Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez waited nearly 16 years for the moment that arrived in Gov. Charlie Baker’s office on Tuesday.
“Sixteen years — you’re doing it! Yes! Yes!” an animated Sanchez, D-Jamaica Plain, exclaimed, bouncing up and down briefly before high-fiving the governor.
Baker invited lawmakers and Education Secretary James Peyser into his office for a ceremonial signing of a law granting school districts more flexibility in educating students who are not fluent in English.
A 2002 ballot law required English learners to be taught in sheltered immersion programs, but schools will now be able to choose a different approach to meet student needs, subject to approval by state education officials.
Baker officially signed the law on Nov. 22.
Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz D-Boston, said in a statement that it would give teachers and parents tools to meet students’ needs and “make sure no child falls between the cracks.”
“At a time when the voices of bigotry and xenophobia threaten our country’s basic values, Massachusetts is taking a stand that we will do what’s right for all children, including immigrant children, and that we’ll put evidence and facts ahead of ideology,” Chang-Diaz said.
Baker said sheltered immersion works “very well for tens of thousands of kids, and we should never forget that,” and that the law would create new possibilities for the students for whom that method was ineffective.
The law does not ban sheltered immersion instruction, which schools will be able to continue to use if they prefer.
Members of the media were invited to cover the ceremony, but organizers allowed photos only. Officials did not take questions.