Governor Deval L. Patrick
Governor Testifies on Behalf of Article 87 Legislation
January 29, 2008
Thank you very much Chairman Wilkerson and to all the chairs and members of the committee, thank you very much for convening today and for having me. I want to also acknowledge the presence of President Mohler- Faria from Bridgewater State, my Senior Advisor on Education, the Chairs of the Boards of Education and Higher Ed, and I think the Chair of the Board of Early Education and Care is coming as well, she has jury duty this morning, but she will get one civic duty to another. The Commissioners, the acting Commissioner, now House Commissioner Plummer is here as well. We thank you very much for coming.
First of all, just let me thank you all for convening this hearing on our Article 87 proposal and for the opportunity to appear this morning in support of our proposal to reorganize the state education bureaucracies under a Secretary of Education. I want to start by offering an historical and policy framework for the proposal.
As you know our Commonwealth is the home to America's first public school; America's first college; America's first college for women; America's first school for the sight-impaired. Our forbearers appreciated that education was about advancing civilization and securing our future, so much so that they wrote that fundamental value into our constitution.
Your leadership, all of you here, those you represent elsewhere in the legislature working together with yourselves and with innovators in education from all across the country has kept our progress going. Thanks to that support, Massachusetts students achieve top scores in the NAEP's tests, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called "national report card;" Massachusetts students are building on a foundation that you helped to strengthen. Indeed, on our trip to China just last month, reinforced a truth which you ought to know and celebrate, I certainly do, which is that pre-eminence in education is our calling card in the world. It is the reputation that this commonwealth bears and it is a tremendous asset in building our economy going forward.
Consistent excellence in public education is the signature objective of this administration. In that spirit I believe, as you know, that the time has come for the next chapter in education reform. That's why in June we launched the Commonwealth Readiness Project, our effort to reexamine how we deliver public education in Massachusetts. We want to move into the next era of educational excellence with a seamless education strategy starting with high-quality, universally available early education, moving on to all-day kindergarten, on to smaller class sizes, particularly in the early grades, a stronger focus on math and science alongside art and music and other enrichment activities, and the chance to complete at least an associate's degree or an apprenticeship in a trade at the state's expense.
We have brought together educators, business leaders and community advocates to put together a plan to implement this vision for the future of public education in Massachusetts. Some 200 individuals are involved in developing recommendations, and I expect their recommendations in the spring, and look forward to sharing them with you and working with you to implement them. To implement the recommendations, to receive them if you will, and make them real, and to create a seamless and comprehensive education pathway for young people will take time, care, and very close coordination. The silos that now make up our governance mechanisms will not, in my opinion, work. That's why I'm here this morning.
Through our proposal we will create an executive office of education led by a cabinet secretary to serve as a single responsible authority within the coordinated system we envision and as a chief liaison to my office. The secretariat will consist of the Department of Early Education and Care, a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, what we now call the Department of Education, and a Department of Higher Education, each headed by a commissioner. The secretary will help coordinate the efforts of the boards and commissioners within the states three education agencies and be a central source of planning and accountability. One place where all of our educational efforts can be connected and from which a comprehensive policy will be driven.
I know we have had education secretaries before. This will be different in that he or she will have authority to approve mission statements and five-year master plans, budgets and capital outlay requests, both at the board level and in the case of higher education, at the individual institution level. The secretary will also hold a voting seat on all four of the educational sector boards, including the University of Massachusetts board.
President Mohler-Faria, in a minute, will testify in greater detail, and will gladly respond to your questions, more detailed questions. For present purposes, I do want to say, this legislation has been developed over many many months with the close cooperation of many of you here and I appreciate that. It's been a wonderful collaboration and the ideas are better because of that collaboration. I think more likely, not just to pass, but to succeed in practical effect, and I thank you all for that.
It is designed to improve coordination across all sectors of education, early education and care, K-12, and higher ed. It creates a sensible structure that will, with your help, be in place to implement the recommendations of the readiness project over the next many years, with which we can guide students seamlessly through every level of public education and on into the workforce. We will be able to take swift, synchronized actions to meet the rapidly evolving demands of the world and economy of tomorrow. No other place in America is as well positioned as Massachusetts to lead in progressive education development. No other place in the country. It's because of the work that you have done and you have partnered with others to do over the last 14 years. And the sign of any successful system or organization is continuous improvement, and it's in that spirit that we've brought this reorganization proposal forward.
I look forward to and appreciate your favorable consideration.
Thank you very much for having me this morning.
