This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Friday, July 23, 2010

School Advocates Follow State Rep Race

With many of the fiscal problems facing Beverly Schools originating at the State House, many school activists are turning their attention to the race to fill the seat of retiring Representative Mary Grant. If next year is going to be any less painful than early indications show, it will only be through action on municipal health care reform, a reversal of local aid cuts, or other reform on Beacon Hill.

The race for Beverly's seat pits two Democrats, Scott Houseman and Jerry Parisella—who will face off in a primary September 14—against Republican Brett Schetzsle in the November election. Earlier this month the Boston Globe had an overview of the race.

All three candidates touch on the above issues in their campaign literature, but voters will have to decide which of them can be the strongest voice for Beverly.

Here is what the three candidates say on their websites about the issues involving education:

Nothing is more basic to parents and the community at large than the quality of our public education system. There is a direct link between the health of our economy, budget reform, and funding for our children’s education. Without a strong economy and sound fiscal policies, funding for our schools is always threatened. Our children will work in a globally competitive world. They will need to learn the fundamental analytical and problem-solving skills to be successful and be the next generation of leaders. Scott will work on:
  • Restoring local aid and Chapter 70 education funding
  • Supporting public-private initiatives to education funding
  • Seeking more sustainable, predictable funding mechanisms for education funding
  • Supporting the mission of our public colleges and universities to provide quality, affordable education
With his daughter Sophia preparing to enter first grade, Jerry understands one of the most essential functions of our state and local government is providing quality public education. He is grateful for the quality public education he received growing up in Beverly, and will support efforts to improve quality in the system for today’s youth.

Jerry understands that local aid cuts have put a burden on our City, as it tries to provide top-notch education with dwindling financial resources. Beverly receives less local aid today than it did in 2001, yet costs continue to rise. Jerry will fight to restore local aid and Chapter 70 education funds. Jerry will also work with our city leaders to ensure the high school and new vocational school receive the reimbursements promised by the state.
Massachusetts is home to many prestigious colleges and universities, attracting students from around the world. Yet, tuition costs are out of reach for most local families. With a stepson, Chris, who is a sophomore at the University of Arizona, Jerry understands how expensive college can be, and Jerry himself worked in construction for several years to save money to enroll at Emerson College, and eventually go to Law School. Jerry supports our public colleges and universities in their efforts to provide high quality education affordable to all.
Education has played a large role in helping to provide the opportunities I have had in my life and I know the same will be true for my children and the children of this community. That's why I'm committed to actively working on education issues and why I volunteer at both Briscoe Middle School and North Beverly Elementary School.

Since the state's landmark education reform in the early 1990's, Massachusetts kids have vaulted to the head of the class compared to kids from other states. Not only must we keep them there, but we must be certain that Beverly's kids are equipped to compete with kids not only from Marblehead, Danvers and Salem, but from Moscow, New Delhi and Shanghai.

To do that, we know that high standards and independent oversight work for Massachusetts.

However, in recent legislative sessions, there has been a steady erosion of independent oversight, of the demand for high standards and a lack of commitment to fixing the Chapter 70 funding formula.

That erosion has now reached a critical point with the recent action by the Governor's hand-picked education commissioner recommending a move away from the proven standards created by our state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education when it was an independent policy-making body motivated by the needs of our students and not by politics.

Specifically, in education, I will actively pursue these things:
  • I will support local aid and Chapter 70 policies that don’t short-change our cities and towns. I believe that our state tax money is better spent in local schools than wasted on Beacon Hill and that the legislature should not adopt new, unfunded mandates for our school districts.
  • I will support maintaining our state's ability to chart its own course on education standards and continue to be able to lead the country in education achievement.
  • I will support a return for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to an independent policy-making body and restoring the independent overseers of education accountability in the state.
  • I will support adding personal finance classes to our high school curricula to prepare our kids for the realities of mortgages, bank accounts, car loans and household budgets.
  • I will focus on keeping college costs within reach for families by ensuring that our state colleges and universities are run without waste and that private schools are able to use their endowments to provide financial aid and not fund state government.
Aside from the earlier Globe story, press coverage of the race to this point has been minimal, although Schetzsle plays the social media game well. Some of his recent statements critical of the Patrick administration's decision to abandon MCAS in favor of new Federal standards have been covered in the hyperlocal press.