Originally published in: http://www.leominsterchamp.com/articles/investment-needed-in-all-levels-of-education/
It is that time of year again! The school year is winding down, and graduations are happening all over North Central Massachusetts. This is a time for celebration, for all of the hard work our students, teachers, and staff have put into a successful school year. It is also budget season — the time to establish our priorities, whether that is at the federal, state or local level.
We should be proud of the rich history Massachusetts has as the creator of public education. Our leadership in public education, not only in the country, but internationally, is the result of investments at the state and local level. A more educated community means higher wages, a broader tax base, a stronger economy, and a healthier community.
However, over the last few decades, we have witnessed a decline in those investments. Let’s take a look at the different levels of public education.
• Our K-12 System. The Education Reform Act of 1993 established the Foundation Formula for our schools and increased state aid for local school districts. However, the formula has not been updated in the last 24 years, and many unexpected costs have rendered the formula obsolete, including health insurance, transportation, and special education needs. The debates this week about the Leominster public school budget illustrate many of these shortcomings.
• Early Education. Massachusetts has some of the highest costs of child care, and the average annual fees for full-time infant care is $17,000. For the average single parent in Massachusetts, that is nearly two-thirds of their annual income. Yet data shows that for every dollar of investment in early education, there are seven dollars of long-term benefits to the individual and their community.
• Public Higher Education. We have experienced significant cuts in state funding since 2001, resulting in 31 percent cuts in per student expenditures, more than $5 billion in deferred maintenance across our 29 public colleges and universities, and an over-reliance/exploitation of part-time (adjunct) faculty members. This comes at a time where higher education is even more necessary for economic stability.
If we are going to create a truly affordable and accessible public education system from early education to higher education, we need to find new revenue that will not put more of a burden on low- and middle-income families. The Fair Share Constitutional Amendment will raise more than $2 billion for public education, to make public higher education more affordable, and public transportation, roads, and bridges. Fair Share will likely be on the ballot in November 2018, after its final legislative Constitutional Convention in June.
I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to strengthen the City of Leominster. As always, you can reach me at Natalie.Higgins@mahouse.gov or at my office at (978) 227-5278.