Friday, April 28, 2006

Let's Spend More on Schools

Today's big Globe story was on the State Legislature promising to spend hundreds of millions more on schools next year.

Under pressure from angry parents, educators, and town officials, the Legislature is poised to add millions more in funding for schools, the largest jump since the economy went into a tailspin in 2002.

The Senate is preparing an increase of slightly more than $200 million, or about a 6 percent jump, for public schools in next year's budget, which starts July 1, according to Senate Ways and Means chairwoman Therese Murray.

While I applaud this effort, I need to make two key points:

  1. Don't forget public colleges. My tuition has skyrocketed. Next year, to live at UMASS Dartmouth is going to cost over $700 more. Many people will pay that and be forced to live with extra people than this year (forced doubles and triples because more students were admitted than there was room for housing). I'm not even touching on increased tuition and fees. Massachusetts is one of the two or three *worst* funders of public higher education and if anyone would like to know just how that effects this state - I'd be more than happy to explain in detail. It's shameful.
  2. You can't just spend money to spend money. Our congressmen and senators may be quick to do what's politically expedient - give their constituents a blank check - but the fact is that there are certain costs that are killing public schools that the state has a duty - and in fact promised, at one point, to pay. Special education costs are killing towns and cities. The state should fund at least 50% of each town's special ed costs. Furthermore, after school sports and activities should be free for every single person in this state. Too many schools charge an arm and a leg so students can play a sport or join a club. What kind of message does that send?
Statistically, schools in Massachusetts are among the best - if not the best - in the country. Imagine how great they would be if we truly invested in them - at every level, from pre-school to doctorates? Perhaps, Massachusetts could even compete internationally?! Imagine that? Furthermore, if people are worried about declining populations, there's nothing that will attract young workers to a state more than quality education for their children.

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