Opponents of increasing government investment often adopt the mantra of “doing more with less.” When the fiscal climate grew starker, the mantra became louder. But the economy has turned, and now it is time to begin to dig out of the hole.
For the last 15 years, the education system in Massachusetts has been doing more with less. We need to get back on track. Even the most ardent fiscal conservative recognizes that you cannot build a world class education system while starving it of needed resources.
We have reached that point in Massachusetts and that is why the membership of the Boston Teachers Union voted to endorse Governor Patrick’s investment plan for education and transportation. Let’s look at how our schools have done.
In the last 15 years, Massachusetts education system has done more…
Massachusetts 8th grade students ranked 2nd in the world in science and 6th in math in the prestigious Trends in International Math and Science Study (TMSS). (Our 4th graders did not participate in the study because of “budget constraints.”)
We are closing, slowly, the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups, with high school graduation rates among blacks and Hispanics growing three times faster than whites during the last 6 years. The gap is still wide and more needs to be done.
More of our high school graduates are graduating from college, with college graduation rates among Boston public school alumni improving by more than 20% since 2000.
Investment in early childhood education and care is down 28 percent since 1998, when adjusted for inflation.
Local aid to cities and towns is down 45 percent, creating major financial challenges to local budgets that primarily fund K-12 education.
Support for higher education is down by nearly a third.
Before implementing new tax increases, taxpayers have every right to expect that government get the most out of their tax dollars. With regards to education, this has clearly been the case in Massachusetts during the last 15 years.
If we are serious about closing the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups; if we are depending on an ever-improving, world class education system to drive Massachusetts’ economic success, can we risk the continued path of expecting more for less? After 15 years of budgetary neglect, we cannot expect better outcomes without increased investments.