State of the States
Romney Calls for Aid to Struggling Schools
More than a decade after the Massachusetts legislature passed a watershed law that ushered in state accountability exams and pumped billions of new dollars into precollegiate education, Gov. Mitt Romney has issued a new call for increasing expectations in education.
But the governor offered few details for his proposed Education Reform Act of 2005 during his recent State of the State Address, and he challenged the notion that more money would bring better education results.
Mr. Romney, a Republican, did sketch out some broad goals for his proposal, which he said would largely apply only to failing districts. Among those measures, he called for a longer school day that would include more time for tutoring struggling students; expanding the state’s mathematics and English accountability exams to include science testing; lifting the cap on charter schools; and requiring mandatory parental-preparation courses for parents in failing schools.
While noting that 96 percent of the state’s high school seniors have passed the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams, the governor challenged lawmakers and educators to do better.
“Kids in our urban schools, most of them minorities, are not succeeding at anywhere near the rate of their counterparts in the suburbs,” Mr. Romney said during his Jan. 13 speech. “And let me be clear: The failure of our urban schools to prepare our children today for the challenges of tomorrow is the civil rights issue of our generation.”
But more money, he argued, will not solve the problem. “Ten years ago, it was felt that if we provided equal funding for urban schools, the disparity would just disappear,” he said. “It has not. Yet there will be some who simply cry for more money.”
Even so, Gov. Romney has said his upcoming budget blueprint for fiscal 2006 will include an $81 million increase in direct education spending, which would rise from $3.1 billion to $3.2 billion under his plan.
The stakes for school funding in Massachusetts are getting higher and are gaining increased attention.
The state’s highest court is expected to rule soon on a case involving several school districts that have argued Massachusetts has failed to provide students in needy schools an adequate education. A superior-court judge found last spring that the state’s school aid system has resulted in inadequate facilities, overcrowded classrooms, and an uneven implementation of state curriculum standards. ("Mass. School Funding Comes Up Short, Judge Rules," May 5, 2004.)
Catherine A. Boudreau, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, said that despite the governor’s proposed education spending increase, appropriations for schools would still fall more than $200 million below what they were in fiscal 2002.
“Once again this year, many school districts are anticipating having to make cuts in educational services if they do not receive significant new state aid,” she said in a statement.
Vol. 24, Issue 20, Page 24Published in Print: January 26, 2005, as Massachusetts