We Need Courage to Stand Up for Public Education

(The following was delivered to the School Committee at its public hearing on Thursday, March 15)

Good evening and welcome to the Chelsea Public Schools FY19 Budget Public Hearing. This year’s budget represents a budget gap of $3.1 million between what we need and what we can do.

We have worked very hard in this budget season to maintain a district lens and sacrifice for the greater good of our students and staff. We have maintained programs and services that are required compliance, regulations or law; we have prioritized our Accelerated Improvement Plan work and our Turnaround Plan work, because that work is about our students’ futures. We have made cuts that were the least impactful on classroom instruction and we have shifted positions with the shifting needs of our student demographics—positions shifted to where there is more student need.

It is fitting that our FY19 school budget is being presented to you this week; because this week is Public Schools Week across our nation. Public schools are the foundation of our democracy. Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVE PUBLIC EDUCATION!

Public education is inclusive and universal. We welcome and educate all races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, and languages. We are the best investment with the highest return on our future as a country, dollar for dollar.

Strengthening our public schools is the best way to ensure our children’s success and our country’s prosperity. And yet, sadly, we find ourselves in a time and place where we are not willing as a society, as a citizenry, to invest in public education. Each year I come to you with a budget that is failing more and more to meet the complex needs of our students.

Each year I come to you with a budget that fails to provide an equitable education compared to public school children in wealthier communities. Each year we, these educators—teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals here tonight are being asked to do more with far less.

Providing our schools with the funding that is needed for our children, for the next generation is the civil rights struggle of our time. Will you join me in this civil rights struggle; will you join me in our quest for social justice?

We need now, today, to have the courage to stand up for public education. We need to have the courage to face our federal and state leaders and demand that the definition of “adequacy” in education, especially for our children in urban communities is no longer a fluctuating dollar figure, annually.

I ask you to:

  • Call or email your state legislators to restore to Chelsea this year the $300 per student rate in the economically disadvantaged allocation – an amount that will provide Chelsea with over $1,000,000 more in our budget.
  • Call or email your state legislators to support Senate Bill 223, An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century, which will begin a seven-year incremental and fairly paced structural fix to the foundation budget formula. Because if the foundation formula was implemented today, without adjusting rates for inflation, but simply giving us what was promised in the formula algorithm itself, such as 100 percent charter school reimbursement rather than 47 percent reimbursement, Chelsea would have an additional $17 million dollars in its Chapter 70 budget.
  • Call or email your congressional delegation to stop at the federal level the continued prioritization of privatization as well as stop the elimination of federal grants such as Title II, Title IV, 21st Century, and other cuts proposed in President Trump’s FY19 budget.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

I ask that each of you have the courage, alongside me, to take the next step and stare down the inequities; I ask that each of you take up the next step in our educational civil rights challenge, in our search for social justice. We can’t wait any longer, the structural deficit is causing harm to our children’s futures.

We need to start loving and funding public education once again.

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