Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Readiness Project

Governor Deval Patrick's speech at the U-MASS Boston commencement was reported as the announcement of the governor's new education plan. The focus of subsequent news articles has been on a couple points made in the speech.

  • Free tuition to community colleges
  • Universal extended day and universal pre-K

  • I don't claim any special expertise on community colleges. It seems like a good idea to make community college affordable. I agree with most of the op-ed in today's Hampshire Gazette, which I quote in some detail at the end of this post.

    I do note that the summaries printed in the news reports appear to be tangential or perhaps even at odds with the speeches a few weeks ago at annual meeting of school committees and in Framingham. Those speeches focused on the other talking point, "the property tax is not working". The summaries of this speech point to new and expensive long term initiatives but do not say anything about measuring the true cost of K-12 ed or addressing the problem of paying for too much of it with property tax revenues.

    Reading the details of the governor's speech, there was more to the speech than was reported, but I paraphrase a news quote from Lexington, it seems impractical to contemplate expensive new initiatives at a time when resources to cover existing needs are scarce. A meaningful shift of K-12 funding away from the property tax would require something near a $Billion of new state funds, which would bring Mass closer to the national average in terms of local/state funding split. The governor's new initiatives appear at least on the same order of magnitude, and no source of new funds has been mentioned yet by the governor, left to a task force to identify. Double or nothing?

    Gazette quote:

    The governor has no price tag for the plan but said it was workable and dismissed, in advance, any naysayers. The governor makes a bold statement about the importance of education, but the financial realties need to be understood in order to fully gauge its impact.

    A study last fall by the state Board of Higher Education estimated it would cost between $25 million and $40 million in the first year to offer two years of free community college to high school graduates who met the qualifications. At a time when many state college facilities are in need of upgrades, free tuition could put physical plant improvements on hold.

    If the state has jobs that require a two-year degree, do the colleges have the programs to develop the right skills for those jobs? Developing new academic programs will also cost money.

    In an interview with the Gazette, GCC President Robert Pura said cost is the commonwealth's "single biggest barrier" to higher education. No doubt cost keeps eligible individuals from attending college, but others can afford it. Is a tuition-free community college the best way to serve the neediest, or does a big boost in scholarships and financial aid work better?

    Other states have experimented with free community colleges - California most notably - only to abandon the idea. A special study group being set up by the governor to examine the idea should certainly look at the experiences of other states.

    Gov. Patrick has offered an appealing vision, but right now that's all it is. We look forward to a vigorous discussion of the merits and affordability of the plan.

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    Anonymous Mike Palter said...

    Lynne Jackson & Mike Palter
    Jazz is a Rainbow
    PO Box 31
    Manchester by the Sea, MA
    978 526-8620

    Dear Mr. Thomas:

    The goals and aspirations of the Readiness Project are quite beside the point if one does not confront the issues of self esteem, the ignorance of historical and cultural history and an individual sense of simple pride, all elements which are apparently subordinated in the Readiness Project to the ability to secure employment. As such, the Readiness Project appears to be, in essence, a simple jobs program rather than a process which furthers the ability of these children to succeed as self-assured and proud citizens of the Commonwealth. If, within the scope of an arts/learning program such as ours they begin to develop a real awareness of their abilities as well as the skills and passions to galvanize this awareness, the jobs will come. Alas, the make-up of your Readiness Project Committee clearly reflects the inability to grasp this reality.

    Mike Palter
    Writer, Musical Director
    Jazz is a Rainbow
    La Musica de los Ninos-The Promise of America

    March 12, 2008  

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