Governor Deval L. Patrick
Focus on Education
April 27, 2007
I thank the state director Lori Bennet, to all the parents and teachers and students who are here and all for the sympathetic-minded legislators who are here. We stand with you. We stand with you. To all of the members of Stand For Children, parents, and ordinary citizens who have come, if I understand it correctly, from 60 different communities around the commonwealth. And you have brought that grassroots energy, that understanding about the importance of seeing your state, not just in your own dreams and your own struggles, but in your neighbors' as well. And you have come together across differences to make a claim on those of us who serve you in the State House.
And that is exactly what I asked you to do during the campaign, and what I ask you to renew every day. Active citizenship. In the course of our campaign, I asked you to imagine a public education for every child in the commonwealth that was about the whole child. Not just success, as important as it may be, on a single standardized test, but education that started before kindergarten, at early education opportunities that went right up through college and universities. I asked you to imagine an education that was about smaller class size, and I will take the risk of saying this with young kids here-longer school days, but with after school and enrichment programs and exercise. I asked you to imagine an education that had an emphasis yes, on science and technology and engineering and math, but creativity of every kind. Because it will be that facility and ease with taking skills around creativity and transferring them from one set of challenges to another. That will make the difference for young people going forward. And I asked you to imagine with me a public education system that was not just about preparing employees, but that was about preparing citizens. We proposed, at $3.7 billion, the largest spend on public education in Massachusetts history, and it's not enough. It's not enough. We have doubled (or proposed to double) the spending for extended learning time. It's not enough. We have proposed to extend to 15,000 additional kids, the proven benefits of all day kindergarten. It's not enough! But the point that I want to make is this. It's not just new money we need, it's new ideas. It's a new way of thinking about what a classroom is. It's a new way of thinking about what the outcomes we are looking for in education.
See, I have asked two task forces-one for Pre-K through high school and one for public colleges and universities-with the leadership of Dana Mohler-Faria who is my Special Advisor on education. I've asked them to strip this back. Let's see if we can rebuild a new consensus on what outcomes we want from public education. Let's ask ourselves candidly what that actually costs. See, it's an important question, what we're willing to spend for it, but that's a secondary question. Let's confront what it actually costs, and then let's ask ourselves what financing mechanisms are there that work. Because I want to tell you something-try as we might to patch the Chapter 70 formula, it's not enough! Property taxes as a basis for closing the gap is not working! And it turns out that in appreciation of just how broad our challenge is and a willingness to go right back to basics, in terms of figuring out what our path forward ought to be, is something that parents, and kids, and business leaders, and teachers, and their unions, and all sorts of others who care about and are thinking about our future are willing to engage in. that is good news.
See, what we need now is action. Our task forces will come forward in the next 6 weeks or so, with proposals on how we fix this broken system and more to the point, how we join, not just a national competition for consistent excellence in our public schools, but on a global competition. And then we will take that package, and bring it to the legislature. And with your help, we will demand that it be passed.
Now here is your job. Involve yourselves. Connect with the members of the task force, get your ideas in front of them. We need the best possible solution, and the best possible solution will come from the cooperation of both education experts and regular old folks and families just trying to make it work for their kids. We need teachers, we need their leadership, we need superintendents and principals. We need business people who are thinking hard about what it means to have the capacity to expand economic opportunity here in Massachusetts. We need every voice. We need people with kids in the schools, and people who used to have kids in the schools, and people who don't have kids in the schools, but understand that this is about our common future. Make yourselves heard! I have never pretended to be smarter than you or anybody else about what we need in public education in Massachusetts today. What I have brought to the table is a personal understanding about how education can transform a life. Because it was education and brilliant teachers working under unimaginably difficult circumstances, who lit a fire under me and who have at stage after stage after stage, even after I left school, kept that fire alive. And the other thing I bring is a little bit of success at grassroots organizing. And that is where you come in. Because nobody is giving us anything. My power has never come from relationships that go back decades up there on Beacon Hill. My power comes from you and from your willingness to show up. So, for those of you who are interested in this grassroots effort, understand it's not just about showing up at times of election, every two or four years. It's not even just about showing up on lobbying day, it's a claim we are making on your active citizenship every day, in your own communities, and in our commonwealth-wide community, let's go to work for that.