MTA responds: Romney's state of the state address

Statement by MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau on Governor Mitt Romney's State of the State Address
Jan. 13, 2005

"As Governor Romney said, our schools are indeed among the best in the country, but we still have a long way to go. The state not only has a 'contract' with its students, it has a constitutional obligation to provide them with a high-quality education. We would be happy to work with the governor, the Legislature and other stakeholders to develop a plan that would truly narrow the achievement gap and benefit all students. Unfortunately, the plan outlined by Governor Romney tonight falls short of these goals."

Below are Boudreau's responses to some of the governor's specific remarks and proposals.

On funding: "While the governor's previously released education spending plan is a good first step, it does not make up for the budget cuts that have affected students in recent years. If the governor's planned increase in Chapter 70 is approved, school funding will still be more than $200 million lower than it was in the peak year of fiscal year 2002, when adjusted for inflation and changes in enrollment.  Once again this year, many school districts are anticipating having to make cuts in educational services if they do not receive significant new state aid. That is unfortunate, especially in light of Judge Margot Botsford's finding in the Hancock v. Driscoll case that the state is not currently providing schools with the resources they need."

On giving principals more power to fire teachers: "Certainly, failing teachers do not belong in the classroom. Principals already have the power to fire failing teachers, and those powers were strengthened under the 1993 Education Reform Act. All teachers must be evaluated based on seven principles of effective teaching. Those who fail to meet those standards are subject to dismissal, as they should be."

On merit pay: "We believe that teachers should be paid more for taking on additional responsibilities, such as developing curricula or mentoring new teachers. We do not support merit pay based on student test scores because we have yet to see a test-score-based system that is fair and has a positive impact on student learning. It is wrong to penalize teachers who have a disproportionate number of students with learning disabilities or other impairments that keep them from progressing at the same rate as their peers. In addition, merit pay creates divisiveness in a profession that requires teamwork and collaboration."

On longer school day:  "A longer school day is especially important for students who are struggling to meet state standards. It is unfortunate that the governor presided over significant cuts in MCAS remediation funding, since those funds were used to extend the school day and school year for students through after-school and summer school programs. If the governor wants to lengthen the school day, we are interested in learning the specifics of his plan and where the state would find the resources."

Springfield as case study: "It is interesting to hear the governor talk about expanding programs in urban communities without committing the state to providing the necessary resources. There is one city where, through a Finance Control Board, the governor already exercises direct control over spending, and that city is Springfield. Unfortunately, there is no evidence thus far that the reality will meet the rhetoric. Springfield's schools are suffering. The students have critical needs that are not being met, and many teachers are leaving the system because they simply cannot afford to stay. Given that this is a city under the Romney administration's direct control, we see little reason to be confident that the governor will live up to his words, no matter how fine they might sound."