Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Governor Patrick proposes increased funding (in targeted areas) for education

Yesterday, Governor Patrick proposed increased education funding in particular areas. The focus is on early (very early: birth to age 5) childhood ed, middle school learning time, and college costs.
As always, let me first laud the attention to funding in education. This is right and useful.
These also could be some useful areas to target: while I don't focus on college on this blog, the costs of college have gotten outrageous and have made it well beyond reach of families who could benefit. Middle school is a time that I continue to think that we still haven't quite figured out how best to serve; we should be very thoughtful and cautious about time increases, but the attention is useful. Early childhood ed is the time when we can do the most good with smaller resources, and I'm particularly pleased to see us extending that so young, as gaps among children open remarkably early.
This does feel, unfortunately, as though we are once again attempting to solve problems that lie well outside of education by putting more attention on education, however. Lots of children who come to us with what gets termed an "achievement gap" have families that need better access to food, to housing, to health care. Lots of children are never going to attend preschool, even if we have the space--and let me add, they shouldn't have to. Lots of parents could use assistance in how to talk to kids, how to let kids play, so as to have them well prepared for school, but also for life beyond school.
And this early childhood focus is not, I fear, going to do any of that.
The governor also announced yesterday that, while he intends to fully fund Chapter 70, he also: also proposing a nearly $226 million increase in Chapter 70 local aid which will hold every district harmless for aid; keep every district at foundation levels of spending; finish the Chapter 70 equity reforms of 2007; guarantee an increase of $25 per pupil for every district; and increase the assumed cost of the average out-of-district special education placement for school districts.
emphasis mine
In other words, this will continue the inequity that kicked in with the so-called reform of 2007, which was a turning away from the fundamental principle behind the foundation formula: that districts are funded inequitably and that the state's role is to fix that. That doesn't mean that every district gets the same amount. That doesn't mean that every district gets a piece of the pie. That means the districts that need the most help get the most help.

No, Worcester will not see that $25 per pupil. As there is no mention here of charter funding reform, one assumes that we will again get hit by charter schools not being fully funded. And it will be districts that least need the aid that get the increases.

This is not progressive government, and it is not what the foundation formula set out to solve.

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