Thank you, Chair Kulik and Chair Candaras, and members, for allowing me the opportunity to address the Joint Committee on Ways and Means and to provide an overview of our theory of action and plans to ensure all students learn and succeed. My name is Paul Reville and I am Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Today, I will outline our goals for education and our action plan to meet those goals and detail how the budget empowers our work with students.
Following my presentation you will hear from a superb team, a dream team of education leaders, Dr. Sherri Killins, our Commissioner of Early Education and Care; Dr. Mitchell Chester, our Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education; Dr. Richard Freeland, our Commissioner of Higher Education; and Dr. Jack Wilson, President of the University of Massachusetts System. Each will describe to you their mission and how the budget supports their work.
As Secretary, I have the pleasure of directing the Executive Office of Education. Our role is to integrate the work of the Departments and UMass to create a seamless, comprehensive, integrated system of education, from Pre-Kindergarten through university graduate levels, a system that finds children where they are in their very earliest years and provides them with the teaching and learning, the encouragement, and the support they need to successfully navigate their education and emerge with the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain gainful employment that will sustain them as contributing members of our society and as lifelong learners.
Our unified goal is simple: We want to have the best educated students in the world. Thanks to the leadership of the Governor, the support of this Committee and the Legislature, and the hard work of teachers, our students lead the nation in academic achievement. Year after year in measure after measure, Massachusetts students outpace their fellow students across the United States. We should all be proud of this great accomplishment. We have set high expectations, we have measured progress, and we have held schools accountable for results. And our students and their teachers have consistently met the challenge. We have reached this success because we have all agreed that providing an education for our students is our moral obligation. They are the future leaders of our communities, our Commonwealth, our nation and our world and we owe it to them to ensure they all have the same shot at success.
We have made great progress over the past 17 years of education reform in Massachusetts but our work is far from done. Because when we take a closer look at the results we find too often that there are wide gaps in attainment between students. We discover achievement gaps that too often find poor children, children of color, those who do not speak English, and those who have special needs, not accessing the education they deserve, the education that we know they need to be successful. These are gaps that show up in the earliest years when children arrive in Pre-Kindergarten, some with strong, vibrant backgrounds rich in vocabulary and life experiences and some with drastically less. In fact, by grade 3, the first year for which we have an assessment, there are already apparent achievement gaps between students, gaps that compound over the course of each child's education and make the challenge even greater in the later grades leading to discouragement, disengagement and low levels of academic mastery.
We also find that our students who have completed high school are too often not fully prepared for the rigors of college or the expectations and fast-paced nature of the workforce. College professors and employers tell us that students who should otherwise be prepared arrive at their doors lacking the knowledge, the confidence, and the aptitude to continue their learning and contribute in the workplace.
Finally, we see that while we are competitive on international measures of student achievement, our students still lag behind their peers in other countries. The US ranks consistently in the middle of the pack in performance. Our students are competing with international students for spots in our best colleges and for the jobs of the future. We know we need to do more because today's students are tomorrow's leaders. As Governor Patrick recently said, "Being first in the nation is a good start. Being first in the world is where we need to go."
The challenge boils down to one core issue: It is still too frequently the case in Massachusetts that the socioeconomic status of children is the best predictor for their future academic attainment. That is a harsh reality that persists despite the best efforts of many caring and talented adults. We cannot rest until every child - regardless of where they're born - has the same opportunity for success and receives the high quality instruction and powerful motivation we know they deserve to reach higher and achieve their dreams.
Education is our best way forward. A strong public education system will ensure that we emerge from the recent economic challenge stronger and better prepared for the challenges of our 21 st century global economy.
We know what works. We know that our current model for delivering education is not sufficient to ensure all students reach the high expectations we have set for them. Our model of six and a half hours a day, nine months a year, "either you get it or you don't" has to change if we truly want all students, and all means all, to achieve at high levels. So we have set about transforming our public education system, through a comprehensive innovation strategy, into one that is more responsive to the needs of students. Such a system provides many options and opportunities, empowers traditional schools to embrace various operational autonomies and school models, leading to students receiving an extraordinary education and becoming our next generation of high skill-high knowledge citizens and leaders who will ensure Massachusetts' place at the forefront of the international economy. We know that is what we need and we know how to get there.