Dana Mohler- Faria, Special Advisor for Education
It is a pleasure and an honor to be here before you speaking today about this critical piece of legislation. Before I get into the specifics of the bill I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you and my fine colleagues in the legislature the incredible collaboration and work on this. I was reflecting on this testimony last night and I suddenly realized that this is how government is supposed to work. The collaboration and cooperation, the input that the legislature has had in helping us to shape this has been tremendous and I think, in the end, has brought forward a proposal that makes sense for the Commonwealth.
Like the governor and so many of you, my passion for education comes through my own personal experiences, and when we think about this endeavor, what it means in terms of governance as well as the other components of developing an educational package, we always must think about the endgame, the end product, what is it we are trying to do in this commonwealth. I know some of you have heard this story, but I want to repeat this story because I think it has significance to what we're trying to do, not only here today, but in education.
Some years ago, three young African American males who lived in poverty, came from a poor community, lived with parents that were not educated, none of their parents had attended high school, and really had no future. They were encouraged by several people to complete high school, they did, had no options for college, the three of them went off into the military, and when they returned from serving their country, decided together to try to pursue education. Attended one of the commonwealth's community colleges, then transferred to a four-year institution, and then one went on to medical school, one to law school, one to graduate school. Today, one of those gentlemen is a top-notch physician in Malden with an incredible practice. The other is the clerk magistrate for the Juvenile Court of the Cape and Islands and Plymouth district. And the third is myself, the president of Bridgewater State College and advisor to the governor. That is the endgame. That is what this is about.
When you think about the three of us, I can only imagine how much collectively we have paid in taxes in this Commonwealth, how much we've contributed in terms of philanthropy, how much we've contributed to the economy in terms of living here in the Commonwealth for so many years. That's what this is about.
The primary motivation for this legislation is to ensure that students - no matter where they are in their own educational journey -- have the highest quality educational experience we can possibly give them. In our current system, there is no single responsible entity for a comprehensive, systemic approach to education. As a result, our educational system operates in silos, and while there are efforts and initiatives to collaborate and cooperate, they have not been as effective as we would like them to have been. They are not embedded systemically and as we look to the future, we know that the seamless progression of students from one segment of the education system to the next and into adult life, society, and in the workforce is critical, not only to their success individually but to the commonwealth.
This legislation creates an Executive Office of Education that will have the legal authority and responsibility to coordinate budgeting and long-term planning across the sectors. Through the Executive Office there will be a clear reporting structure and a system of checks and balances that will marshal a comprehensive strategic direction in education for the state, maximize taxpayer investments across education sectors and most importantly, create a seamless, coordinated and connected path for students to follow from pre-K through higher education and beyond.
At the same time, the legislation ensures that the various education boards' retain their existing policy-making authority. The legislation does make some changes to the boards:
- It will provide a broader range of voices in education policy-making, the legislation expands the size of the three boards by 2 members.
- The legislation requires that the terms of Board of Education members be staggered to not only ensure that there are a consistent number of appointments in any given year but also to ensure that at any given time, Board membership reflects a balance of experience and new energy.
- The Secretary of Education - as the lead agency for coordinating across sectors - will serve on all boards rather than peer commissioners serving on each board. Not only will this centralize and institutionalize responsibility for driving coordination and collaboration, it will also allow the Commissioners to work more effectively with their Board chairs and with the secretariat.
- The Secretary would, under this proposal, have the approval authority over the boards' hiring of each of the commissioners and the chancellor. The commissioners and chancellor will be clearly designated as the managing authorities of their respective departments rather than departments being under the supervision and control of the boards, as is currently the case.
- And finally, the legislation gives the Governor the authority to appoint the chair of the UMass board.
The future success of students, communities and the Commonwealth depends upon our collective capacity to approach education as a single, integrated system. The actions undertaken by every segment of the system will serve the students best if they are coordinated and leveraged against one another to move every student forward through the pipeline.
I urge you to pass this legislation and I thank you for your consideration.
I will tell you a final story that I found quite amusing. I committed a few years ago to read everything that Horace Mann had ever written. Of course I made the commitment before I knew how much he had written. Some months ago, in reviewing some of his memoirs that go back to 1837, 171 years ago, he discussed the debate that was going on in the legislature around the creation of the Secretary of Education and how much power and authority the secretary should have as opposed to the delivery system in education, and that debate raged on for a while. Obviously you know that he was appointed the first secretary, but I will tell you this has been 171 years going on, I think we got it right this time.