Saturday, March 26, 2016

On complicated and difficult work, moral imperatives, and a keen sense of urgency

Did you see the ever expanding list of communities that have called for implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings? If you follow my Twitter feed, you haven't been able to escape it, probably. 
If you were at Worcester's CPPAC meeting in March (note at the end), you got most of the gist of what a lot of the response from the Legislature has been: there is no money.
That's also much of what is in the Sun Chronicle article covering this from earlier this week: this is hard, and we don't have the money to do it.
To accept this, however, is to miss the main point of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's report; as it says in the conclusion:
We submit this report to the legislature with full recognition of the continued fiscal challenges of the Commonwealth, and the many competing priorities, and worthwhile goals, that the legislature must balance in crafting the annual state budget. We recognize that recommendations of this scope and size will need to be phased in to be affordable. However, we also note again what was stated at the beginning of this document: that the good work begun by the education reform act of 1993, and the educational progress made since, will be at risk so long as our school systems are fiscally strained by the ongoing failure to substantively reconsider the adequacy of the foundation budget. We therefore urge that the legislature act on these recommendations with a profound sense of the risks and opportunities at stake for our shared prosperity as a state and, as our constitution acknowledges, the critical nature of education to the health of our democracy. We advise a keen sense of the urgency when it comes to addressing the identified funding gaps, and the moral imperative of reducing the remaining achievement gaps.
emphasis added

There is no question regarding the responsibilities of funding education in Massachusetts; McDuffy settled that. Ignoring this, or putting it off yet again, doesn't make this issue magically vanish. It simply continues the issue and makes it more expensive.
And it is local districts, and ultimately, children, particularly those in the most vulnerable of positions--the poorest, the least able to advocate, those at the greatest of disadvantage already--who will be hit by this.
It means that Worcester's kids stay 660 teachers short of what they should have.
It means that Brockton's kids learn in school buildings that are $6 million a year short in facilities spending.
It means that Chelsea's kids are working with a bit over a third of the supplies and technology they're supposed to have.
It means that Fall River's kids have teachers with less than half the funding for professional development they're supposed to have.
It means that Southbridge's kids are short 40 or so classroom teachers, and Holyoke's kids are short over 130 teachers, and Lawrence's kids are short over 200 teachers.
Not taking up the foundation budget this year may make it simpler for many on Beacon Hill. That will again make the job for school committees harder this spring, then the job of teachers and others harder next fall, and ultimately the job for students for the foreseeable future harder.
And ultimately that makes the future harder for everyone.
Adams meant it when he said it was necessary for the preservation of our rights and liberties. It isn't just our economic future that's endangered when we fail to properly fund education. It's our future as a democratic republic.

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