From President Obama and Governor Patrick to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, our elected leaders are launching into 2014 with calls for new investments in high-quality early education. Big city mayors like Marty Walsh and Bill de Blasio are fighting hard to expand preschool access. As the New York Times reported this week, Republicans and business leaders are also increasingly supportive of efforts to expand public investment in early education.
This growing drumbeat is music to the ears of Gateway City superintendents. Consider: 60 percent of three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in preschool in New York City; in Boston, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of young learners have this experience. If we were making pie charts, Holyoke would be the near inverse, with just 39 percent of three- and four-year-olds enrolled in preschool.
The reality is the majority of students enter our kindergarten classrooms lacking formal early learning experiences. This has fundamental consequences for both individual students, who start out underprepared to keep up with today's fast-paced curriculum, and for our schools. With so many of our students starting behind, we are consumed by the task of catching them up, often at the expense of students who enter better prepared. Because preschool enrollment tracks closely with income, this reality makes it difficult for us to provide the strong educational experiences that should be the hallmark of our inclusive communities.
Governor Patrick's FY 2015 budget lays out a sizable increase in state early education investment. His approach represents incremental progress. If all of the 2,400 additional pre-K seats his budget funds went to Gateway City students, they would be filled by only one out of ten three- and four-year-olds who aren't currently enrolled.
Gateway City leaders are working hard to build dynamic, 21st century learning systems that support students and families from cradle to career. In Holyoke, we're working to "walk our talk" by convening more than 20 partner organizations in four highly active work groups (focused on kindergarten readiness, PreK-3 instructional improvement, student attendance, and family engagement) in the collective work of our Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative. We believe that this effort, coupled with increased state investment in early childhood education in our community, has the potential to result in dramatic and sustainable gains in literacy and overall achievement in Holyoke in the years to come.
- Sergio Paez, Superintendent, Holyoke Public Schools
Seconding this week's lede, a 2009 Brookings Institution study showing education reporting makes up just 1.4 percent of new coverage nationally. The authors argue for school leaders raising their voices.
State education officials call the efforts of the Salem school system "very encouraging". The district is in the second year of a three-year turnaround effort, the Salem News reports.
Lots of action in Fall River: Durfee High is exploring the possibility of creating an early college high school, an evidenced-based model featured in the Gateway Cities Vision. The district is teaming up with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College to vie for a $3.75 million dollar grant from the federal Department of Labor to improve STEM education. And Baycoast Bank donated $8,000 worth of Chromebooks to the Resiliency Preparatory School.
The Holyoke public schools are developing a program to help dropouts recover credits and earn high school diplomas.
The Standard Times reports on adult basic education classes at UMass Dartmouth and the long waiting list to enroll.
The Brockton Enterprise interviews several lawmakers who feel that Gov. Patrick's budget skimps on local school aid.
State officials named three education nonprofits to take over failing district public schools in Boston and Holyoke. One of the nonprofits, Unlocking Potential, was featured in a recent CommonWealth article.
Worth a careful read: Citing Lawrence as an example, Ed Glaeser argues for a land tax as a strategy to promote redevelopment on vacant urban parcels.
The Taunton City Council is set to receive an update on the shuttered Whittenton Mills. The site's physical and financial hurdles are daunting for those looking to redevelop the buildings.
The Salem Waterfront Hotel files plans for a $12 million expansion, with an eye towards competing with Boston for meeting and conferences, the Salem News reports.
General Electric prepares to put a 60-acre site, home to a former gear plant, up for sale in Lynn, the Item reports.
Revere religious leaders lead a last-ditch attempt to defeat a casino proposal, WBUR reports.
The Emerald Pines development in Methuen drops plans to build a golf course and instead intends to create more modestly priced housing as part of a planned 55-and-older community.
The Herald News comments on the importance of the Braga Bridge to Fall River and applauds newly approved funding to illuminate the bridge as a cultural symbol.
Also in Fall River, the Marine Museum plans to use a $30,000 donation from Baycoast Bank to expand marketing for the new cultural attraction.
The Springfield Republican reports on the rising popularity of food trucks in Western Massachusetts, but operators complain of challenges with licensing and regulations.
The Pittsfield City Council will vote next week on streamlining the sidewalk cafe permitting process for outdoor restaurant seating.
A different way of thinking: Writing for Atlantic Cities, Jarrett Walker makes an interesting case for higher frequency regional transit service.
South Coast Rail funding is expected to be a hot topic at a public hearing on MassDOT's 5-year capital plan being held at UMass Dartmouth this week.
ENERGY ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH
The state has granted the owner of the infamous "Mt. Trashmore" in Fall River a permit to build a solid waste transfer station and close the behemoth landfill, leaving the city without a facility to dump its waste.
Also in Fall River, the Charlton Memorial Hospital was awarded a $398,000 grant from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission to better manage high-risk patients.
The Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield received national recognition from Health Grade, Inc. for clinical excellence.
On Monday, bells rang in celebration of the city of Fitchburg's 250th anniversary.
Across the Commonwealth, Democrats are preparing to caucus to select their delegates for the state party convention in Worcester. The Mayor of the host city, Joe Petty, has endorsed Joe Avellone for governor.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera asks the state Ethics Commission to train city employees on conflict of interest laws, the Eagle-Tribune reports.
The Lowell City Council names City Clerk Michael Geary acting city manager. The Sun reports Geary will take over when longtime City Manager Bernie Lynch retires in early March.
ON THE HILL...
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means continues its series of hearings on the FY 2015 budget, with a session on Health and Human Services at the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown on Feb. 10 at 10 am, and one on public safety at Montachusett Technical School in Fitchburg on Feb. 11 at 10 am.
The Senate Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures, and State Assets will host a public hearing on the transportation bond bill at the State House in B-1 on Feb. 11 at 10AM.