It’s gotten so that when a candidate breaks a campaign promise, most people shrug their shoulders and say, ‘What did you expect?’ So when a candidate fulfills a promise î º a big promise î º as his first official act, voters notice.
Take Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. On his first day in office, he restored $92 million in cuts to education, including funds for higher education, early childhood education, full-day kindergarten and retroactive salary increases for public higher education faculty.
Patrick and the Massachusetts State Legislature have had to make deep cuts amid multi-billion dollar budget shortfalls. In the give and take of setting budget priorities, Patrick uses a particular lens when it comes to student needs. ‘You know, if you’re in the second or third grade you don’t get to sit out the second or third grade until the recession ends. Now’s your time. And we got to do right by these kids now.’
While the state’s public schools have experienced cutbacks, the Massachusetts Teachers Association credits Patrick with minimizing the damage. MTA cites Patrick’s successful advocacy for federal funds, his openness to hearing the concerns and ideas of educators, and his common-sense fiscal policy.
Early this year, Patrick and a handful of governors lobbied the incoming Obama administration for emergency funding to avert a teacher layoff crisis. Congress approved the funding, and as a result more than 160,000 education jobs were saved or created, including more than 2,000 in Massachusetts.
Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and a Cambridge middle school teacher, called the passage of the emergency funding in August ‘a great victory for students and public education.’ Toner added, ‘The governor and almost all of the (Massachusetts congressional) delegation took a strong stand for students and public education.’
More recently, parents were reminded of the education reform efforts Patrick has pursued when it was announced that public school students across the state posted strong gains in state tests at most grade levels. For the first time ever, more than half of the state’s seventh- and eighth-graders scored proficient or higher in math, and scores in most subjects and grade levels rose. While results for high school students were mixed, most people view the overall direction as positive.
‘We believe that investing in education and health care and job creation is the way to make a stronger and better commonwealth, and we’ve got the results to show for it,’ Patrick said.
Governor Patrick is no stranger to the transformative power of education. He and his sister were raised by their mother in a single room apartment on the South Side of Chicago in one of the nation’s most violent welfare tenements. Patrick distinguished himself in school early on. Later, while at Harvard law school, he was chosen to lead the school’s Legal Aid Bureau, which serves poor people in the Boston area. He went on to become assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights at age 37.
Because Massachusetts faces a $2 billion deficit, Governor Patrick will continue to face difficult budget choices. Massachusetts educators and parents understand that while Patrick welcomes their voices, they must continue to organize and speak out and elect pro-public education candidates to be effective advocates in the rough and tumble world of budget-making. Sign up on Education Votes to help make a difference.