During the campaign every candidate will express that they want to increase funding for education and change the formula for our state education funding. While this is something that everyone wants, I know that this will be extremely difficult to do. We need to bring new thinking and fresh ideas to our efforts to adequately fund our schools.
First, the Berkshire County Educational Task Force has released a statement that our schools should consider regionalization. By the task force meeting, researching and sharing this idea with us I think that we have a great opportunity to begin the conversation of what we would like our schools to look like and share our “must haves” to feel comfortable and keep our children happy and successful.
Let me stress, I am not asking our communities to merge schools. Rather, I am asking that we look at the administration of our schools and the cost of multiple superintendents, financial officers, athletic directors, principals, etc. in our 19 school districts and 10 high schools in Berkshire County. Multiple administrations mean duplicative spending on the running of our schools. Regionalization of these costs means a savings that could be used for the things that matter most for our county’s children, teachers and curriculum.
A regional plan could save money, lower administrative costs and still maintain local control over our schools. It would give resources where they are needed, in the classrooms rather than on overhead.
Second, rather than continue to debate changing the education funding formula that hasn’t been substantively changed since 1993, we need to come up with new ideas. As State Representative, I would propose that we look at a tiered system with three formulas: an urban formula, a suburban formula and a rural formula. These three formulas would reflect the unique makeup of each tier. Given the income levels and needs of our school systems in the First Berkshire District; even if there was no more funding than presently exists we stand a good chance to increase funding through a formula that is more aligned with our needs.
In the past, the North Adams School District was a part of a laptop and iPad pilot program to give each child a laptop computer or an iPad to use during the school year. We need to explore new technologies that reflect both a new way to educate as well as mirror a more tech savvy economy. I will pursue a revitalization of the computer program as well as look at new ways to bring technology to the classroom.
We have a large low income population in the Berkshires. To train people for self-sufficient employment, we need to start with the basics: adult basic education. I will advocate for increased spending on these programs as well as increased utilization in our region. These programs are the building blocks for all other efforts to educate and train the next generation.
Finally, we need to ensure that we have adequate funding for MCLA as well as BCC. These institutions are key in my plan to train people for the jobs we want in Berkshire County as well as the jobs with employers who consistently have employment opportunities. If we are to grow our economy, we need our institutions training the next generation of workers who reside here in the district.