New coalition will push for more education funding in Massachusetts
BOSTON — A new coalition will launch Tuesday to push lawmakers to provide more money for public education.
“We’re basically just calling on legislators to keep their promise to cherish our public schools and fund them adequately,” said Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, an advocacy group founded to support public K-12 education.
The coalition, which is planning a Tuesday event at the Statehouse, will be asking for more funding of both the K-12 system and public colleges and universities this year. This campaign will be called Fund our Future.
A 2015 report found that Massachusetts is significantly underfunding its public schools by not accurately accounting for the costs of special education and employee health benefits, among other things.
Lawmakers last summer were on the verge of adding hundreds of millions of dollars more into the school funding formula, but talks between the House and the Senate over exactly how to do that fell apart at the last minute.
Some cities have been talking about suing the state to force an update of the funding formula.
The debate over education funding is expected to be renewed when the Legislature returns in January.
The group also wants more money for the state’s public colleges and universities so that tuition and fees stop rising and students can graduate with less debt.
A 2014 report by a commission on higher education finance identified uneven and below average state funding as one problem facing the state’s public colleges.
The new coalition will include groups representing students, parents, educators and community leaders. These include Jobs with Justice, the Boston Teachers Union, PHENOM, the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts and others.
Guisbond said the group will eventually get behind a piece of legislation. For now, they are not proposing a specific funding amount, formula or funding source.
“We’re making a clear, simple case that students, parents, educators and community people can’t wait anymore,” Guisbond said. “It’s a crisis.”
Guisbond said at stake are things like class sizes and funding for librarians, social workers and “all the things our students need to be successful and learn.”
But the educators could face opposition from businesses, who do not want to pay higher taxes without being assured of better results.
The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a business-backed advocacy group, has called on lawmakers to resist writing a “blank check” for education spending. The group, in a statement, stressed the need to reform the education system rather than simply add more money.
The businesses said lawmakers should set higher targets for student improvement and try to close the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. The businesses wrote that it is problematic that only 37 percent of Massachusetts ninth graders go on to complete a post-secondary degree, since most jobs today require a college or other post-secondary degree.
The group called for lawmakers to set aside money to spur school innovation to close the achievement gap and increase student readiness for college and careers. It also called on the state to develop opportunities for students to get work experience and obtain the credentials needed to work.
“The solution is not just more funding,” the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education wrote. “How the money is spent matters.”
Signers of that statement include Associated Industries of Massachusetts; chambers of commerce in Boston, Springfield, Worcester, the Berkshires and elsewhere; Springfield Business Leaders for Education; Massachusetts Competitive Partnership; and technology-related trade associations.
Shira Schoenberg, MassLive, December 17, 2018