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Massachusetts Secretary of Education To Speak
at 2020 Annual Meeting
Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser will be the guest speaker at our 2020 Annual Meeting. As a health precaution, this year’s meeting will be held remotely on October 8th from 12PM-1PM and can be accessed via Zoom. The meeting is free to attend and will feature a Q&A session, a rare chance to have a direct discussion with the Secretary of Education.

Topics of discussion Secretary Peyser will address include the challenges private schools, colleges, and universities face during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what the Commonwealth is doing to help them.

James Peyser oversees early education, K-12, and higher education.  He is Governor Charlie Baker’s top advisor on education and helps shape the Commonwealth’s education reform agenda. In addition, Secretary Peyser developed Massachusetts’ policies of standards and assessments, school accountability, and charter schools.

Please email your questions for the Q&A with James Peyser in advance to
The deadline for consideration will be October 1st.

Legislative Report

We would like to take a moment to update you on some of the bills we are following on Beacon Hill, and highlight other bills successfully defeated. Keeping track of the shifting legislative landscape has never been more crucial than it is now, as even well-meaning legislation may have negative consequences for nonprofit schools, colleges and universities.

Bills relating to the following are of particular interest to MANS&C as the Legislative Session winds down at the end of the year:

  • Sexual violence response standards for colleges/universities

  • Standards for concussion protocol among student athletes

  • Protection of student data privacy

  • Multiple bills relating to student safety (buses, carbon monoxide detectors, etc.)

Currently the legislature is behind schedule due in part to the COVID pandemic, and has yet to even pass a full Budget as is customary in the spring. In light of this, we are unclear at this point if there will be any progress on the above mentioned bills, but we continue to monitor and will keep you informed. 

In addition to tracking legislation, MANS&C actively represents the interests of our members on Beacon Hill.  Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has been the advocate for MANS&C members on Beacon Hill since 2007. His efforts, which include daily communication with legislators, have helped oppose numerous bills which would have had potentially severe repercussions for some of our members. 

Recent bills effectively opposed/blocked would have:

  • Allowed municipalities to collect payments on tax exempt school properties (HB2581 & HB1565)

  • Imposed an excise tax on nonprofit universities whose endowments are more than $1 billion (SB1669)

  • Forced nonprofit institutions to make payments to their communities equal to 25% of what they would have paid if they were not tax exempt (HB2407) 

  • Severely hampered the protections offered to our institutions under Dover Amendment (SB94 & SNB219)

  • Made salary information of charitable organization officials public and imposed a commercial rate of real estate taxes on some specific acquired non-profit real estate holdings (HB2581)

MANS&C will continue to monitor bills and inform our members about developing issues of concern as the session progresses.


An Overview
MANS&C on Beacon Hill

MANS&C members and guests got an insider’s look at the new Massachusetts legislative session recently from the organization’s veteran legislative counsel, John J. Spillane. 

Speaking at a board-sponsored informational meeting at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, Spillane also outlined his work at the Statehouse, advocating for the interests of Massachusetts nonprofit schools, colleges and universities. 

“Even the best-intentioned bills may have serious financial implications or erode the historic independence of our institutions,” Spillane said.  “I represent the interests of MANS&C members and keep them informed 

about issues of concern on Beacon Hill.  Legislators also look to me as a resource to help them understand the effects these bills will have on our institutions – and on our communities.”

The articles in this newsletter will give you an idea of how the legislature works, the trends in bills that Spillane sees and what he does at the Statehouse to represent the interests of MANS&C members.

You’ll also find information about new regulations approved recently by the state Board of Higher Education regarding financial oversight of nonprofit colleges and universities.

What MANS&C Does on Beacon Hill

For many years, MANS&C Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has had unparalleled success in stopping bills that would negatively affect Massachusetts nonprofit schools, colleges and universities.

He is either at the Statehouse or in close contact with legislators on a daily basis, and even spends time with them in their district visits.

Spillane tracks and follows all bills and last-minute amendments that affect MANS&C members.  He monitors and attends committee hearings, prepares opposition testimony on bills of concern, confers with legislators and observes legislative sessions from the gallery.

He also keeps track of bills that apply only to public schools, because they can easily be changed to include nonprofit institutions.

Spillane works closely with AICUM and other trade organizations to develop a strategic approach to stopping bills of concern.

How the Legislature Works

In the 191st session of the legislature, which began on January 2, 2019 the 180-member House includes 127 Democrats and 32 Republicans; the Senate has 40 members, including 34 Democrats and 6 Republicans. The two-year session will conclude on December 31, 2020.Spillane expects 5,000 to 5,500 bills will be filed.  Generally, speaking, legislators file bills:

In response to a problem in a district
Based on legislation in other states,
       policy issues, studies or white papers

Once filed, the bills are assigned to committees. After studying the issues and implications of the bills, as well as getting input at public hearings, committees either report out the bills as “ought to pass” or “ought not to pass,” or they may be put to study or discharged to other committees.

Both the House and Senate must pass a bill and agree on the final language before it is sent to the Governor for signing.  If the Governor vetoes a bill, the veto can be overridden by two-thirds 

votes in the House and Senate.

Each legislative session runs for two years and includes formal and informal sessions.  Formal sessions run from January through the end of July and deal with bills that have been vetted by committees.  The informal sessions run from August through December 31.  Bills may still be voted on in the informal session but require unanimous approval to pass.

Discussions on the state budget begin in the spring, with March and April being the busiest time.  This year’s budget will cover Fiscal Year 2020.  Both the House and Senate create and vote on budgets, which then go to a Conference Committee to iron out the differences between the two versions.

John closely monitors the lengthy and complex budget process every year because of the financial implications the state budget may have for nonprofit education, and also because failed bills may be tacked onto the budget as last-minute amendments.

Trends in Bills Affecting MANS&C Members

Even if they are turned aside in one session, bills often return in the following years, filed by determined legislators who are unwilling to give up on them.  MANS&C Legislative Counsel John J. Spillane has noted the following historic trends in bills that would affect independent schools and colleges:

Zoning, often involving changes to the Dover Amendment. These bills are a major concern for MANS&C, and John will be watching for any measures that cede authority to local communities.

Taxation of Nonprofit Schools, Colleges and Universities, including efforts to tax property, operating income and endowments, or defining what institutions should be taxed based on officer salaries. Bills also may seek to establish percentages on what is deemed taxable, including taxation of short-term rentals of school facilities.

990s, including bills that seek greater transparency on what is disclosed on them.


PILOT Programs, empowering local communities to require nonprofit institutions to make payments in lieu of taxes.  Other bills may give communities the right of first refusal when our institutions sell property in certain situations.

Safety in Schools, including numerous bills affecting school buses, such as seat belts, embarking and disembarking, motor vehicle conduct regarding school buses, and bus driver conduct and certification.

Student Health, involving concussion prevention, head injuries, allergy response, vision and dental screening, and the prevention of tobacco use.

Prevention of Violence in Schools, defining when violence occurs and the action and response, security measures, student data privacy, sexual assault prevention and CORI issues.

ADA Compliance,
usually directed at the Architectural Access Board, which is charged with making facilities accessible to people with disabilities.

About MANS&C
The Massachusetts Association of Nonprofit Schools and Colleges (MANS&C) is the voice of private, independent schools, colleges and universities at the State House.  MANS&C represents members’ interests and advocates on their behalf with lawmakers and state regulators.  It also informs members about bills that threaten their independence and economic security, and helps them create Community Impact Statements that showcase their many contributions to their local communities.

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