Teachers, students, parents, administrators and elected officials came together at Revere High School last Wednesday night to show unified support for the state’s Education PROMISE Act–a piece of legislation that calls for ending the generations-long under-funding of local public schools.
“We are all here because there is a lot of money that Revere is currently not receiving (under the outdated funding formula),” said Garfield Elementary School Teacher Francesca DiPanifilo. “I work as a teacher in the newcomer’s classroom that is made up of students that very recently arrived to the United States. I have 21 wonderful students but at the Garfield we have 732 students. Out of those students 74.9 percent have English as their second language. There is another 40 students that are English language learners. We only have one Spanish translator for all these students. We only have one Arabic translator for all these students. So you can imagine how frustrating parent teacher conferences are.”
DiPanifilo said due to lack of level funding and the inability to pay for more resources like hiring additional translators so teachers, students and parents can all communicate with ease the school has to share a translator.
“So if we need to have a conference with a student and a family that does not speak English we have to fill out a request form informing our administrators that we need translation,” said DiPanifilo. “However, we are not guaranteed a translator. I had one parent, due to the lack of a translator, apologize to me profusely because she did not speak English and that simply is not right.”
The legislation filed by State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) would recalculate the cost to educate each student in public school districts known as the ‘foundation budget’. This recalculation could pour millions of dollars into schools over the next several years.
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 Ed. Teachers, Materials & Technology, and Professional Development. This also results in dramatic cuts in other areas of education.
The legislation reforms state education funding by fully implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) recommendations and addressing the underlying inequities within the Commonwealth’s education funding formulas, like Chapter 70. As a result of the bill, foundation budgets statewide will better reflect the true cost of educating students, and there will be a renewed partnership between the state and all districts in funding those foundation budgets.
Revere Youth in Action Organizer and Revere High School junior Ayat Zakaria said at last week’s meeting that if schools do not have the resources they need to help students do well the it becomes harder to motivate students.
“Without important resources like books, computers, more teachers, after school programs, sport and clubs how will these students be driven to succeed?” asked Zakaria last week. “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 is why we need to support Promise Act because we need to truly fund our schools.”
Sen. Joseph Boncore, who attended last week’s forum at Revere High said he was in favor of the Promise Act.
“This issue is so important,” said Boncore. “This is not just a problem in Revere but across the state. We have severe funding issues in our schools and students are suffering. New students to our communities are not getting the help they need. Special Education students are failing to get the help they need. Really every student is failing to get the support they need to succeed.”
Boncore said while the outdated funding system did a good job at the time by educating students with level funding in the classrooms–as years went on it became obvious the formula was not doing a good job funding complicated components within school districts like special education, ELL, and low-income students.
“To fully fund the Promise Act this is going to cost the state $1 billion,” said Boncore. “So as you engage elected officials and others you will hear that the state is in tough fiscal times with the rising cost of health insurance in the state, the affordable housing crisis and the other needs across the Commonwealth. You are also going to get the response, “How can we spend a billion dollars on the Promise Act”. But I say before you today how can we not!”.