JP Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz took the podium at the 49th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in the South Boston Convention Center and used the shining light of Dr. King’s example to call for another local fight for justice – that being the justice of equal education funding.
“I have watched this tragic inequality play out in Massachusetts schools for too long,” she said at the breakfast. “We are one of the best states when it comes to educating our youth, but we are also amongst the worst with sharing that educational opportunity with every child…I named my new bill the PROMISE Act in remembrance of Dr. King’s promissory note.”
The speech came on the heels of Chang-Diaz filing another education reform bill on Jan. 9 – a act in the memory of Dr. King which she called the PROMISE (Providing Rightful Opportunities and Meaningful Investment for Successful and Equitable Education) Act. The act – similar to one she filed in 2018 that died last summer before the end of the session – will implement all four recommendations of the bipartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) – including long-overdue equity provisions for low-income and English learner students. The Commonwealth has failed to update the aging foundation budget formula for more than 25 years, she said.
As an example, she told the crowd at the breakfast that in Concord schools, they spend an average of $210 on supplies per student, while Springfield schools spend $2.55 on the same supplies. Additionally, in Ashland, they have one social worker for every 82 students, while Boston schools have one for every 300 students.
“In the most needy district where students really need access to these social workers, we also see one of the largest ratios of students to social worker,” she commented. “We almost got there last year. This year I know we can go the distance.”
She finished her fiery speech on what many education leaders are calling the greatest civil rights fight of our time with a call to past injustices against people of color and women.
“Many people will say that poor and majority-minority school districts cannot be trusted to spend any additional education dollars wisely,” she said. “They will say that. I remind you to remember when those in power said blacks and women couldn’t be trusted to make the correct decisions if given the right to vote.” Chang-Diaz’s bill has been filed and it will advance through the legislature with several other similar bills. Speaker Bob DeLeo has said he is intent on getting some reform passed this year on education funding reform.