MTA response to Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s 'Our Way Forward' report

MTA response to Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s 'Our Way Forward' report


'The most glaring problem with this report is what it doesn’t say.'

MTA President Merrie Najimy issued the following statement today about state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley's new report:

Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s “Our Way Forward” report includes several recommendations that the MTA and its members have long fought for, including extending deeper learning opportunities to low-income students — often students of color. We agree that all students should have a chance to participate in the arts and other enrichment programs and have access to counseling and other social and emotional supports. We also believe that barriers limiting the number of educators of color in our public schools must be lifted.

These educational goals have been impossible to achieve under decades of austerity budgets and punitive accountability systems imposed on public schools, and that will continue to be true until we fully fund public education and return real autonomy to all educators.

The most glaring problem with this report is what it doesn’t say.

The report reinforces the misguided ideology of Governor Charlie Baker and Secretary of Education Jim Peyser — that funding is secondary to state-mandated “innovations” in school curriculum and structure. That is not the case.

"In order to implement the changes in this report as well as the changes sought by students, parents and educators, we need the full level of funding recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission and included in the Promise Act."

MTA President Merrie Najimy

In order to implement the changes in this report as well as the changes sought by students, parents and educators, we need the full level of funding recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission and included in the Promise Act. The Promise Act would require an additional $1.4 billion in state aid to our public schools when fully phased in. Nothing in this report makes a compelling case for that level of support.

The report also fails to identify a second barrier to achieving the deep learning it calls for: the excessive focus on MCAS results, which narrows the curriculum and stifles innovation. Nowhere in this report do we see a call for changing the punitive nature of the state’s accountability system or developing culturally relevant curriculum, instructional practices and assessments. Without those changes, districts are unlikely to encourage real innovation and experimentation and instead may be required to adopt the kind of “reforms” the department dictates — but which many educators experience as just a new set of constraints.

The MTA has long supported some of these goals — such as home visits, greater diversity in the education workforce, and a commitment to the whole child. Many of these ideas are expressed in our own report, The Public Schools and Colleges Our Students Deserve. We look forward to working with the commissioner and other education stakeholders to make sure that educators’ voices are heard as this process unfolds.

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