Governor Deval Patrick today called for renewed investment in education in order to create opportunity across the Commonwealth and to keep the Massachusetts economy growing. Governor Patrick laid out a plan that would provide universal access to high quality early education for children across the state, from birth through age five; fully fund K-12 education and allow for extended school days in high-need schools; make college more affordable and accessible for high school graduates; and allow community colleges to expand their efforts to provide students with the knowledge and skill training needed to succeed in the workplace.
This investment package, to be filed with the Governor's FY14 budget proposal next week, totals approximately $550 million in its first year and increases to nearly $1 billion annually over the next four years. The Commonwealth's Innovation Economy relies on a high-knowledge, well-skilled workforce, and in order for Massachusetts to remain competitive in the 21st century global economy, our commitment to excellence and opportunity for all of our students must start earlier, run deeper, and be sustained longer.
"This is about creating opportunity and economic growth. After twenty years of good work and experience at reforming education, we know what works," said Governor Patrick. "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 Patrick-Murray Administration is implementing a wide array of initiatives in early education, K-12, and postsecondary education to build a 21st century public education system in Massachusetts -- one that truly meets each student where he or she is and provides opportunities needed for success in the classroom and beyond. As a result of the Administration's strategic investments in education and innovation, and cutting-edge education reform efforts like the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, the Commonwealth's students perform at the top in national, and in some cases, international assessments of academic achievement.
However, beneath these nation-leading results, deep and persistent achievement and attainment gaps show that far too many of our students - particularly students from lower-income families, English language learners, students with disabilities, and many students of color - are being left behind. These gaps threaten our ability to remain competitive with other states and with other nations in the global marketplace, and undermine our ability to leave behind a stronger Commonwealth for future generations.
The tools and strategies Massachusetts has in place have improved educational outcomes for thousands of students across the Commonwealth, but we need a far greater investment to accelerate these efforts and ensure that every child -- not just some - has access to these critical services and supports.
Investments in Early Education and Care:
Data show that three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in 3rd grade will continue to struggle academically throughout their educational careers, greatly reducing their chances of graduating from high school, going to college or successfully participating in a 21st century high skill economy. Currently, only 61% of all 3rd graders, 38% of African-American 3rd graders and 36% of Hispanic 3rd graders are proficient in English Language Arts. Additionally, there are nearly 30,000 children, from birth through age five, on the waitlist for early education programs across the Commonwealth.
The Governor's nearly $350 million investment ($131 million in FY14) in our early education and care system will:
Eliminate the Department of Early Education and Care's (EEC) current birth -- age five waitlist by providing universal access to high quality early education for all infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers in Massachusetts;
Expand initiatives to ensure the highest educational quality among providers of early education and care through EEC's Quality Rating and Improvement System, and to assist early educators and providers attain higher levels of proficiency, skill and quality;
Increase educational programs and supports for parents and family members to further engage them in their child's success; and expand efforts to provide comprehensive support services to children and their families.
The Governor will also dedicate new Chapter 70 funding to incentivize more school districts to offer pre-school to their 4-year olds. Currently, the Chapter 70 formula only reimburses districts for the number of pre-schoolers who are in special education inclusive classrooms. The Governor's proposal would allow every pre-school student to count toward a district's Chapter 70 calculations.
Investments in K-12 Education:
The middle school years are also a critical point at which to lay the foundation for future success and equip students with the tools and skills they need to achieve at high levels in high school and beyond. For many students stuck in achievement gaps, insufficient time is a barrier to success. These are the students trying to learn another language while keeping up in their core academic subjects, children with special needs or children whose life outside of school presents challenges to educational success -- many of these students are concentrated in our Commonwealth's 24 Gateway Cities and other high-need schools throughout the state.
The $70 million ($5 million in FY14) targeted expanded learning time initiative the Governor is proposing for middle school students in high-need schools will ensure that schools have the additional time and resources they need to build differentiated systems of learning, and that students have access to enrichment programs that will enhance their ability to succeed both in and out of the classroom. The proposal also includes an additional $20 million in funding for comprehensive supports to students and their families in Gateway Cities.
The Governor is also proposing a nearly $226 million increase in Chapter 70 local aid which will hold every district harmless for aid; keep every district at foundation levels of spending; finish the Chapter 70 equity reforms of 2007; guarantee an increase of $25 per pupil for every district; and increase the assumed cost of the average out-of-district special education placement for school districts.
Investments in Higher Education:
Success in today's global economy means some level of education beyond high school for all of our students, including both 2- and 4-year degree programs as well as certificate programs for specific industries. Right now, there are 146,500 jobs open in the Commonwealth and the majority of those are good paying jobs that require 2-year degrees or specialized certificates. The Administration, in partnership with our public institutions of higher education, is working to ensure that skill training is no longer a barrier to finding a job. However, the rising costs of higher education in Massachusetts and nationally has forced too many of our students to carry higher debt levels than ever before or even forfeit higher education all together. This is not only a loss for those students, but for our economy as a whole.
The Governor's proposal includes $274 million ($152 million in FY14) to make college more affordable and accessible, particularly for lower- and middle-income students, and ties campus funding to performance and outcomes by:
Significantly increasing funding to the MASSGrant program, which provides financial assistance for students demonstrating the greatest need
Expanding the Completion Incentive Grant Fund which allows students enrolled at certain campuses to receive a maximum of $8,000 over four years for credits earned towards their degree
Providing annual increases for the community college funding formula developed as part of the Governor's community college proposal, totaling $20 million in FY14
Furthering the Commonwealth's support for funding at least 50% of the educational costs at the University of Massachusetts, state universities, and community colleges.
Together, these investments will fuel the Administration's continued efforts to build a 21st century public education system in Massachusetts that prepares all students to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.