To the editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered the landscape for public education in just about every way. It has further exacerbated the inequities in our society, from access to technology and broadband in rural areas to the assurance of essential nutrition for underserved populations.
The economic fall-out from the state shutdown and the upcoming economic issues that we are sure to face this tourism season do not change the need to provide appropriate opportunities and services for students along the entire educational spectrum, which not only includes resources related to academic achievement, but also social and emotional well-being, and at times, the necessary mitigation of socioeconomic inequalities.
To achieve these, we must all work together to secure the federal funding that will be necessary to stabilize our state economy. In addition, our state leaders must appropriately allocate funding so that our public schools are fully supported.
Impending financial challenges in the coming year will force Berkshire County School districts to make difficult decisions that will undoubtedly impact the quality of public education in our towns. In addition to lobbying for state and federal funding to continue providing a high-quality education to Berkshire children, our government officials should consider another cost-saving measure: reducing or eliminating standardized testing. Not only would this save the state of Massachusetts considerable money that would be better spent on providing resources to schools, but it would also enable authentic teaching and deeper learning to flourish.
Educators want nothing more than for their students to succeed and thrive, but that process looks quite different from student to student. Berkshire County deserves a public education system that recognizes the unique needs of individual students and places more value on the relationships that spark learning than on tests that measure narrow skill sets.
County schools are already considering cutting teachers, education support professionals and resources in a time when additional supports will be needed to overcome the inequities exacerbated during remote learning. Reach out to your local, state and federal officials and let them know your concerns for the funding needed for public education.
The writer is MTA District Director for Berkshire County, president of the Lee Educators Association, and a member of Berkshire Education Action Network, representing all Berkshire County MTA union presidents.