Guest column Daniel Carey: ‘Today, we fund miracles’

  • Daniel Carey

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The following is an excerpt from the speech I gave on Wednesday, Oct. 23, urging my colleagues to support H.4137, the Student Opportunity Act. This bill, which passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, marks an unprecedented $1.5 billion investment in our public schools.

Throughout the history of our nation, this commonwealth has led the way in the area of education. Starting in 1789, just nine years after the adoption of this commonwealth’s Constitution, this body powerfully stated its view that our Constitution imposed on us the duty to provide for the education of youth. In that year, this body passed the commonwealth’s first comprehensive school law, and in doing so, expressly declared itself to be following its Constitutional duty. And the nation followed.

But history has taught us not to be complacent. That with time, inevitably, comes crisis and challenge. And when those difficulties arrived in the mid-19th century, this commonwealth responded with Horace Mann, the father of American education, the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, and a member of this body for a decade.

The practical result of Mann’s work was a revolution in the approach used in the school systems of Massachusetts, which in turn influenced the direction of education in America.

Crisis and challenge returned again in the late 20th century. A decade of property tax cuts had hit poor communities hard and education suffered.

This body then responded by passing the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, legislation increasing education funding and initiating several modern educational reforms. We should keep in mind today that the Reform Act of 1993 was a bipartisan achievement hammered out by a Republican governor and Democratic state legislators.

Passage of this bill is the right thing to do.

We are, again, in this commonwealth faced with crisis and challenge. Student scores have leveled off in recent years and the achievement gap has widened. It is time to build on the work of the past to meet the demands of the future. We are called upon again to respond with action, vision and clarity. This bill before us, aptly named the Student Opportunity Act, marries our abilities to our aspirations.

When this bill passes into law, the commonwealth will continue to have one of the most progressive education funding systems in our country.

Passage of this bill is the smart thing to do.

We have no time to waste. The time to act is now.

The poorer children of our commonwealth are being short changed. They do not look to us to grant them an unfair advantage, just an equal advantage.

We know their teachers. Teachers who have made profound differences in the lives of their students. Teachers who, on long hours with short pay, have devoted themselves to the well-being of others. We know them. They are the ones who spend their weekend nights grading papers, who spend the late, hot, dog-days of August preparing their classrooms, they spend their own money to buy school supplies that districts cannot afford. Today, we give them the much-deserved tools they need to fulfill their vocations.

And we know the children of our commonwealth.

It is true that many of our districts may not see a substantial increase in state aid for education as a result of this bill, and some may, therefore, not see the value of this legislation. But I implore them to look closer. The old adage of a rising tide lifting all ships is true.

It is often hard to see the future, but it’s there. A child of limited opportunities today, aided by the help we deliver through this legislation, may very well come upon the unexpected chance to engage his or her passion, and seizing upon that opportunity, may find fulfillment as a teacher, or a nurse, or a tradesperson, or a physician. And those children may very well find joy in their work, satisfaction in their lives, and happiness in contributing to the common good of our commonwealth.

Today, we fund miracles.

State Representative Daniel R. Carey represents the Second Hampshire District of Easthampton, Hadley, South Hadley, and Precinct Two in Granby. He is a member of the Joint Committee on Education.