By Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater and Jason McCourty
As members of the community and Patriots players, we feel deeply indebted to our society and our supporters. We have visited many schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island — schools that are thriving and schools that are struggling — and have been inspired by the children we have met there. We know they are the future of our region, our nation, and the world, and we are confident that they can achieve amazing things.
As a community, we know it is impossible to achieve without support and resources. This is why we fund public schools, and that’s why we provide additional support to the populations that require it.
In Massachusetts, we rank #1 by US News and World Report for education, yet 70% of Black and Latino third-graders read below grade level according to Stand.org. That number is even worse for third-graders for whom English is a second language (ESL) and for those who are economically disadvantaged — 80% read below grade level. Reading ability is a key predictor of future educational success. Any missed opportunity to invest in our kids stunts all of our collective futures. When we provide adequate educational resources for all children, we provide a foundation, an opportunity for success regardless of the child’s background.
We know that there are competing budgetary priorities for all publicly funded entities, but we are fierce competitors prepared to battle for our children.
As the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) study demonstrated, there is a budget shortfall in our state school system. In case you are wondering, the FBRC is a bipartisan group comprised of informed stakeholders, including education experts and legislators. Unfortunately, low income school districts and those where students speak English as a second language are the populations most affected by the insufficiency. Meanwhile, low income and ESL students have greater necessities and therefore require more funding than their more affluent counterparts. By contrast, the amount of money the state currently provides to educate our most defenseless groups, is “less than needed to fully provide the level of intervention and support needed to ensure the academic and social-emotional success of these populations” the FBRC wrote in its report.
According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, in 2016–2017, Brockton schools spent just $14,778 per student per year, compared to more affluent Weston, where they spent $24,458. Many of Brockton’s students are disadvantaged economically and socially, with a large proportion of low income, ESL, and minority pupils, necessitating special educational assistance. It costs more to educate Brockton’s population, yet we spend less on these students.
Unfortunately, this report came as no surprise to those who attend and work in our state’s most economically disadvantaged schools. Dedicated teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets to support classrooms overcrowded with students they educate with knowledge and passion.
Recently, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to substantially increase the amount of money provided to our schools, including in communities that need more aid. Fully incorporating the recommendations provided by the FBRC report, the bill will dramatically alter the way budget costs are calculated so that they match the realities of our school system. This would provide critical services and programs including counselors, wrap-around services, resources like technology and books, professional development, arts classes, and preschool programs.
Unfortunately, the committee recommendations were not fully accepted by the House. The House bill supports only parts of the Senate bill (increasing funding of employee healthcare and special education); however, it has recommended more research on how to better fund education for ESL and low income students.
What is the message we want to send to our most vulnerable students in our most impoverished communities? Do we use the best available knowledge to do our best to improve the foundation of all of our children? Or do we tell our children to sit and wait while we do more research? The state has already invested significant resources in the FBRC, a committee of key stakeholders. If we are complacent, will our children in less affluent circumstances fall farther and farther behind? All of our children deserve an equal chance at success regardless of their economic backgrounds. Shouldn’t our policies reflect that?
As early as this week, the Senate and House head to committee to reconcile the two bills. As fathers, members of the community, and New England Patriots, we support fully funding the realistic requirements of our schools. Our elected officials should incorporate all five of the Commission’s recommendations, including the increased funding for those who most need it. And they must do so before July 31st, or negotiations will have to begin yet again next year. Our children should not wait any longer. As adults, let’s “do our job” and set all of our children up for success.
About the Co-Authors
Devin McCourty is the Chairperson of the Education & Economic Advancement Committee for Players Coalition, an independent 501c3/501c4 organization led by professional athletes to impact social and racial equality. Matthew Slater and Jason McCourty are active members in Players Coalition. All three athletes play for the New England Patriots. Visit www.players-coalition.org for more information and follow us at @playercoalition.