The following is testimony in support of the Education PROMISE Act (S.238/H.586), which aims to provide public schools the funding they need to deliver high-quality, equitable education across Massachusetts.
Members of the committee,
My name is John Jackson and I am the President & CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, whose national headquarters is in Quincy.
I speak today in strong support of the Education PROMISE Act—and want to share Schott’s research and extensive experience working to ensure that all children, regardless of zip code, race, or family income, have an equitable and substantive opportunity to learn.
The lens of race gives us one measure of educational inequity in Massachusetts. Our state is often celebrated for its statewide high school graduation rate—but Schott’s 2014 report documented the stark reality that Massachusetts has the second highest gap of any state in the nation, behind only New Jersey, between graduation rates for Black and Latino males compared to white males. (www.blackboysreport.org)
This is only one snapshot. I don’t have time in this hearing to present all the statistics for children of color and low-income communities in Massachusetts. But I want to underscore that inequities in educational supports can create an insurmountable chasm that consigns them to intergenerational cycles of poverty and limited chances to succeed in life.
Failure to act to correct these inequities does irreparable harm to our children—and it is not a legacy worthy of the state that can claim to be the birthplace of publicly-funded education in the U.S.
The only way to close the achievement gap is to close the opportunity gap. And closing the gap can only be accomplished through a comprehensive approach to equitable school financing. It requires the state working in partnership with localities to help ensure that education funding dollars for low-income, low property tax base communities—those where students experience the greatest need for supports—are brought into line with Massachusetts more affluent communities’ per pupil expenditures.
The Education PROMISE Act lays this groundwork—to level the playing field and improve educational opportunity for children of color and those from low-income families. I urge the committee—and the Massachusetts legislature—to take this important step.
Among many highly effective components of the PROMISE Act is that the revised formula addresses healthcare costs, one of the most critical supports needed for a student to have the opportunity to succeed, indeed to thrive.