Build an Education System That Fits Our Economic Reality
Education is the great equalizer. It is a path out of poverty and an investment that gives people the knowledge and skills they need to make ends meet and build a better life for themselves and their families.
Today, however, education is not equal for everyone. This has to change.
1. Provide Free Public College for Massachusetts Residents
With the opening of Boston English in 1821, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to extend the benefits of a public education through high school. Prior to this, a child’s education typically ended around age 10. The change was unheard of at the time, but was deemed necessary by forward-thinking leaders because of the evolving demands of the economy. Now, nearly two hundred years later, we must rethink public education once again.
The benefits of public education must be extended through college. The reason for this is simple: the needs of our economy have changed dramatically, particularly in the last few decades, and we must evolve with the times. The modern cornerstones of our economy all require employees with more than a high school diploma. We must make public college available to all Massachusetts residents who are qualified to seek it–including our undocumented residents–in order to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to access these cutting-edge jobs, regardless of their age or income.
We must make two-year and four-year public college free for all Massachusetts residents. Here’s what I propose:
- Make public college free and available lifelong in Massachusetts.
- Provide funding for internships, apprenticeships, and co-ops that will allow students to gain real-world experience in their chosen profession.
2. Fully Support Public K-12 Education
It’s no secret that our public schools are underfunded. While our more affluent communities are home to some of the best public schools in the country, many other school districts around Massachusetts are faced with crumbling buildings, overcrowded classrooms, cutbacks in teachers, and shortages of school supplies.
Every child, no matter where they live, should have access to high quality public education. Here’s what I propose:
- Revamp the Chapter 70 funding formula to reflect the needs of every child in every district in our Commonwealth.
- Conduct a comprehensive, district-by-district and school-by-school analysis to determine which cities and towns lack sufficient access to a district or regional voc-tech school, and which voc-tech schools do not have enough seats to match increasing levels of demand.
- Maintain the current cap on Charter Schools.
- Increase the state’s investment in embedded professional development. Teacher learning is important for all communities, and it must be embedded in their day to day jobs.
- Support the development of high-quality professional development offerings in trauma-informed teaching and social/emotional learning.
- End high-stakes testing as a requirement for graduation and for the purpose of evaluating teachers and schools.
3. Include After School Programs and Summer Enrichment in Public Education
The primary purpose of our schools is student learning; but when schools narrowly focus on academics and ignore the many other factors affecting young people, they do not serve our students and families as best they can. Even after decades of reform, schools in our Commonwealth’s poorest communities still do not do well. From fewer after-school options to a lack of summer options, concentrated poverty disadvantages children and widens economic inequality.
We must look beyond the classroom to address the needs of our students. Here’s what I propose:
- Restore funding that supports student and family services, including funding for districts to help connect families with existing public services like Medicaid, housing assistance, and mental health counseling.
- Create an optional endorsement in social and emotional learning for teachers so they can better understand child and adolescent mental health.
- Invest in high quality academic enrichment opportunities for children of all ages–both after school and over the summer.
4. Make Early Childhood & Pre-k Education Free and Universal
The first years of life are critical for brain development – providing the foundation for everything that happens later in a child’s life. In Massachusetts, 70% of children under age six have parents in the workforce, yet our state has the highest average cost of childcare in the U.S. Indeed, four out of five Massachusetts families cannot afford to send their children to quality preschools. Early childhood and pre-k education and care must be free, universal, and accessible to everyone in Massachusetts.
We must ensure that every child has access to free, quality early childhood education. Here’s what I propose:
- Include early childhood services and pre-k education in public education. That means providing funding for districts to hire new teachers and build new early childhood centers.
- Provide resources to parents who don’t want to send their kids to early childhood centers. This includes resources for parents, as well as family day care and enrichment programs.
- Ensure that salaries for early childhood providers and pre-k educators are commensurate with teachers’ salaries.
- Implement a certification process for private child care providers in order to ensure that their facilities comply with educational standards.
- Provide more unified curricula and certification standards for private programs so that those who currently provide child care can also elect to provide early education — and can access the tools and professional training to make sure it’s high quality
- Provide support and active skill-building for parents of young children through a variety of venues, whether it’s at their child’s early education center, their doctors office, or their own homes.