There’s an old saying that there is strength in numbers so when it comes to the future of funding education in Revere what’s the harm in having more people on your side?
The Revere Teachers Association (RTA) has recently joined forces with community and statewide organizations to create the Revere Education Justice Alliance (REJA).
This Alliance, made up of educators, parents, students and community members, is dedicated to supporting free, accessible, and fully-funded public education in Revere.
For the better part of the past year the RTA has been meeting with Women Encouraging Empowerment (WEE), Revere Youth in Action (RYiA), the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) and Massachusetts Jobs with Justice (JWJ) to lobby for increased state funding to Revere Public Schools, as part of the statewide Fund Our Future campaign.
These groups have been on the front lines advocating for ending the generations-long under-funding of local public schools.
The outdated formula used to fund public schools in Revere and other school districts in low-income neighborhoods has led to budget shortfalls year after year in the city.
Because the state has not updated its education funding formula since 1993 to reflect districts’ real health insurance and special education costs, the amount of aid being provided to cover those costs is too small. To compensate, many districts like Revere end up using money that would otherwise have supported core education programs—including Regular Education, Teachers, Materials & Technology, and Professional Development. This also results in dramatic cuts in other areas of education.
So the different groups of like minded individuals formed the REJA to continue to cultivate community support and strong relationships between parents, students, and teachers. Members of the newly created REJA said they will rely on these relationships and they will be vital to strengthening public schools in Revere.
“When educators and parents talk to each other about our vision for our schools, we see that there is so much agreement,” said Gina Garro, a special education teacher at Garfield Elementary School and RTA and MTA Board Member. “We want our schools to have less testing, more time for children to learn and grow to become well rounded humans, and increased funding for the services which welcome, support and encourage the engagement of our culturally diverse families.”
In April Revere teachers, students, parents, administrators and elected officials came together at Revere High School to show unified support for state legislation that called for revamping the school funding formula.
At that forum RYiA organizer and Revere High School student Ayat Zakaria argued that if schools do not have the resources they need to help students do well it becomes harder to motivate students.
“Without important resources like books, computers, more teachers, after school programs, sports and clubs how will these students be driven to succeed?” asked Zakaria. “This is why our schools need fair and full funding. Having fully funded schools would have a great effect on Revere schools by creating smaller class sizes and newer building that reflect the amazing students and teachers we have here.”
This week Zakaria said, “It is important for students to fight for our public schools. I believe in education justice and REJA can help win the funding we deserve.”
That forum in April and other statewide calls to action and efforts put pressure on Gov. Charlie Baker to make some much-needed changes.
In the spring. Baker signed the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget. In it there was $5.2 billion for Chapter 70 aid to ensure sufficient resources to fund the FY20 costs of an anticipated multi-year overhaul of the school finance formula, while enabling full implementation of the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
This resulted in increased funding of approximately $4 million for Revere public schools from the state and the city is poised to receive more.
Building off this momentum, these organizations decided to create a more permanent collaboration to support education justice in Revere resulting in the creation of the REJA.
“As a district that is majority Latinx students and approximately two thirds Students of Color, there is amazing potential to unify the community around our public schools,” said Olga Tacure Executive Director of WEE and a Revere High School parent. “As parents we want our children’s schools to be fully funded and to thrive. We are excited by our work with REJA to win more funding and to shape policies that will uplift all parents, students and teachers.”
Members of the REJA are optimistic that millions more in funding for Revere schools can be won this year, and is hopeful about the proposed Student Opportunity Act. Already passed by the Massachusetts Senate, the bill would bring an additional $15 million in funding to Revere Public Schools as soon as next year.
“The changes proposed in the Student Opportunity Act provide Revere students with what they’ve been owed for years,” said RTA President Erik Fearing. “It’s crucial that the House, under Speaker DeLeo’s leadership, passes the bill now. We need to be able to make informed decisions based on a clear budget in the Spring.”
This Fall the alliance is sending a questionnaire to Revere School Committee candidates to help the community better understand the policy positions they endorse and to identify allies in making a progressive change in Revere schools.