My Turn: Why inequality among our state’s public schools?

  • Mike Magee—Mike Magee

Published: 3/13/2019 9:35:16 AM

Just imagine if Orange and Athol could afford to spend money on their children’s education the way Wellesley and Lincoln do.  Instead of having $14,000 per student, the schools in Orange and Athol would have $25,000 to 28,000 for each student’s education.  There would be no cutting of kindergarten teachers.  There would be no cutting of music, art and librarians.  There would be money for enrichment field trips and summer programs as well as money for essential town services.  Now we have to decide between our own children’s education and maintaining the town hall or the public roads. 

Orange is able to afford to spend only $13,300 per pupil and Athol only $14,059, whereas Lincoln can spend $23,000 and Weston $24,500 per pupil. Of course they can: 70 to 80 percent of their adults over 25 have bachelor degrees or higher versus only 11 to 16 percent in Orange and Athol.   They can afford to allocate over 200 percent of the Net School Spending required by the state.  They have wealthy well-educated parents who are going to ensure their children get the very best educational opportunities.

Why the inequality?  Are children from Orange and Athol worth less than those from other towns?  No, of course not.  We just cannot afford to pay for an equal education.  It’s really that simple.  

And there is a simple solution as well.  Equal funding for each child funded by a graduated state income tax with no deductions and dedicated only to the education of all citizens from per-k through college.  Yes, that would require a constitutional amendment and the wealthy well-educated people of the towns of Brookline, Concord and Sudbury would be contributing to the equal education for all our children.  

No honest person could be opposed to educating all citizens to their full potential. President John F. Kennedy often quoted the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s also true to say, “An equal education is essential in a democracy.” After all, we all live together in the same Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Yes, equality is costly, but necessary.  And, it guarantees a brighter future for all.   

Michael Magee grew up and lived on a family farm in Orange for most of his life. He graduated from Mahar and retired from teaching there last year after 20 years. 

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