Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting to a Vote

Thanks to Senator Brewer and several co-sponsors -- including the Legislature's only geographer -- a bill now sits in committee that would greatly improve and expand geography education in the Commonwealth. As with any bill, "in committee" is exactly where the bill is likely to stay unless a groundswell of support is noticed on Beacon Hill in coming weeks. The Joint Committee on Education has many bills to consider this session, and any bills they do not act upon prior to early March will simply expire.

A core group of MGA members has gotten us to this point, by focusing on many details of the legislation and the legislative process. We had a very promising hearing before the Joint Committee in June, and we have followed up with key legislators and staff members. At this point, however, a much broader group needs to make their thoughts known about the bill and its provisions, and to ask that the bill be released from committee for consideration by the full legislature.

On our way to Beacon Hill, we met some great
folks from Sierra Leone, a country that teaches
more geography than we do!
 Read about it on Environmental Geography.
The provisions include expanding geography frameworks from their current inclusion at 4th grade (U.S.) and 7th grade (world). The bill specifies every grade, but any expansion beyond these two years would be a positive step. More importantly the bill would bring geography licensure back to the Commonwealth, after its unexplained disappearance a decade or so ago. The bill -- whose official language is actually quite easy to read -- would also require that geography be included as an MCAS subject, that a geographer be included on the statewide social studies framework committee, and that a Geography Week be declared each April.

It is very important that students, teachers, educators, and administrators communicate with the co-chairs of the committee and/or with individual committee members if they happen to reside in the appropriate districts. Constituents can also ask their own local legislator -- even if she or he is not on the committee -- to write to the co-chairs in support of SB 182. Several legislators have already done so -- please check to see if your local representative and senator are among them, and then contact committee members on your own.

The chairs of the committee are Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Hanlon Peisch. Other members are listed on the committee web page.

When we are all done, we hope to post a photo of Gov. Patrick signing the bill -- from inside EarthView!