Massachusetts Teachers Association airs TV ad

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is airing a television ad focusing on the impact that the lack of classroom resources is having on students throughout the Commonwealth. The 30-second spot, which began running April 4 on network and cable stations, calls on viewers to "give our schools the support they need."

"Our schools must provide every child in the Commonwealth with a high-quality education," said MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau. "Teachers are giving their all to this mission, but the needs of public education are going unmet in many areas. Class sizes remain too large, lab facilities are inadequate, and supplies are insufficient.

"Public education needs public support," Boudreau added. "Our ads are designed to show the citizens of Massachusetts what is at stake."

The TV spot is airing as the Legislature is working on the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Although Governor Mitt Romney has proposed limited increases, his plan for school funding would not reverse cuts that have been made to vital programs serving students.

"It is critical for our elected officials to step up to help public education at all levels and for their constituents to make it clear that our schools, colleges, and University should be at the top of the list of legislative priorities," Boudreau said.

The MTA television ad was directed by prominent filmmaker Joel Schumacher, who waived his fee because the spot was created to benefit public education. Schumacher, a product of the New York City public schools, said the project drew his interest "because it's for the teachers and the kids."

"I think education is the most important thing in the world, and I think, unfortunately, public education is under-funded and under-appreciated," Schumacher said.

"Every single person can mention at least one teacher who made a difference -- who offered a kind word, helped with a homework assignment, or listened to you when you had a problem or a dream," the director added. "Everyone has that one teacher."

The ad is appearing at a critical time for public education.

In April 2004, Superior Court Judge Margot Botsford, who presided over trial testimony in the Hancock v. Driscoll case, found that student plaintiffs "are not receiving the education to which they are constitutionally entitled." Although the state Supreme Judicial Court rejected proposed remedies when it ruled on the case Feb. 15, a majority of the justices were vocal in their support for Botsford's findings and in their demand for the Legislature to ensure continued progress in public education.

The problems facing schools in Massachusetts have been well documented. Progress in Jeopardy, a report issued last year by groups representing teachers, school committees, superintendents, and municipalities, showed that in many communities, class sizes were increasing, fees paid by families were going up, and art, music, and foreign language programs were being cut. According to the most recent Census Bureau data, Massachusetts ranks 37th out of the 50 states in the percentage of personal income that is spent on K-12 public education. In addition, the recent report of the Senate Task Force on Public Higher Education found that Massachusetts "ranks 49th in the nation in state spending on higher education per $1,000 of state income," has experienced the "largest decrease in state funding for public higher education ... out of the 50 states," and is "the only state in the nation that is spending less on public higher education than it was spending ten years ago."

Romney's proposals for education spending fall far short. His proposal to boost Chapter 70 funding by $77 million would still leave general state aid to school districts a projected $365 million short of the amount allocated in Fiscal 2002, when inflation and enrollment changes are taken into account. His proposal for public higher education would leave funding a projected $334 million below the Fiscal 2001 level after adjusting for inflation.

In addition to the television ad, the MTA campaign includes radio spots that are airing on stations in greater Boston, Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester, and on Cape Cod.

The campaign is produced by SS+K, a national advertising firm with offices in Boston and other cities.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association represents approximately 100,000 public education employees, including teachers, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, and future teachers.