On the Education Crisis that no major candidate has addressed yet

Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts
Green-Rainbow Party (GRP) leaders […] called the newly-released Department of Education report on high school graduation rates “reflective of the reality that our leaders highlighted throughout the campaign season; education is in serious crisis in Massachusetts.” The Department of Education held its monthly meeting Tuesday where it announced that 80 percent of Massachusetts high school students graduated after four years, with major disparities when factoring in race and income-level.

Cambridge school committee member, GED teacher, and GRP co-chair, Luc Schuster, said that “Gov. Patrick’s administration has brought attention to a crisis in education, but MCAS testing as well as more than a decade of budget cuts mean the state must return at least 1/2 billion dollars to return to education resources, comparable to 2001.” Mr. Schuster continued by offering Patrick a future for education funding, “Gov. Patrick must realize that he can and must restore the missing funding to our Constitutionally-mandated public education system as part of his oath of office. Growing numbers of ninth and tenth grade drop-outs are entering my GED program in Roxbury, just before they would have taken the tenth grade MCAS. It is clear that the undue focus on this standardized test, which is supported by Gov. Patrick, continues to disengage students from doing more meaningful learning. Any discussion of causes of graduation rates must begin with a critical look at the curriculum. Special focus must also be paid to the glaring disparities in education.”

Disparities surrounding graduation rates based on race released Tuesday surprised some, but Boston city councilor from District 7, Chuck Turner, called the disparities “predictable and ongoing.” Although the statewide graduation rate was near 80 percent, the rates for urban students lagged behind, the report said. Only 64 percent of black students completed high school in four years and that figure was 57 percent among Latino students. “The grim graduation rates are based on a system that demands that teachers teach to the MCAS test instead of working with students to address their educational needs,” Turner said. “We are already working with legislators to repeal the MCAS as a promotion and graduation requirement and we are hoping to open the greater question of education reform to help our children get the best education we can provide them. Patrick must join us.”

“Gov. Patrick could easily restore needed education funding if he made simple changes that would more evenly distribute the tax burden,” offered Whately school committee member and Smith College professor, Nat Fortune, “He could restore the $500 million to public education soon and then even add another billion dollars to bring us to funding levels of the 1990s.” Fortune, who was also the 2004 GRP candidate for state representative in the 1st Franklin District, said that lowering the tax rate would be “fiscally irresponsible” and “out of the question.” Instead, Fortune proposed to couple urgently-needed property tax relief with the closing of corporate tax loopholes and an increase in the income tax rate. “Green-Rainbows back common sense tax proposals that simultaneously lower the tax burden on those who are paying too much and increase overall revenues to pay for needed services. That’s the real definition of fiscal responsibility and we’re already working with legislators on it. Healing our education system will depend on whether or not Governor Patrick moves Massachusetts forward towards fair taxation.”

GRP candidate for governor in 2006, Grace Ross, explained that “our dismantled education system, the pervasiveness of the MCAS, and other cut backs such as youth workers and summer jobs are intrinsically tied to youth violence. Already two 13 year olds have been killed in Boston this year. With the disparities finally acknowledged in this report, we and the legislators with whom we are working call on Patrick to join us in returning to an education based on each child, to returning funds to youth workers and summer jobs and the myrad financial needs of our communities. He needs to not tell us that our hopes cannot be met because he does not want to join us in asking the wealthy and large corporations in Massachusetts to pay their fair share like the rest of us. We are still working towards a Beloved Commonwealth where there are no proverbial bodies left to float in the water.”

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