SSYP Intergenerational Organizing Team takes State House by Storm

By: Valentina and Michelle (SSYP Teen Organizers)

On Tuesday, November 14th, 2017- the last day of the legislative session before Thanksgiving break- 20 parent and teen organizers from St. Stephen’s Youth Programs organized a lobby day at the Massachusetts State House to advocate for full funding for public education across the state.

 PHOTO: Intergenerational Organizing team meeting with State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, author of the Bill to Modernize the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century

PHOTO: Intergenerational Organizing team meeting with State Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, author of the Bill to Modernize the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century

We were advocating to get Senate Bill 223 out of committee. Senate Bill 223 is constructed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz to modernize the “Foundation Budget” which is being used to “fund school districts across the Commonwealth, based on the circumstances and needs of each student”. Sadly it has not been updated since 1993 and is not adequately funding public education across the state as it should. Researchers have found that Massachusetts has a deficit of $1-2 billion each year for the cost of K-12 education. This results in particular deficits for schools with high concentrations of students from low income backgrounds, students with IEPs and English Language Learners.

As parents and students, we think this bill is important because everyone deserves high quality education. When schools are not able to provide the resources that young people need to succeed, each child is being deprived of a chance to gain knowledge that can help them in their future. Cutting the arts out of the curriculum can diminish a student's creativity and shrink their horizons, not having a full time school nurse is a threat to the health and safety of students, and rodent infestations are not conducive to healthy learning environments. These examples of the results of budget cuts are not up to the school. Because of the lack of funding, schools have to choose between vital resources, like ELL classes or Special Education classes, nurses or art teachers, infrastructure maintenance and improvement or guidance counselors. Our communities deserve schools that don’t have to choose between necessary elements of a high quality public education.

Parents, teens, and elementary-school-aged children came together and met with the offices of 19 legislators and delivered letters to the other 21 legislators who are either on the Education Committee or represent a part of Boston. The campaign is not over yet- people can get involved by calling their State Senators and Representatives in support of the bill and asking them to please approve and get the bill out of committee. Contact Sarah (sarah@ssypboston.org) at St.Stephen’s Youth Program to get involved in this campaign or to organize a lobby day.

Read us next week for a special feature, “If State Legislators get to leave work at 5pm, why can’t we?”