We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
By Media and Communications Intern Jay Epstein
Even though the House cut the investment in early education that the governor proposed (and we at Fair Share were pushing for), it’s hard not to feel like this is an issue whose time has come. We know a budget is a compromise and there is going to be disappointment on both sides. For early education that was certainly case with the House Ways and Means Committee not quite agreeing with Governor Patrick on what early education should get. In these cases it is easy to get discouraged and not look beyond current events. Underneath the disappointment I believe early education has a promising future in this state. There is a tremendous amount of momentum building for the issue, maybe not in the Ways and Means Committee, but elsewhere in politics, media and daily life.
After the House Ways and Means Committee released its budget there were a flurry of amendments relating to early education and while most of them did not get the support needed to be put in place I still think the fact that they were there shows the momentum the issue is gaining. One of the few amendments to gain enough support was amendment #900 by Rep. Jay Livingstone which would restore the $15 million Governor Patrick originally intended for the pre-school waitlist instead of the current budget sets aside $7.5 million. That support did not result in the full amount restored (only $2.5 million more rather than another $7.5 million) but it’s better than nothing and indicates the issue is gaining steam.
Another way early education is gaining steam is the amount of talk it is getting from candidates. If the candidates are talking about it we know the voters are as well. Recently Massachusetts treasurer and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steven Grossman asked business leaders to throw their financial clout behind a universal prekindergarten program. “How can we profess to lead the nation in student achievement, and still have 30,000 of our children waiting to learn how to read?” Grossman asked the business leaders. Grossman’s plan would create a public-private partnership that would provide the resources to place some 30,000 children currently on the waitlist into early education programs, with the private-sector paying about half the costs.
Media coverage of early education is yet another piece of evidence that shows the issue is gaining momentum. Just after the House Ways and Means Committee released its budget I sent in an LTE to the Globe on my disappointment that the legislature did not expand early education as much as they should have. (You can read it here ) Obviously I was pleased that the Globe published my LTE but I was also pleased that they were giving some love to the issue of early education. Just two weeks before my LTE, state director Nathan Proctor had his own on the same subject, albeit from a different angle. (Read it here ) If they are publishing multiple LTEs on the subject it’s because their readers care about the issue and want to hear more about it.
Behind the great support and attention early education is the solid research behind the value of early education. Early education has been proven to reduce incarceration rates, teen pregnancy rates, time spent in high school after four years and other areas vital to succeeding later in life. Obviously people find these reasons compelling not only in an altruistic, “it’s good for the kids” kind of way, but in a pragmatic way as well: it saves us money. The less kids in specialized programs (or prison) the less we have to pay. This leads me to another reason why I think early education has a very bright future: it’s bipartisan.
While it is true that some conservative organizations have tried to discredit the research behind early education, many other conservatives like early education for the reasons mentioned above. Heck, Oklahoma has universal early education and we here in Massachusetts do not! By being bipartisan in nature, early education has a chance to succeed where other issues cannot, not just locally but nationally. Of course this does not mean the issue will be easy to push, or that it’s that simple, but its bipartisan nature does give it more of a fair shot.
It may be difficult to stay hopeful when the government does not do much to advance an issue you care about, but I think the evidence is clear that early education is building towards something great. Sure we may have not gotten what we wanted this year but that is certainly not a reason to stop trying. We have to keep up the pressure and not let the momentum we have going now die. If we stop, then we can say goodbye to the talk on early education from politicians and the media coverage from various outlets. Let’s keep it up, the future is bright.