Saturday, January 5, 2019

"she must continue the means by which her present elevation has been gained"

From her earliest colonial history the policy of Massachusetts has been to develop the minds of all her people, and to imbue them with the principles of duty. To do this work most effectually, she has begun it with the young. If she would continue to mount higher and higher toward the summit of prosperity, she must continue the means by which her present elevation has been gained. 
Horace Mann, writing on "The Ground of the Free School System" from his tenth annual report as Secretary of the State Board of Education, 1846 
This week, we've opened a new session in the Legislature and a new term of office for the Governor. The Legislature was sworn in Wednesday; while we didn't hear anything specifically from House leadership on priorities, Senate President Spilka published a piece in the Boston Globe in which she said this:
Education has always been Massachusetts’ lodestar, beginning with the birth of public education. I’m proud that the Senate successfully advocated for a record investment in education funding this past year. The Legislature can also help ensure every child has access to a quality public education — and therefore a firm footing for future success — by passing a bill that fully implements the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission this session.
(thanks to the Senate President, incidentally, for linking to MASC's summary of the FBRC results in the editorial)

Thursday, Lieutenant Governor Polito and Governor Baker were both sworn in. In her speech, Polito said:
We must continue to strengthen our public education, realizing that our work isn’t done until every student in every community has access to great schools.
This sounds good on the surface, but what it means, of course, is not that every community has great schools, but that every student has access to great schools. This is a charter/choice line. It doesn't get every child into a great school--only "access"--and it doesn't ensure that every community has a school that is, as the state Constitution has it, working "for the preservation of their rights and liberties." This is not a line that supports universal public education in every district.

The Governor, whose spokesperson had floated education as a topic Wednesday, said the following:
We have a K-12 education system that, despite its limitations, is the envy of the country.
Ok, fine.
We added 4,000 seats to our superb vocational and technical schools.
Four thousand is a lot; this is the first time I've seen this number. I went back through the enrollment numbers of the past four years of the foundation budget, and I see an addition of 1202 seats in the regional vocational schools. I could use a source. Additionally, I'm always leery on "we" statements of this kind, and, as the state hasn't, until this year, supported increases in operational costs for vocational schools, I don't know what the state had to do with any seats that have been added. Those would be costs that were picked up by the local districts until they were added to the foundation budget (and even then, those are, for most of the regional vocationals, largely locally funded).

Here's the big section on education:
Twenty-five years ago, Massachusetts wasn’t a national leader in public education.
This is one of those statements, without state testing, state-by-state NAEP breakdowns, and the like, that's hard to comment on either way. UPDATE: I am informed that prior to the Ed Reform Act of 1993, Massachusetts was 3rd in the nation on NAEP. That seems like "a national leader in public education" to me.
Since then, we’ve achieved remarkable success by working together on a series of education reforms. As a result, Massachusetts students have scored number one on the National Assessment of Educational Progress exams in English and math for much of the past decade. And last year finished first on the Advanced Placement exams as well.
"As a result" is another of those phrases...causation is a lot. I'm not going to argue, per se, but too often "education reforms" don't include school funding (or children's health insurance or high rates of education among adults or aspects of a social net).
But when it comes to the difference in performance between urban and suburban school districts, we can and must do better.
I agree "we can and must do better" on "the difference" between urban and suburban school districts--note that rurals are not mentioned here--but "in performance" is far too narrowing in what needs to be done between urban and suburban districts. What the Governor calls "performance" is a symptom; true change at the state level requires recognizing the the source of the problem.
The Foundation Formula needs to be updated and we’ll propose updates when our budget is filed later this month.
I agree.
That doesn't sound like a Governor who is recognizing that the foundation budget is a billion or two billion dollars underfunded. If he were serious about this, he'd be forced to spend more than a single sentence on this, if only to talk about how he planned to fund it.

But progress isn’t just about money.
And here we go...
Education Commissioner Jeff Riley proved during his time as Receiver in Lawrence that significant progress can be made in improving school and student performance by changing the way our schools operate.
Before that, he transformed the Clarence Edwards Middle School in Boston from the lowest performing middle school in the city into one of the best.
What's interesting here is this dodges the question of if there was increased funding in Lawrence over that time; as we've discussed here before, there was, as the city had been funding the district below the minimum of funding required prior to state receivership.  I notice that now the city is up to a percent over net school spending (which isn't a lot, but is still an increase from what was previously seen). Perhaps, then, we've dismissed that myth; I hope so.
I think the above isn't wrong, but it is fairly sweeping.
With that success in mind, our budget will also include opportunities for underperforming school districts to invest jointly with the Department of Education in proven best practices like acceleration academies, professional development, after school enrichment and leadership development programs.
It is less the list here of additions than the utter lack of comprehension that the phrase "invest jointly" reveals. Communities that are already literally thousands of teachers short don't have wiggle room for additional programs; communities that are funding PD at a third or less of foundation don't have additional funding to "invest jointly" for more. This is so very, very clearly ignorant, which at this point is willful, of the reality in which those urban districts mentioned above live. That's inexcusable.
We all have an opportunity to give our kids their best chance to succeed in a 21st century economy. It’s up to us to come together and seize this opportunity and lay the groundwork for their success.
No argument there, Mr. Governor. Let us know when you're prepared to fund it.

No comments: