BOSTON — Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts is no stranger when it comes to education reform. Back in 2010, Patrick signed a historic education reform bill that sought to close achievement gaps and transform Massachusetts’ public schools by providing increased funding. Fast-forward to 2013, and Patrick is now pushing for even greater reform and even more funding for education.
Patrick recently proposed an increase in spending for public education by more than $2.5 billion over the next four years. The funding would begin with a $550 million increase for next year and would gradually increase each year to an additional $1 billion annually by fiscal 2017, according to the governor.
Public education has been a major factor for Patrick since taking office in 2007. The bill signed in 2010 doubled the number of students able to attend charter schools in districts with the lowest MCAS scores and also gave superintendent’s greater flexibility to turn around persistently low-achieving schools.
Earlier this year Patrick proposed new funding for community colleges, but his latest proposal focuses on expanding early childhood education. Patrick wants to expand day care and preschool programs so that more than 30,000 children can get off waiting lists and into the classroom. The proposal encourages school districts to create pre-kindergarten programs for 4-year-olds by offering districts per-student state aid for them, according to the governor. Currently, the state only gives state aid for 4-year-olds if they require special education.
“Unless we ensure that all children have access to high-quality learning opportunities in their earliest years when learning and achievement gaps begin to form, we will never reach our goals of all students reading proficiently by grade 3,” said Patrick to a group of students, staff, parents, and elected officials. “It is an educational and economic issue to have an achievement gap at all, but to let it languish as long as we have is a moral question.”
Much of the state agrees with Patrick in the sense that a strong education system will help the state and lead to strong, educated members of society, starting in the early years of a child’s educational journey.
“The best prevention program is looking for ways of addressing the needs in our preschool programs,” said Worchester School Committee member John Monfredo to GoLocalWorchester News. “We need full-day preschool programs and need to work with private and public providers to get our children the necessary readiness skills before entering kindergarten.”
With the overwhelming support of placing children in school early, there may be a need for increased building in order to accommodate these students. Although with the current funding formula there has not been specific mentions of how exactly or if exactly that would take place. For now, Massachusetts is focusing on getting more students more access to a better education — the technicalities will come later.