We will achieve success by coordinating our efforts to increase early literacy rates as a key determining factor in future academic attainment and to better define and measure college and career readiness. These two new endeavors complement our overarching agenda to improve public education for all students.
Promoting cross-department work, the Departments of Early Education and Care, Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education have begun detailed planning for a comprehensive early literacy strategy that will address those achievement gaps I talked about earlier and will ensure all students are proficient readers by grade 3. They are working to expand access, increase quality, improve family engagement, enhance professional development for educators and leaders and utilize data and assessments. Also, the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education are partnering in new ways to very specifically define the knowledge and skills students must possess to thrive in higher education by bringing together secondary education teachers and college professors in a very deliberate manner to map out the best strategies to ensure students are fully prepared for higher education.
We have made a lot of progress on our goals since I sat in this seat last year. At this time last year, the Governor had just signed the Achievement Gap Act, our collective bold call to make substantial changes to the way public education is operated in Massachusetts. Thanks in large part to many members of this committee and your colleagues who answered our call to action, educators now have powerful new tools to rapidly turn around underperforming schools and students and their families have dynamic new choices for their education through the authorization of Innovation Schools and the expansion of successful Charter Schools. There are already three Innovation Schools in operation, one has recently been approved, and over two dozen have already received the first level of authorization and are well on their way to opening, some as early as September. We learned last week that Commissioner Chester has recommended 17 new charter schools open under the cap lift - if all 17 are approved that would be the single highest number of charter schools approved in one year.
We have made progress in other portions of our education reform agenda as well including the opening of six regional Readiness Centers to support teachers and provide them with targeted professional development and access to best practices in instruction and effective use of data - I should mention that Readiness Centers are operated without any state funding. I will discuss much of our other progress and pending action in the context of our proposed budget for FY12 later in my presentation.
Recognizing the challenges of the state budget, we have also actively sought outside support through competitive federal grants and local of investment in our education reform agenda. As you know, Massachusetts earned the top score in the nation in the federal Race to the Top competition and $250 million to implement the dynamic education reform strategies outlined in the proposal. We have a $59 million School Improvement Grant to aid our school turnaround efforts. We have a $15 million High School Graduation Initiative federal grant to boost our work to reduce dropout rates and help more students graduate from high school.
Our districts are securing federal grant money on their own including three who have earned $1.5 million in Promise Neighborhood Planning grants to work on integrating valuable health and human services into the school day and two who have earned $27 million in Teacher Incentive Fund grants to provide financial incentives and awards for teachers who succeed in our lowest performing schools. This is work that was included in the Governor's Readiness Project and in our theory of action. We are cognizant of the limits of seeking state support so we worked with our schools to secure federal support to ensure these valuable programs have a chance to succeed.
In addition, we have engaged outside support from the Gates Foundation, the Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation who together have committed over $750,000 to help cultivate our Innovation Schools through a series of planning and implementation grants that will provide the base on which these strong schools are built. I am excited to report that we have received applications for these grants representing 27 potential new schools.
And Governor Patrick has entered into a compact with representatives of the social innovator community in Massachusetts representing 41 organizations to maximize existing resources and think more creatively about how to address persistent issues facing the residents of the Commonwealth. The group's first immediate challenge is to develop a project to solidify strong partnerships that can demonstrate early, measurable progress in helping to reduce the dropout rate by pairing school districts with select innovative, results-driven nonprofit organizations.
The FY12 budget that I am here to discuss today presents the most challenging in a series of difficult, yet necessary, fiscal exercises during this historic economic downturn. Yet, once again, Governor Patrick in his recommendation has not sacrificed the needs of our students and our economic future when making the tough, responsible decisions required to produce a balanced budget but still drive valuable reform. Under Governor Patrick's proposal, education, from early education and care through higher education, would see a nearly 5 percent increase in funding, critical support that will increase opportunities for children. The team will discuss in greater detail how the budget proposals will directly impact their work but I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss the overall approach.
