Richard Lodge: Gov. Patrick pushes ed reform, but what will it cost?
The ``Together We Can'' man didn't talk a lot about the ``Yes We Can'' man Thursday, but reporters in the room at a Boston breakfast weren't going to let the moment pass.
Gov. Deval Patrick, who won election with his ``Together We Can'' theme, was the guest speaker at a newsmakers' breakfast held by MassINC in Boston. He used the occasion to unveil details about a reorganization of the state's public education system, including creation of a new secretary of education position.
The day before, Patrick hosted a fundraiser for presidential aspirant Barack Obama in Boston. And that was the day after Obama had finished second in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. If you watched Obama's speech after the numbers came in Tuesday night, you'll remember his enthusiastic use of ``Yes we can'' to underscore many of his points.
During a Q&A at yesterday's breakfast, Patrick was asked what he thought of the New Hampshire primary.
``It was a disappointment,'' he said. ``We missed New Hampshire by a whisker, a couple of points.'' Well, three points to be exact: 39 percent for Hillary Clinton and 36 percent for Obama.
But ``it's the people who decide who is electable and who will be elected,'' Patrick said, and there are a lot more votes to be cast in caucuses and primaries down the road, including in Massachusetts Feb. 5.
But the governor had not come to talk politics, but about this significant effort at education reform, the biggest move since ed reform was passed in 1993.
Patrick has always valued education and often told his personal story of how a rare opportunity to study at Milton Academy lifted him from the mean streets of Chicago and eventually led to the corner office on Beacon Hill.
``In one generation, the circumstances of my family were transformed'' through his opportunity for a good education. ``One generation is not just my story, it's the American story,'' and it requires the chance at a ``first-rate education'' for success.
It's not a bad story to tell as he outlined why he believed public education warranted creation of a new cabinet post. He talked about the need to improve public education in Massachusetts, through such things as all-day kindergarten, a longer school day, more time and emphasis on art, music, exercise, math and science, and through better accountability.
Part of that accountability might come when the new secretary is in place - and empowered as a voting member of the three boards he or she will oversee: Early Education and Care; the current Department of Education; and the Board of Higher Education. The governor also will be able to appoint the chairman or woman of the UMass. Board of Trustees, something which eludes him under the current structure.
The governor pointed to what he said are some 90,000 vacant jobs in Massachusetts, waiting for workers who have been trained with the right skills to do those jobs. It's hard to imagine there could be that many jobs going begging here right now. We have written about efforts by many high-tech companies in MetroWest to recruit a workforce trained for the jobs at hand. It's not an easy task, made harder by the high cost and scarcity of housing in these parts.
But any efforts to improve the level and broaden the reach of public education in our state should be welcome - especially now - as we see a steady flight of college graduates and other well-educated young people heading out of state to places where their paychecks won't be vacuumed away by high rent, health insurance costs and the rising price of energy.
After filing the legislation Thursday, Patrick said the next step is to wait for a report this spring from the Readiness Project. That report ``will guide us through the next phase of education reform to ensure all of our children are ready to compete in the global economy,'' Patrick said in a statement released after the breakfast.
Asked by a reporter how much the education reform initiative was going to cost, Patrick pushed back, critical of how ``we go to the price tag right away before we even know what we will be paying for.''
He said the Readiness Project and the legislation he filed required a different approach, and patience by those reporters (and taxpayers and lawmakers) who might want to know the cost before ordering off the menu.
``Let's start by asking what outcomes we want from public education. Then ask what this will actually cost,'' he said.
The approach makes sense but in these times in our state, affordability of this ed reform plan has to be a factor.
Richard Lodge is editor of the MetroWest Daily News. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.