It seems pretty clear to me

Screenshot 2018-06-08 07.05.05About two weeks ago, the Massachusetts Legislature failed once again to update school funding formulae known as the “Foundation”.  In my opinion, this is not only a huge disappointment, it is a disservice to students, families, and public schools in 351 cities and towns across Massachusetts.

Here in Lowell, the erosion of school services and supports can be traced in the budget cuts that have been necessary over the last nearly 20 years. In the late 1990s, when an elementary class size reached 25, it was common practice to assign a paraprofessional to that classroom, which allowed for more focused and individualized attention to students. In 2015, my retirement year, my grade level of 100 students and 4 classroom teachers shared 1 paraprofessional.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, elementary school staff included not only a library aide, but a certified Library Media Specialist. The library was a space where students not only learned research skills, but were exposed to wonderfully diverse literature and media curated by the Library Media staff. By the mid-2000s, all but one Library Media specialist was cut from the Lowell Public Schools and school libraries were maintained by Library Media aides. This year, 2018-19, the school budget has cut all library staff in Grades Kindergarten through Grade 8 essentially closing the libraries to any students below Grade 9.

These are but two examples of service cuts in Lowell. There have been many others. Teachers in Lowell spend inordinate amounts of personal money (in my own case, I spent on average of $1,000 each year and some years much more) to supply classrooms. Social workers, Speech and Language therapists, OT, PT, Special Education…. all carry larger-than-reasonable caseloads.

Have municipalities like Burlington or Wellesley cut K-8 library staff and access to school libraries? Of course not. Wealthier communities make up the shortfalls in Foundation funding from their property tax base and a community that is able to afford to allocate more funds toward schools. Does that seem equitable to anyone? (read WBUR’s commentary Inaction on School Funding Will Keep Opportunity Gaps in Place.)

What does our Commonwealth say about our schools and the Commonwealth’s responsibility to fund education? We only need to look at the Commonwealth’s Constitution and this paragraph:

“Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge [and] public schools and grammar schools in the towns….” Mass. Const. Pt. 2, C. 5, § 2.

As of this writing, the Legislature has failed our schools and our children. They have failed in their duties to “cherish” education and they have failed to provide the funding that would allow ALL public schools across Massachusetts to provide equitable educational opportunities.

We must tell our narratives as parents, students, educators, and community members. We must let our legislators know in no uncertain terms, that to continue to underfund the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations is unacceptable. We need to cherish our schools here in Massachusetts and fix the funding so that every child has access to equitable educational opportunities.

Advertisements

Onerous Regulations….

Yesterday’s presentation of the Senate bill proposing a compromise to the Charter School ballot question got a predictable reaction. No one is totally happy, but the unhappiest reactions came from those who advocate lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts – the ones who continue to quote the 34,000 student waiting list even in the face of the State Auditor’s report saying that number is unsubstantiated.

This morning’s Boston Globe article contains a reaction from pro-Charter spokesperson, Mark Kenen of Massachusetts Public Charter School Association (you’ll have to look Dr. Kenen’s credentials up on Linkedin yourself). The quote, from the Boston Globe, is:

Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, added that “it imposes onerous new regulations that will shackle the operation of existing charter schools.”

Wait a minute, those “onerous” new regulations, those regulations that will “shackle” operations? Some of these regulations are things such as using enforced suspensions of students as a means to create “school safety”.  The reliance on suspension over other less-draconian discipline actions have recently come to light nationwide (see UCLA report on Charter School suspension rates here making note of the 44.7% suspension rate at Roxbury Prep).

And then there are those pesky regulations requiring certification of teachers and representation of parents and teachers on governing boards the same standards required for traditional public schools. (For more on governance, see the Annenberg Report, Whose Schools published yesterday).

Wow, if those things are considered onerous, then why not unshackle traditional public schools as well?

Reference to the act, S2203, is found here.