E4E-Boston Testifies in Support of Bills to Reduce School Segregation and Increase Funding Equity in School Building Projects
Testimony to the Massachusetts Joint Education Committee in Support of S.305 and S.306/H.577
My name is Jake Resetarits and I am a former 5th grade teacher who currently serves as the Managing Director of External Affairs at Educators for Excellence Boston (E4E-Boston). We are a nonprofit focused on ensuring that Massachusetts educators' voices are heard in policy conversations that impact their classroom and their profession, and I am writing this testimony to formally voice our organization’s support for S.305 and S.306/H.577. Thank you to Chair Peisch, Chair Lewis, and the Joint Education Committee for the opportunity to discuss these two vital pieces of legislation that will help increase education equity in the Commonwealth.
In 2019, a team of E4E-Boston educators released a policy paper which discussed the negative impact that a poor school environment has on student achievement and teacher retention. They were inspired to write it after experiencing the infrastructure inequity that exists across Massachusetts, where some districts have no shortage of funds for new buildings stocked with all the resources a student needs to have a productive learning experience, while others must make do with crumbling buildings that ultimately serve as an extra hurdle to academic success. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this inequity even clearer, with too many E4E-Boston educators in schools serving already marginalized populations telling me that they lacked the modern plumbing, HVAC systems, and structures required to safely educate their students.
All at the same time in the last 15 months districts realized that their buildings are in dire need of renovation and new construction. As a result, Massachusetts is in dire need of legislation to meet this moment.
S.306/H.577 would help to address the statewide infrastructure gap. Its provision repealing the school construction reimbursement cap of 80%, a threshold with no clear reasoning behind it that disproportionately impacts students in low-income districts, stops Massachusetts from leaving money that belongs to our students on the table (just between 2016-2020, an estimated additional $44 million could have been invested in school construction). Additionally, its doubling of the amount of sales tax that goes to school construction from one cent to two would ensure Massachusetts has the ability to fund more projects and modernize our buildings faster. This bill provides the path towards modernizing our school infrastructure and narrowing the opportunity gap statewide, now it's up to you to take the first step.
E4E-Boston also recognizes that new buildings alone will not be enough to end educational inequity in Massachusetts if systemic racism prevents the majority of students of color from accessing them. S.305 tackles racial segregation in schools through directing DESE to develop a grant program that incentivizes districts to to combat the effects of racial segregation by increasing racial diversity of the student population. I know from working with schools that there is no shortage of good ideas to increase integration; with this bill there will finally be funding to begin implementing them. S.305 would also increase transparency and awareness around racial segregation in Massachusetts by collecting and annually publishing data on segregation at the district, school, and classroom level. Through S.305’s incentives and comprehensive data collection, Massachusetts can be a pioneer in unwinding the pernicious racial segregation that still afflicts schools nationwide.
Together, S.305 and S.306/H.577 will help move Massachusetts closer to the equitable and excellent education system that E4E-Boston envisions for every student. We can address critical school infrastructure needs by renovating our existing buildings and constructing new ones, while also incentivizing schools to address racial segregation. The result will be a system where the norm is a welcoming and safe environment for every student regardless of their race. I urge the Joint Education Committee to report these bills favorably out of committee, and help us build a better future for Massachusetts students.