reform of state bilingual education programs in a test-run vote last night.
During debate on the $ 16.8 billion fiscal 1996 budget proposal, Republicans lost 124-30 an effort to incorporate in the budget Weld’s measure restricting the time non-English-speaking students can spend in bilingual education.
Weld’s bill would restrict students to no more than three years in bilingual education, increase testing and push more bilingual students into all-English classes. About 43,000 Bay State students are in such programs, and Weld asserts one in five languish in programs for more than three years without developing English proficiency.
With House Speaker Charles Flaherty denouncing the GOP bid as “a mean amendment,” all but four Democrats and eight of the 35 Republicans rejected the Weld plan.
As debate continued last night, House Republicans lost by mostly party-line votes amendments forbidding prison inmates from having televisions, raising health insurance premiums for state workers earning $ 40,000 or more, and overturning last November’s ballot question restoring the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group’s right to collect donations from state college students’ tuition bills.
Also yesterday, in a turnabout from its support in recent years, the House voted against a measure that would let cities and towns raise property taxes faster than Proposition 2 1/2 allows.
By an 80-73 vote, members moved to strike a proposal by Ways and Means chairman Thomas M. Finneran (D-Mattapan) that would allow communities, by a local-option vote, to raise total property tax collections each year by the inflation rate instead of 2.5 percent as Proposition 2 1/2 requires.
“We’ve never won it before, so we’re very excited,” said Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Forty-four Democrats rebuffed Finneran and joined every Republican in backing the repeal.
In a gently worded letter to legislators, Weld Education Commissioner Robert Antonucci and Board of Education chairman Martin Kaplan urged legislators to provide the $ 196 million increase in school aid for fiscal 1996 promised by the Education Reform Act, not the $ 150 million Finneran proposed.
“In order for Education Reform to succeed, we believe that Massachusetts must fulfill the financial commitment to education set forth” in the 1993 act, they wrote.
Legislators Monday night approved a measure increasing aid by $ 24 million over Finneran’s budget, ensuring every community gets at least $ 75 more per pupil from the state in fiscal 1996, which starts July 1.