Youth from the Chelsea Collaborative joined leaders from across the state on January 9 to advocate for an updated funding formula for Massachusetts public schools. An education funding reform bill - the Education Promise Act - was filed the same day and includes critical equity provisions which our youth and families have been calling for.
Chelsea Collaborative Youth Leader Jose Cruz stood in front of an impressive delegation of lawmakers, school leaders, community advocates, parents, and others to share the challenges he faces at school, in his community, and within his family. These challenges range from poverty and community violence to lack of affordable housing, after-school programs, and positive role models, Jose said. And amid all of those challenges, he's seen the programs, opportunities, and resources available to him at school dwindle year after year.
"I ask you: do you sincerely expect us to succeed under these circumstances? Are you aware of these issues? Can you do something to help us? Will you help us?"
Jose's remarks were part of the kickoff for a new bill - the Education Promise Act - which would reform the state's foundation formula determining public school funding in districts across Massachusetts. In 2015, a commission of experts determined that the current funding formula drastically underestimated the resources needed to close achievement gaps - particularly for low-income students and English learners. The proposed legislation was filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and would update the existing 25-year-old formula according to the commission's recommendations, including directing additional resources to districts like Chelsea and Everett which are serving high numbers of low-income students and English learners.
Our youth bear the burden of chronic and shameful under-funding of our schools. Students like Jose have endured this situation for their entire educational careers - which is why youth and parent organizers at the Chelsea Collaborative have organized for education funding reform for several years. In 2018, the Collaborative formed the North Shore Youth Coalition made up of eight youth-serving organizations in the region, to mobilize youth and families behind education funding reform. Youth have been a consistent voice at school committee and city council meetings, they've met with their superintendents, collected testimonies in support of a new foundation formula, and held an advocacy day at the State House, which drew more than 200 youth, teachers and parents to speak with their legislators about education funding in 2018.
In 2019, our youth will continue to raise awareness of education funding reform issues and advocate for passing the Education Promise Act. For more information, or to get involved, contact Norieliez DeJesus at email@example.com.