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Democratic Party Platform

The Platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party

Education Reform and Innovation.

We believe public education is the cornerstone of our economy, democracy, and society, and that every child and young person in the Commonwealth deserves access to high quality adequate education as constitutionally mandated by the Supreme Judicial Court’s landmark McDuffy decision. We strongly support the Commonwealth’s ongoing effort to improve public education at all levels and applaud innovations in public education that complement the improvements already underway through The Education Reform Act of 1993. We believe all reforms should be evaluated in order to strengthen those that are working well and revise or eliminate those that prove ineffective.

Full Funding.

We believe education must be a top priority at all levels of government, and we reject policies that direct funds away from the children and the programs in our public schools to finance political promises of tax reductions or to other unrelated purposes. We support just and equitable funding mechanisms that provide for vibrant public schools in all communities, and we oppose efforts in Washington to downgrade federal support, financial or otherwise, for educational excellence. We strongly oppose any effort to change the state constitution’s current prohibition against the provision of taxpayer dollars to private or religious schools, and we oppose school vouchers proposals, whether state or federal, which direct public funds away from public schools and toward private or religious schools. We call upon the state to change funding of Commonwealth Charter schools to ensure that funds are not drained from established public schools. We support efforts to ensure adequate resources to help students achieve high standards set by the state.

Strong Standards.

We support challenging academic standards in core subjects for all students. We believe that school systems, teachers, and administrators also must be held to strong standards of accountability. We recognize the responsibility of our state and local communities to provide the support and assistance needed for students and schools to achieve these objectives. We support curriculum standards and fair student evaluation mechanisms, including but not limited to periodic testing. We oppose use of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test as a solely decisive determinant of graduation from high school.

Quality Teaching in Smaller Classes.

We believe that smaller class sizes mean better schools, and we strongly support state and federal proposals to hire the additional teachers required. We support incentives to attract, hire, and retain motivated, competent teachers. We endorse alternative certification for those pursuing teaching as a career change, as long as there is adequate teacher preparation to ensure quality teachers, and we support scholarships and loan forgiveness to attract teachers to urban and rural areas, and expanded opportunities in training and professional development.

Excellence, Equality and Community.

We have high hopes and expectations for all students, and we believe that educational opportunity must be made available without regard to race, gender, economic status, or disability. We reaffirm our support for classroom programs, including Special and Bilingual Education, that can help children reach their fullest potential, and for state and federal laws barring discrimination in our classrooms. We believe it is vital for all of our students to be able to compete in the global world and encourage greater use of Global Education curricula and the teaching of foreign languages in elementary schools as well as in the upper grades.

Universal Early Childhood Education.

We believe early childhood education is vital to subsequent success as a student. We strongly support the implementation and full funding of universal early childhood education with developmentally appropriate programs for all children under age 6 in the Commonwealth. We pledge to seek additional resources to provide quality child care for working parents. We recognize the need for upgraded wages to attract and keep sufficient qualified staff, and the importance of state and federal funds specifically earmarked to hire and retain experienced child care teachers. We support the extension of HeadStart to all eligible children, especially those at risk, and full-day kindergarten throughout all public schools of the Commonwealth.

After-School and Other Out-of-School Opportunities.

We believe that to better promote academic success, combat crime and substance abuse among teenagers, and aid working families, Massachusetts must develop a strong network of after-school and summer enrichment and learning opportunities to be available to all children. We propose to do so in part by leveraging the public’s considerable investment in school buildings by turning them, wherever possible, into true community centers serving all ages throughout the day and the year.

Parental Involvement.

We know that parental involvement is an important determinant of children’s success. We must give parents the opportunities to exercise their responsibility as parents, including through parenting classes for new parents, flex-time, paid leave and time off to participate in parent-teacher conferences.

Education Technology.

We recognize that technologies like the Internet are reshaping the worlds of work and education and the pursuit of knowledge in our society, and we believe the state must act to bridge an emerging “Digital Divide” that threatens to leave individual students and whole communities behind. The state must continue to make resources for educational technology, including hardware, wiring, software and staff training a leading priority within its infrastructure investment program.

Putting Education to Work.

We believe that initiatives like School-to-Work and effective vocational curricula that help students acquire the skills needed for high wage jobs are of vital importance in today’s sophisticated economy. We support cooperation among educators, employers, and labor to ensure the creation and preservation of good jobs in the Commonwealth, and the next generation of wellqualified workers to fill them.

Safe Schools.

We believe in strong discipline standards in our schools and support rigorous, fair and consistent discipline policies to ensure a safe, secure school environment. We support alternative education programs for students who disrupt the education environment for other students. We abhor acts of violence in schools, whether directed against peers, teachers, staff, or administrators. We endorse measures that promote safety, including violence prevention and early intervention efforts, strict enforcement of drug free school zone laws, and peer mediation.

Modernized Schools.

We support increased state and federal funding to build and modernize the Commonwealth’s crumbling schools because we recognize that far too many of our students attend schools that have leaking roofs, poor air quality, and insufficient space to provide quality education. As we expand early childhood and full-day kindergarten programs, we must build additional classrooms.

Student Loans and Higher Education.

We believe in making higher education accessible to all students, through national programs like Pell Grants and Stafford loans, and through additional state-sponsored grants, loans and scholarships. We commend our elected officials in state and federal office for past work in combating proposed cuts to these programs, and pledge our opposition to future such efforts. We believe that public investments in the operation and infrastructure of our system of state colleges, universities and other post-secondary institutions yield economic dividends that far exceed costs. We support a “Fair Share” approach which distributes the cost of attending these institutions equitably among the state, students, and their families, and which is based on ability to pay.

Adult Education.

We believe that no adult should be turned away from learning English as a Second Language or obtaining their GED due to lack of space. We recognize that the current long waiting lists at adult education programs make it difficult for adult learners to improve their literacy skills. We urge employers, unions, and the state to work together in addressing this problem through increased state funds for ESOL, ABE, and GED, and by offering workplace literacy programs on-site at companies and at union halls.

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