Experts discuss state of local education at GCC

  • Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution and the Massachusetts Teachers Association hosted a panel to discuss the state of local public education at GCC Tuesday night. From left: Joe Kurland, member of Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee, Doug Selwyn, professor of Education at SUNY Plattsburgh, Dave Danning, Director of Research for the MTA and Chris Cappucci, Director of Research for Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/16/2017 11:58:20 PM

GREENFIELD — On the same day the Senate released its first draft of its budget, a group of experts gathered to discuss the state of local public education.

Education experts advocated both at the state and local levels for sufficient funding for rural public school districts and championed opting out of state “high-stakes testing,” at an event hosted by the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution and the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

For a few hours Tuesday night at Greenfield Community College, experts Dave Danning, Director of Research for the MTA union, Joe Kurland, member of the Mohawk Trail Regional School Committee and Doug Selwyn, a professor of education in New York discussed with an audience of activists and community members what they believe needs to be done to advance the public education system in Franklin County and across the state.

“Until we stand together and act, somebody is going to tell us how to act,” Selwyn said. “It is time for us to take back our schools.”

Joining the panel of experts, who all presented about specific topics, was Chris Cappucci, director of research for Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru. He gave a legislative update, noting particular bills on the table. A major discussion of the evening focused on equal funding for students in rural districts versus urban and suburban districts.

“(Mark is) there fighting for equal funding for all students in his district and across the Commonwealth as well,” Cappucci said.

Kurland spoke of the tension he has seen among lower-income populations in rural and urban districts pulling for similar funding at the state level.

“We need to make a coalition of poor rural districts and poor inner city districts because if we keep fighting on our own, we’re not going to overcome it,” Kurland said.

The experts spoke about the way funding is distributed among different districts. They discussed several ways to interpret the needs of a district, and pushed for reforms they believe would more fairly distribute money among districts in major cities and small towns.

The experts advocated for the “Fair Share” amendment on the November 2018 ballot, which would change the state constitution for public education and transportation by adding a 4 percent tax on annual income over $1 million. Earlier in the day, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst, said the passing of that amendment would help to properly fund education in the state.

“We need to figure out what’s a fair way of taxation and what’s a fair way of funding schools,” Kurland said.

The professor at State University of New York, Plattsburgh, Selwyn also talked about his issues with “high-stakes testing.”

The experts pushed against single tests that largely shape school budgets — some calling for parents to advocate locally for having students “opt-out” of the tests. The experts, though, cautioned that this might not have the effect desired if not done districtwide, and further, statewide.

“One of the things that has happened with these high stakes tests is that we have lost local control,” Selwyn said.

The tone of the night was that, although education budgets continue to see marginal increases, there is a lot that can be done on the local level.

“It’s the biggest generalization but it’s a matter of parents and grandparents and other citizens in the town realizing the schools aren’t failing, but that the imposition of how they’re being measured and what they’re being measured on is not measuring what the parents or the teachers think are the most important things,” member of the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution Paul Jablon said. “All of these people need to get together.”

Upcoming rally

People who would like to attend a rally for public education on the Boston Common, Saturday, May 20, can RSVP with the MTA as soon as possible to arrange for transportation. A bus will be leaving Greenfield Community College at 11 a.m. and will arrive back around 8 p.m. The rally is expected to start around 2 p.m. in Boston.

Reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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