The average Gateway district went from less than half low-income students in 1992 to nearly two-thirds in 2008 (see table below). These 11 regional cities, urban centers vital to the Commonwealth’s economic future, now represent seven of the 10 highest poverty districts in the state.I've long thought one of the biggest problems facing Massachusetts was making sure all of Massachusetts shares in the success that the inside 128 communities have been lucky enough to achieve. There's no reason why we can't make our Gateway Cities be economic engines that drive the success of all of Massachusetts, giving each and every citizen a somewhat equal chance at success. However, these education numbers suggest that things are even worse than what I thought (and I thought they were pretty bad).
Given that one of the best indicators of school success is socioeconomic levels -- even on tangible things like MCAS scores -- we need to invest heavily in our Gateway Cities. Common Cause has some suggestions, all of which should be employed - for a base start, including how to pay for it.
Data generated by rigorous testing ushered in with Ed Reform have taught us a lot about what low-income students need -- quality early education, more time in the classroom, and access to the best teachers. Getting them what they need will cost money. Given the severe fiscal constraints both the state and local governments are likely to face for the foreseeable future, cost-saving efforts are urgently needed. This means moving more employees to the GIC, transferring retired employees to Medicare, maximizing Medicaid reimbursements for special education, reducing procurement costs, and working with energy companies to reduce utility costs.