Our Commonwealth must be ready to face the economic challenges for our future. Workforce development through career technical education is the key ecnomoic driver our region needs to move our community forward. I have been one of the Commonwealth's major leaders on advancing legislation to open up more opportunities for students through vocational education. Our residents are demanding more vocational education and there is simply not enough capacity to meet the demand; there is also not currently an adequate mechanism to address these capacity shortfalls. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released a Massachusetts Career Vocational Technical Education Waitlist Report shortly after the current legislative session commenced. The report found that there were nearly 2 applicants for every 1 available seat at a Vocational school. This report shed light on admissions practices leading to disparities, admissions practices that were automatically triggered due to severe shortcomings in capacity, largely putting students with intellectual disabilities at a disadvantage of getting a seat. I have fought to establish the office of career and technical education and expand opportunities for CTE building capacity and expansion grants as well as ways to promote stronger collaboration between comprehensive high schools and vocational schools to build non-duplicative programs at comprehensive schools that meet the quality standards and meet the workforce demands of the district. The newly created office ensures that DESE allocates sufficient time, expertise, and financial resources to career technical education. The space will offer resources for our vocational schools, comprehensive schools, and academic schools to tap into to provide the highest quality vocational education programs and build our workforce of the future. I will keep fighting for vocational education as not every student is destined to go to college.
North Attleboro became a designated district for innovation pathways funding. Innovation Pathways give students coursework and experience in specific high-demand industries. Pathways create strong partnerships with employers to expose students to career options and help them deliver knowledge and skills related to chosen field of study before they graduate high school. In FY22, Rep. Scanlon advocated for the establishment of a $600k line item to support Innovation Pathways. In FY23 that line item was increased to $4,830,000 in a single fiscal year thanks to our advocacy.
I have supported legislation that allows cities and towns to make the small business or commercial property tax exemption more effective to business owners. Another area that is a huge concern for me is that there is a lack of affordable housing, I will champion bills and budgets to improve this infrastructure in our district through increased housing production plans. I have been an advocate and supporter for rental relief through rental assistance programs as well as legal protections for people facing evictions that are awaiting on a status update on their application for rental assistance.
Supporting our small businesses in the district is a major priority for me. I regularly speak to our business owners to understand what they are facing as well as provide assistance when needed. I will continue to support millions of dollars in grants being distributed to small businesses across the Commonwealth, including in our own district. I have advocated for increased local aid to the communities in our district. I am a strong supporter of unions in our Commonwealth and will support measures to protect them and working class people.