On March 22, 2019, the Massachusetts Joint Education Committee held a day-long hearing on overhauling how the state funds its schools. The legislators on the Committee sought community input on the numerous bills currently being debated, all of which have slightly different approaches to creating a more equitable school finance system in Massachusetts.
Theresa Thalhamer, an E4E-Boston member and high school science and special education teacher, submitted testimony in support of S.238, The Education PROMISE Act. She cited the PROMISE Act’s superior approach to increasing funding for special education as her main reason for supporting it over the other options. You can read her testimony in full below.
I have been a special educator and science teacher at an urban public school for 4 years. During that time I have witnessed the damage that inequitable funding enacts on my students. Some of my kids enter high school with a first- or second-grade reading level because their previous schools could not afford the necessary supports to help them learn.
If you want to get even an inkling of what it feels like to be constantly overwhelmed by almost everything you read, go and find a mechanical engineering textbook or any other graduate level text from an unfamiliar field and try to comprehend it on the first try. You will probably feel a high level of frustration that is similar to how my students feel when they try to read texts that are ostensibly their grade level.
The current school funding formula undercounts special education enrollment, leading to a chronic lack of funding that has left behind generations of students. As much as we’d like to be able to provide all of the necessary supports ourselves, I am not a trained reading teacher, speech-language pathologist, or counselor. It takes a whole team of professionals to help all of our students be successful, and those teams cost money.
Our current school finance system does not provide adequate resources for the needs of our special education students. The PROMISE Act would increase Boston’s Chapter 70 aid by modernizing the funding formula for ELL and special education students, two populations that are most at-risk to not be on grade-level in reading. After 25 years, it is time we updated our formula to reflect the needs of a modern school. I urge you to commit to our students and pass the PROMISE Act into law.
Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to my testimony and for your continued efforts to providing a great education to our next generation.