Education and Youth Services

Public Schools

Massachusetts’ public schools serving preK–12 and vocational students are overseen by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and elected school committees. Public schools, by definition in Massachusetts, include approved charter schools. DESE has a strong oversight role and in some cases has taken control of a district that has underperformed according to DESE benchmarks. Education is the greatest portion of the budget in almost all municipalities. State school funding formulas determine how much money a district will receive from the state.

Massachusetts is seeing general population decline, with cities and some suburbs with a growing youth population, and nearly all rural areas with an increasing elder population. This declining enrollment in rural regional districts has created financial stress on these towns and districts, especially with transportation costs. A recent study has recommended some solutions

Youth – Cities and towns can create youth commissions, “for the purpose of carrying out programs which may be designed or established to meet the opportunities, challenges and problems of youth”; 3 – 21 members for 3-year terms; appointment by Selectboard, Town Manager, or Mayor.

Some school committees have a non-voting student representative.

Very few municipalities have active youth commissions; those that do, often have members that also sit on the Governor’s Statewide Youth Council, although that is not a requirement for appointment to the Council:

Hardwick has a Youth Commission, currently all adult appointees, which runs the town’s youth center. 

Some commissions have been very active and have successfully lobbied their local government officials to take action around issues such as recycling and reducing the voting age for municipal elections.