To: Joint Committee on Education, Massachusetts Legislature
This is our chance to fund our public schools!
Heed the call of countless Commonwealth students, family members, educators, staff, local elected officials, and community members and fully fund our schools, pre-K through grade 12.
Why is this important?
I’m an elementary educator in Massachusetts public schools, retiring in June after 22 years of teaching. I’m also a mom. I know too well, from all angles, the painful impact of Massachusetts’ inability to fully fund our schools.
Here are a few snapshots: when I started teaching first grade in 1997, I had 14 students and a full time bilingual aide. Twelve years later, I had 26 students and no aide. Among those 26 students, I had more English language learners (many of them newcomers to English), more students with learning disabilities, and more students suffering from childhood trauma. I am currently a Title 1 Math teacher, but even teaching eight groups a day, I can only serve half the grades in my school. My school needs two of me. My math intervention is extremely effective in getting children up to grade level so they will not need an IEP, but I can only provide services in first, second and third grade because there’s only one of me.
There is an urgent public education funding crisis facing Massachusetts. That’s why I’m rallying with students, family members, community members, educators, principals, school staff, and local elected officials, on the streets and at the State House next week to urge passage of the PROMISE Act, which will increase state education aid by $1 billion per year for preK-12 public schools. I will be taking a personal day on Friday, March 22 and making a five hour bus trip to Boston and back to testify before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education to seize this generational opportunity to fully fund our schools.
Please join me in demanding action from our lawmakers for fair and equitable public education for every student in the Commonwealth.
Back in 2015, the bipartisan Massachusetts Foundation Budget Review Commission found that the Commonwealth’s public school funding formula is woefully outdated and that state spending is way too low. Remember, the formula for education spending hasn’t been updated since 1993!
This has created crises at the local level with cities and towns and our schools having to make drastic cuts, all of which harm our children’s education. It’s time to say ENOUGH!
The Promise Act, filed by Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-Boston) and by Reps. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke) and Mary Keefe (D-Worcester), would over a period of time implement the five core recommendations of the Commission.
The bulk of the additional funds would go to districts with the greatest need and fewest resources. The formula would be changed to:
**Realistically account for districts’ health care costs.
**Provide adequate support for English learners and low income students.
**Account for special education costs.
**Mitigate losses to charter schools.
The bill is also structured to ensure that **every district** benefits during the phase-in of reforms and that no one type of reform is front-loaded or back-loaded.
And, of course we also have to account for the unique and pressing needs of rural schools like regional transportation and declining enrollment, an effort that gained ground last year, but must go much further this session.
We live in precarious times. An educated, creative, hard-working and compassionate citizenry is the best hope for our future. If we shortchange our schools, we weaken our democracy and jeopardize our future. It’s time to fund our future now.
Please—for all our children—call for this major reinvestment in public education to happen in time for local communities to include the funding in the next academic year’s budget. We can begin to repair the persistent education inequity that often exists between students in one community and those in the city or town right next door.