Ann O’Halloran Delivers CPS Testimony on Adequate School Funding Bill

Testimony on House H153
An Act to Fulfill the Promise of Education Reform: Adequate Funding for Student Success

My name is Ann B. O’Halloran. I was a Massachusetts educator for 30 years – in Boston and Newton – and Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year in 2007. Since retiring I have become active with Citizens for Public Schools.  CPS supports House Bill 153, An Act to Fulfill the Promise of Education Reform by Ensuring Adequate Funding for Student Success.

As a lifelong educator I am shocked every day at what I see happening in the schools of Massachusetts. “Accountability” on a “business model” is shouted out as a goal in education policy. Meanwhile the Commonwealth fails to document the BASIC COSTS of an adequate education in Massachusetts. The Adequacy Study described in this bill would document our needs and allow us to plan appropriately.  After almost 20 years, that  would represent a real step forward in “accountability.”

How can we possibly say that we are ensuring adequate quality education when so many schools lack safe and up-to-date facilities? [As an example, I suggest the Commonwealth look at how many of our ancient schools buildings are “grandfathered” out of current safety requirements. While the Commonwealth insists on protections for the patrons of our bars with modern sprinkler systems for fire protection, how many children in our older schools are NOT protected?]

It is distressing that so many schools lack libraries and librarians, have relentless cutbacks in the arts, music, drama, after school programs, lack appropriate resources in books, technology and science labs, have constant cutbacks in special education, in medical, psychological, and social work supports that are essential to so many students. While the Commonwealth has built a mammoth testing system for students with huge concomitant costs  – with an intent to expand even further – it has been complicit in the ongoing cutbacks of the very basics of a modern school system.

The worst aspect of such policies is that it is our poorest schools and communities which suffer the worst deprivation.  It is time for an honest “evaluation” of our schools. With the constant drumbeat regarding evaluation and accountability, are we as a Commonwealth, prepared to take an in-depth look at the realities of schooling in Massachusetts – and make a judgment whether we are living up to the standards of the 21st Century?

CPS was started in 1982 and played a critical role in the landmark McDuffy decision that led to the Education Reform Act of 1993.  We have always supported the view that the state – and therefore, the towns and cities – have a constitutional duty to provide adequate quality education for all students.  Questions about appropriate funding arose over the years and in 2005 CPS assisted in the Hancock v. Driscoll case in hopes of accessing critically needed funds for public education. That case reiterated that the law as it stood would take care of providing that equality. Six more years have gone by, however, and it is clear that our Commonwealth has not met those requirements.

One of our Board Members, Norma Shapiro, was very active over all the years leading up to Education Reform in the effort to create adequate funding for every school in the Commonwealth. She is unable to be here today, but one statement she has frequently made is – “Money matters.” Money is necessary but clearly doesn’t solve all problems. But it’s certainly a starting point.

As an educator, I see that students, educators, and school systems are constantly being called to account for our part of Education Reform.  It is time that our Commonwealth itself be called for its own accounting.  After close to 20 years, are we fulfilling the mission of Education Reform?  House Bill 153 would ensure that we know where we are in pursuit of that objective and what goals should be our focus in the near future to fulfill the legal (and moral) requirements defined by the Education Reform Act of 1993.

Ann B. O’Halloran, Citizens for Public Schools, 2007 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year
138 Whitman Rd., Waltham, MA 02453, 617 448 3647,