Consistent with every budget that the Governor has filed, Chapter 70, the state's primary contribution to the education of our children, would receive a $140 million increase bringing the total to nearly $4 billion, a record high that would meet our obligation to every student in every district. Moreover, the Governor has acknowledged a steep reduction in federal support for special education by proposing an $80 million increase in state support for the so-called "Circuit Breaker" account that helps districts educate student with significant special needs, providing a total of $213 million in funding.
But that is just the beginning.
Building on our current success and ending the achievement gap require strategic investments on the part of our Commonwealth. That is why the Governor, even within a tight budget, is proposing $4.8 million to bolster efforts that will help eliminate the achievement gap by supporting school turnaround initiatives, promoting early literacy, emphasizing dropout prevention, improving instruction for English Language Learners, strengthening alternative education, expanding mentoring, and ensuring the implementation of a Quality Rating and Improvement System in early education and care. These funds would supplement separate increases for targeted intervention in underperforming schools, remedial support for students struggling on the MCAS, and valuable school breakfast programs.
At a time when Massachusetts families are seeking affordable, quality higher education options producing record applications and exploding enrollments at our state campuses, Governor Patrick is proposing a $7.5 million performance management account to encourage and support innovation, efficiency, and accountability across the state's 29 public campuses. He is also proposing that Commonwealth help its neediest students and families realize their own aspirations by maintaining the state scholarship program with $2 million in additional state support and a $1 million contribution from the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority.
Additionally, Governor Patrick and Lt. Governor Murray believe that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are vital to our students' - and our Commonwealth's - ability to successfully compete in, and lead, tomorrow's economy. Therefore, they are proposing an additional $500,000 to support STEM education programs.
We have also taken on the challenge to do more with less and manage to lower budget expectations through seeking and empowering greater efficiencies. The Patrick-Murray Administration committed valuable federal stimulus dollars to assist districts exploring and implementing new regionalization partnerships, to increase capacity of these districts to offer a high quality education and achieve greater efficiency in budgeting. As a result, three new regionalized districts - representing the first new partnerships since 2001 - have formed this year. And the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officers and the Higher Education Commissioner's Task Force on Collaboration and Efficiency have made strong recommendations about how schools and campuses can work together to maximize state funds through joint purchasing and other partnerships.
Finally, I'd like to say a few words about the proposed FY12 budget for the Executive Office of Education. As you know, in FY11 you graciously provided us with a line item of $7.9 million to support Governor Patrick's IT Consolidation initiative, the goal of which is to promote cost savings, IT system effectiveness and data security across our agencies. Since this time last year, we have made tremendous progress on the consolidation efforts. Across the three education departments, we have consolidated IT departments from four separate agencies into a single organization, reduced the total number of education department data centers from five to three generating efficiencies and savings, consolidated contracts and Desktop support services and converted contractors to full-time employees.
What's more, our Secretariat Chief Information Officer is working with the Department of Higher Education to procure and install a new scholarship management system to replace the outdated one currently in operation, is working with the Department of Early Education and Care to put in place a caseload management system that will allow more accurate projections for budgeting purposes, and is working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to improve our IT system and build a longitudinal database. This is measurable, sustainable progress due in large part to the support you provided last year and the hard work of our very talented staff.
The Governor's recommendation for our office is about $743,000. That item supports about eight staff, with our CIO supported by the IT line item, and occasional contracted support provided by grants we have successfully received. We generally operate with about 10 people - and as many qualified volunteer graduate student interns as we can find. We are a small, agile group committed to providing every opportunity to allow our talented and dedicated teachers to make a difference every day in the lives of our students.
Governor Patrick is fond of saying that the state budget is a reflection of our common values. It is also a reflection of our shared aspirations. The future health and prosperity of our Commonwealth will be in direct proportion to the success and happiness of its future leaders, our children. Massachusetts, perhaps more than any state in our nation, has relied on its native intelligence and innovative spirit. This is our calling card around the globe and it has occurred because our leaders historically have invested in our values: establishing and supporting the nation's first and best public education system and, consequently, cultivating the minds that have shaped our destiny and the nation's for the better time and time again. With the FY12 proposal, we are reaffirming our generational responsibility to advance our legacy of excellence in education with a set of proposals that are right for the times and, more importantly, vital to our future.
Information provided by the Executive Office of Education. Created: February 22, 2011