Governor Patrick is spot-on in linking the Commonwealth’s Innovation Economy and its reliance on a high-knowledge, well-skilled workforce to his call for renewed investment in education: "If we are going to accelerate our growth and create opportunity, we must invest. This is not only about the students’ social and economic future -- it’s about ours."
That’s because as the governor correctly cites, data shows that three-quarters of children who struggle with reading in third grade will continue to struggle academically and greatly reduce their chances to graduate, go to college and become skilled, successful employees able to contribute to the economy. By analyzing Berkshire County data and looking for drivers to significantly improve the quality of life for all of our residents, Berkshire United Way arrived at the same conclusions. This led us to join with other concerned citizens for the formation of Pittsfield Promise, whose goal is to achieve at least 90 percent reading proficiency for Pittsfield third graders by 2020.
The governor is also correct in stating that "after 20 years of good work and experience at reforming education, we know what works." That’s why Pittsfield Promise is devoting efforts to the critical birth to age eight years. Again, the data shows that increasing access to high-quality early childhood education, creating strong classroom environments ready to teach at age-appropriate levels, developing strong connections to parents to support literacy at home, and early intervention and referral service to address health or developmental issues, pays off.
We hope that all members of the community see the value of investing in education. How can you make you voice heard? We urge you to show your support for making education a priority in the FY 14 budget proposal. Go to www.berk shireunitedway.org and click on "Governor."
Kristine Hazzard is president and CEO, Berkshire United Way. John Bissell is executive vice president, Greylock Federal Credit Union. The signers are founding members of Berkshire Priorities and Pittsfield Promise.