Gov. Patrick renews investment in education

 

By Joanne Wong

Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled an ambitious $550 million education plan on Jan. 15. The investments would infuse money into public education for students at all levels, from early education to college.

“This is about creating opportunity and economic growth,” Patrick said at the Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury. “If we are going to accelerate our growth and create opportunity, we must invest. This is not only about the students’ social and economic future — it is about ours.”

The proposed plan would increase public education spending to $1 billion annually over the next four years, and aims to build a more skilled workforce.

Students in Massachusetts perform on average at the top in national assessments of academic achievement, but the same cannot be said of all students. In particular, students from lower-income families, English language learners, students with disabilities and many minority students struggle in school.

The governor is planning on investing a total of $70 million in expanded learning time for middle school students over the next four years in high-need schools across the state. Middle school is a critical time for students, who are most vulnerable to outside influences, especially in the after-school hours. The money going towards the expanded learning time initiative will ensure that schools provide additional time, resources and enrichment programs for students.

“We are delighted that Governor Patrick has embraced the idea that every child can succeed if they try hard enough and devote the time needed to learn,” said Chris Gabrieli, co-founder and chairman of Mass2020, an educational research and think tank that advocates for expanded learning time. “While for many children, the combination of school, home and community works well now, for most high poverty schools and children, especially in the middle grades, it does not.“

Investments in K-12 education also include $20 million in funding for comprehensive supports to students and families in the state’s 24 Gateway Cities — communities that are facing social and economic challenges. Another $226 million will be added to Chapter 70 local aid, which grants more state aid to less wealthy school districts.

Data shows three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in third grade will continue to struggle academically throughout their careers, greatly reducing their chances of graduating from high school or attending college.

The governor’s plan calls for the state to make a far greater investment to ensure that every child has access to support services. Patrick wants to deliver on his promise of universal access to early education by eliminating the waitlist system. New funding will go toward family and parent engagement programs.

In higher education, the governor’s plan includes an expansion of the MASSGrant program, which provides financial assistance for students demonstrating need. It is a part of a $274 million effort to make college more accessible and affordable for Mass. students.

 

Joanne Wong is a senior associate at the National Center on Time and Learning.

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