Month: November 2018

Senator Lesser Holds First in Series of High School Town Halls Following Signing of New Civics Law

LONGMEADOW — Senator Eric P. Lesser held the first in a series of high school town halls on Wednesday at Longmeadow High School following the signing of the state’s new law promoting civics education.

Sen. Lesser was a leading champion of the legislation in the Senate, particularly for a measure directing schools to incorporate “media literacy” in their civics programs to help students develop the skills needed to critically analyze written and digital media sources. The effort was also a long-time priority of Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), and was given added urgency with the influx of so-called “fake news.”

The bill also requires public schools serving students in eighth grade and high school to provide a student-led civics project, and creates a Civics Project Trust Fund to provide funding for these projects.

“One of my favorite activities as a State Senator is getting the chance to speak directly with young people,” Sen. Lesser said. “I first became interested in government at a young age, and I first got involved in my local government as a sophomore right here at Longmeadow High School when we campaigned to save teachers’ jobs from cuts to education funding. Our students always inspire me with their questions about how our state government works and their desire to get involved. They are our future leaders, so it is critical they understand that even at a very young age they have a stake in our community and in our Commonwealth’s future.”

Students at Longmeadow High School asked questions on a number of topics, including gun safety laws, taxes, the environment, immigration and the economy.

This is the first in a series of wide-ranging discussions with high school students that Sen. Lesser plans to hold across the First Hampden and Hampshire District.

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Civics Education Bill, Including Measures Championed by Senator Lesser, Signed into Law

Bill requires students to complete civics projects and encourages voter registration for eligible high schoolers

BOSTON — On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill, based in part on legislation sponsored by Sen. Eric P. Lesser, that reinforces civics education and news media literacy in Massachusetts classrooms.

The bill, S. 2631 An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, makes civics education a required subject in all Massachusetts public schools as part of the U.S. history and social science curriculum. Instruction is to include lessons on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as well as the function of the three branches of government.

According to the bill, the curriculum should also develop skills needed to critically analyze written and digital media sources, a critical measure championed by Sen. Lesser in a separate bill that was incorporated into the final legislation.

“Young people can, and must be, part of the solution to our most pressing challenges. But in order to do that, they need to understand how our democracy works and have the basic skills to tell fact from fiction and evaluate news versus commentary,” said Sen. Lesser. “My hope is that these new civics classes will energize young people to get involved. A healthy democracy needs citizens to be well-informed and engaged, and that begins with educating our young citizens.”

In a recent nationwide poll, only a third of adults could name all three branches of government. According to some test results, 45 percent of 12th graders were unable to explain how citizens could change a law.

The bill also requires public schools serving students in eighth grade and high school to provide a student-led civics project, and creates a Civics Project Trust Fund to provide funding for these projects.

Sen. Lesser reads to students in Granby last year.

Finally, the bill directs the Massachusetts Secretary of State to establish a non-partisan high school voter challenge program to encourage eligible students to register or pre-register to vote.

The effort to pass a civics education bill, a long-time priority of Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester), was given added urgency with the influx of so-called “fake news” witnessed during the 2016 presidential election.

According to research conducted at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, students who recalled memorable civic education experiences were more likely to vote, to form political opinions and to know campaign issues. Researchers also found that civics education does not lead students to favor one party over another.

The bill is a result of negotiations between the House and Senate on their different versions of the bill, and an amendment suggested by Gov. Baker.

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Senator Lesser: Springfield Ranked Top 10 for Stem Is “A Good Reminder That Investments In Our Workforce Pay Dividends for Our Workers and Our Economy”

SPRINGFIELD — Senator Eric P. Lesser praised the news that Springfield ranked in the top 10  best metro areas in the U.S. for STEM professionals, according to a list compiled by WalletHub, a personal finance website.

STEM professionals include those working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“This is great news for our city, our region, and the entire state — and a good reminder that investments in our workforce pay dividends for our workers and our economy. This is why vocational education programs are so important, and make such a difference in our communities,” said Sen. Lesser.

Investing in STEM education and workforce pipelines has been a priority for Sen. Lesser since taking office in 2015. As Senate Chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, he helped craft the 2018 Economic Development Bonding Bill, which funded an apprenticeship tax credit program for apprenticeships in computer occupations, healthcare technologists and technicians, and production occupations in the manufacturing industry.

This year, Sen. Lesser secured millions of dollars in the state budget, for the fourth consecutive year, for a precision manufacturing training program to create a fully coordinated manufacturing training system to meet the employment needs of manufacturers across the state.

News of Springfield’s ranking was first reported by The Republican. Springfield, which came in eighth, beat out major cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Atlanta and Denver. Springfield was also one of only two New England cities to make the top 10; the other was Boston, which came in second.

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/ In News, Press Release / By Ryan Migeed / Comments Off on Senator Lesser: Springfield Ranked Top 10 for Stem Is “A Good Reminder That Investments In Our Workforce Pay Dividends for Our Workers and Our Economy”