There has been much debate about how best to reform our state’s education system, but we all agree on the main goal: We want every child in the state to have the opportunity to learn in safe schools with well prepared teachers. Our shared belief in the value of a good education has produced an education system that is among the best in the country.
Of course there is much room for improvement. While we have made gains in closing the opportunity gap between students in low-income school districts and those in wealthy communities since the Education Reform Act was placed in 1993, we still face great challenges. Parent and student activists, teachers, administrators and elected officials in Boston are all engaged in efforts to improve the way we educate our children. Now is not the time to retreat.
This year voters are being asked to weigh in on a ballot question that could very well have a profound impact on school reform efforts. Ballot Question 3, which would cut the state’s sales tax by more than half, would remove $2.5 billion from the state’s budget. Opponents of the measure estimate it would cut $43 million in state education and local aid funding from Boston’s budget.
With the Boston School Department already contemplating school closures and other drastic cost-cutting measures, it’s clear that further cuts to school funding would have a devastating impact on our school system and our efforts to improve it.
Additionally, ballot Question 2 would eliminate the state’s affordable housing law and ballot Question 1 would eliminate the sales tax on alcoholic beverages, eliminating funding for substance abuse treatment and prevention. These ballot questions would have a devastating impact on the low-income communities that are home to the majority of the students in the Boston schools.
In these tough economic times, it may be tempting for many to vote yes on ballot questions whose proponents promise tax savings. The lure of a few more dollars in consumers’ pockets can easily blind voters to the damage these ballot questions could have on our communities and our education system.
Proponents of the ballot initiatives say our government can do more with less. But the fact remains that the communities in our state with the best student performance are school systems with small class sizes, where students have access to up-to-date text books and instructional materials and where students are offered a broad range of extracurricular activities.
Providing all of our state’s students with the opportunity to learn will require more investment, not less. And it’s an investment Massachusetts voters should be willing to make. The educational attainment of today’s students will determine the aptitude of tomorrow’s workforce. Our state’s economy depends more on the educational level and skill of its workforce than anything else.
The Boston Parent Organizing Network and the Citywide Parent Council is urging a no vote on all three ballot questions. Let’s protect our investment in our state’s future.
Boston Parent Organizing Network