[Editor's note: The following blog post is by Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education.]
When you want to modernize a 150-year-old property you stabilize the foundation long before you start planning how to add a third floor. Cliché as it might seem to say, the same should go for education reform.
Governor Deval Patrick has been barnstorming the state building momentum for more money for education as part of his ambitious 2013-14-budget plan. The Governor, Secretary of Education Malone and the entire administration should be applauded.
Proposing that the state pay more attention to the need to start educating students as young as 4 years old, to accelerate improvements at underperforming schools, to better aligning community college degrees with the jobs that are actually available in the marketplace are all valuable ideas.
Regrettably, pouring more money on a fundamentally antiquated system is not the right answer.
Even a cursory examination leads to the conclusion that we are not getting the best bang for our education buck based on what we are already investing in.
The state’s “foundation” budget (aka Chapter 70) was established two decades ago. The mere fact there is a widely acknowledged achievement gap in our schools is evidence that the formula used to establish the foundation could, at the least, benefit from determining if the assumptions it is based on are still relevant.
A lot has changed in education in the past 20 years. Significant advances in technology and cognitive science have altered our ability to be more effective teachers and learners. What would happen if more of our existing funds were pointed in the direction of what we have learned rather than being used to prop up a system that has not structurally changed since it was designed to educate farmers and factory workers?
We should only be talking about increasing funding when we can eliminate what is broken in the current system and target where the new money does the most good. Anything less is a disservice to our students, our economy and the taxpayers of our Commonwealth. Doing so, would be a heck of a legacy for all of us.