Cultivating allies in the business community with Early College expansion
The Gateway Cities Journal
Massachusetts’ state Senators gather under the golden dome for a historic floor debate on education funding today. The $1.5 billion Student Opportunity Act is a game-changer for Gateway City school districts, and a Massachusetts economy thirsting for skilled workers to replace aging Boomers. Today’s Globe records this moment as a debate about who gets what. This parochial framing is a disservice to our most disadvantaged students, and forward-thinking state legislators, who clearly recognize that their constituents are not always best served by more state funding for their district in a Commonwealth with growing divides.
But the Globe is not entirely off the mark. If this landmark legislation moves forward, Gateway Cities must rise to the occasion and prove that they can be responsible stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars in order to keep the funds flowing.
Expanding Early College High Schools is the surest way to deliver. Gateway City educators have already shown tremendous brawn getting these complicated K-12/higher education partnerships off the ground. As research MassINC published earlier this year demonstrates, Early College at scale is the most promising strategy these communities have to dramatically increase post-secondary degree completion and prepare more youth for jobs in the state’s knowledge economy. If Gateway Cities can provide opportunities for many more students to participate in these programs, everyone in Massachusetts will win. Rigorous cost-benefit analysis shows every dollar expended on Early College generates $15 in benefits.
This incredibly high rate of return has caught the eye of the state’s business leaders. Led by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, a large coalition of business groups have thrown support behind worthy amendments offered by Senator Anne Gobi (Amendment 46) and Senator Barry Feingold (Amendment 47). These provisions establish dedicated funding within the Chapter 70 formula for Early College. By incorporating this language into the final bill, the Legislature could send a loud signal to Gateway City educators that they are fully behind Early College expansion, and in fact see it as a signature component of an act whose primary purpose is to increase student opportunity.
However, Gateway City educators shouldn’t despair if this amendment campaign is unsuccessful. Instead, they should take note of the business community’s support and cultivate the relationship. As they scale their Early Colleges, Gateway City school districts will need the Legislature to remain true to the act’s seven-year implementation plan, which calls for incremental increases in funding each fiscal year. Allies in the business community will be extremely helpful in ensuring Beacon Hill makes good on this commitment, if and when the fiscal picture makes it more challenging to deliver on the funding promise.
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