Improving education critical to region
To the editor:
I come from a family of educators. My father was a public school teacher and my mother a librarian in the public high school I attended. Public education prepared me for the world, and I am running for state Senate to protect that opportunity for every child in the Western Mass. district.
Towns now finalize budgets in challenging financial circumstances, forcing difficult choices related to school budgets. This past week I released my education priorities with a focus on bolstering schools by fixing funding.
First, update the Chapter 70 funding formula. In Western Mass, we face declining populations and aging infrastructure. So while "dollars follow the student" in the current funding formula, districts with declining populations still must care for aging school buildings, retiree health insurance, and other essential costs. The current formula is woefully outdated and underfunds retiree benefits and special education. I will go to Beacon Hill to fight for a fair solution for our region.
Second, even if we fix the school funding formula, we face the reality of declining populations and dwindling tax dollars. We can expand our high-quality education by allowing neighboring districts to partner and pool knowledge and resources. I will ensure necessary resources are available, and prioritize facilitating and working with all stakeholders to find sensible collaboration in the district.
Third, fully fund regional school transportation. Boston broke its promise to reimburse regional school transportation costs. Limited funds to educate our children now pay for buses.
Governor Baker's proposed FY17 budget only reimburses 68% of the cost. This unfairly impacts school districts in western Massachusetts. I will work tirelessly to get full reimbursement for regional school transportation.
Besides funding priorities, we must ensure our system of education serves everyone. I will work for universal pre-K to address the achievement gap.
Connecting schools to regional workforce needs is another priority. It includes the training needs of local businesses and pre-apprenticeship programs to bring non-traditional workers to the trades. Finally, schools increasingly need the tools to address student emotional and behavioral issues.
Education is at the center of who we are: it reflects our investment in the next generation. Successful pre-K-12 education is central to workforce development and retaining and attracting residents. As state senator, strengthening education will be central to my work.
Adam Hinds, Pittsfield Adam Hinds is a candidate for state Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden district.