This from the Statehouse News this afternoon –
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 15, 2013….When he addresses the state on Wednesday night, Gov. Deval Patrick, who sketched out plans Tuesday for massive new investments in education, will outline an ambitious and likely controversial plan to raise as much as $1.57 billion in new revenue next year.
Visiting the Orchard Gardens school in Roxbury – the same school he highlighted in a speech last summer at the Democratic National Convention – Patrick called for a $550 million investment in education in fiscal 2014 that would ramp up to $1 billion in new spending by 2017.
The plan calls call for the state to deliver on its promise of universal access to early education by eliminating wait lists for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and making Chapter 70 funding available for the first time to districts for pre-school for four-year-olds.
The governor also called for more expanded learning time, a $226 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid in his fiscal 2014 budget, and a $152 million increase in funding for community colleges, the University of Massachusetts, and college student grants.
“Investing in our children at a young age pays huge dividends for them and for our community as a whole. To those who say we cannot afford that, I challenge you to show me which one of these four-year-olds we should leave behind,” Patrick said, raising voice in the school auditorium as he delivered a message to the would-be detractors of his revenue push.
The governor’s plans for education, which span early childhood education to college, arrived a day after Patrick made his pitch for $1.02 billion in new revenue to pay for the maintenance and expansion of the state’s highways, bridges and public transit systems.
“The money’s going to come from new revenue. We’re going to put our proposal forward in the State of the Commonwealth and we’re going to make the case for investing in our growth and in our own future. It’s a proven strategy. It has gotten us a long way over the last couple years. We can go a lot further,” Patrick told reporters on Tuesday in Roxbury.
Patrick declined to elaborate on his revenue proposal, only acknowledging that “revenue” means tax and fee increases to pay for programs he believes will “accelerate” economic growth. “We got to stop being afraid of that conversation and start talking about the choices that we have to make in order to ensure that we are building a stronger future,” Patrick said.
The broad plans for new spending come a day after the administration and House and Senate budget writers agreed to a revenue estimate for fiscal 2014 reflecting modest 3.9 percent growth, an $838 million increase from this fiscal year’s revised estimate that will largely be consumed by spending associated with health care, fixed costs and caseload-driven programs.
“I think the economy is improving and we’re going to be stronger if we take action. We can’t treat the economy like the weather. We don’t have to stand around and wait for it, wait for it to happen to us, wait for someone to forecast what’s going to happen. We can build our own future and we can create our own growth,” Patrick said.
So far, legislative leaders have taken a wait-and-see approach to Patrick’s revenue plans, though House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray have both indicated they may be more open to raising taxes this session than over the past couple of years.
Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez (D-Boston) attended the governor’s event in Roxbury with Reps. Gloria Fox and Russell Holmes.
“The governor’s on fire out the box. I’m happy and excited that this administration has this much energy,” Sanchez said. Sanchez said schools like Orchard Gardens prove that investment and “hard work” can pay dividends, but predicted a good debate in the House over revenue.
“I’m from Jamaica Plain. Taxes are always on the table in my district,” he told the News Service.
Asked whether he felt politically freed to pursue substantial new revenues because he does not intend to seek a third term in 2014, Patrick said, “That’s not the reason. The reason is we have done all we can to move ourselves forward through reforms.”
Patrick was joined on stage at the school by Boston School Superintendent Carolyn Johnson and new Education Secretary Matthew Malone. The governor has held up the school as a model for what investing in education and forging partnerships within the community can accomplish, citing a 184 percent improvement in English and a 533 percent improvement in math proficiency at the school.
After viewing student art work in the hall, Patrick listened to students of various ages tell him what they wanted to do with their lives, including one young boy who said he wanted to go to firefighting school. Others talked about the value of the after-school program and the commitment of teachers at the school.
“The pride students and educators have in this school is palpable,” Patrick said.
The governor’s education investments, which will be filed as part of the fiscal 2014 budget he submits to the Legislature next week, will call for $550 million in new spending next year that will ramp up each year to $1 billion in annual new spending by fiscal 2017.
Citing a persistent achievement gap for minority, low-income, and special needs students and a reading proficiency rate of just 61 percent for third-graders, Patrick said his plan would eliminate the 30,000 student wait-list for early education and care programs.
The plan would also invest $5 million next year, and up to $70 million a year by 2017, in expanded learning time programs at the middle-school level, with an additional $20 million dedicated to supports for students and their families in urban “Gateway Cities.”
The $226 million increase in Chapter 70 aid for public schools would guarantee a $25 per pupil increase in spending for each district, and keep all districts at foundation levels.
The governor’s plan would also spend $274 million more a year at its peak, starting with a $152 million investment in fiscal 2014, in higher education, increasing funding for financial aid through the MASSGrant program.
Patrick also wants to expand the Completion Incentive Grant fund, which allows students enrolled at certain campuses to receive up to $8,000 over four years for credits earned toward their degrees, and increase funding for community colleges by $20 million.
The governor will also request a commitment of state support to fund at least 50 percent of the education costs at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges by 2017.
Jason Williams, the executive director of Stand for Children, called for the governor and Legislature to work together to improve underperforming schools.
“When we invest in education, we invest in the future of our state. Increased education funding is crucial to ensuring that every child has equal access to a great education, but there remains a major challenge for Massachusetts in leveling the playing field for students of all incomes – we need to lift barriers that prevent badly-needed education innovation, including retaining the reforms at our turnaround schools, expanding opportunities to attend charter schools and extending learning time where needed,” Williams said in a statement.
Carolyn Lyons, president and CEO of Strategies for Children, applauded Patrick’s call for more spending on early education, calling it a “bold step toward closing the achievement gap and securing the commonwealth’s future economic vitality.”
Noting 39 percent of Massachusetts third graders scored below proficient in reading on the 2012 MCAS, Lyons said, “With funding for early education and care down more than $80 million since fiscal year 2009, we urge the Legislature to support these critical new investments in young children.”
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