Education through lifelong learning is one of the essential functions of our government. There is an inscription on the exterior of the Boston Public Library which I view every day from my office window. It states simply and succinctly that “THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY”. And fifty seven years ago in Brown v. Board of Education, the United States Supreme Court said:
Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. Compulsory school attendance laws and the great expenditures for education both demonstrate our recognition of the importance of education to our democratic society. It is required in the performance of our most basic public responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.
That inscription and court case promote strong images and words. They are central to the notion of self-governance and are a significant piece of our generational responsibility to create educational, economic and social opportunities for young people. And that’s why I have and will continue to work to enhance the educational offerings to students of all ages in Franklin and Medway. From our early childhood development centers to our senior centers, and everything in between, we must promote education.
In America, education has historically been left in the hands of local communities. It’s part of the idea that the governance of education is best done at the local level, where the parents, teachers, administrators, and students are intimately more aware of the needs of their schools. Indeed since colonial times, Massachusetts required the towns to maintain a system of public schools. The statute of 1647 — which is the precursor to G. L. c. 71, Section 1 — required every town with fifty or more householders to appoint a schoolmaster in the town “to teach all such Children as shall resort to him to Write and Read,” and every town of one hundred or more householders or families to “set up a Grammar School, the Master thereof being able to Instruct Youth so far as they may be fitted for the University.”
In the 1830s and 1840s, a young man proposed a new system called common schools that would serve all boys and girls, and teach a common body of knowledge that would give each student an equal chance in life. He said:
It is a free school system, it knows no distinction of rich and poor…It throws open its doors and spreads the table of its bounty for all the children of the state….Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the equalizer of the conditions of men, the great balance wheel of the social machinery.
That man was Horace Mann. And was born here in the 10th Norfolk District in Franklin. In Massachusetts, the education of our youth continues to be our primary obligation. Our state rightfully has high expectations for performance in our schools. And along those ends, attracting and retaining the best and brightest teachers in our local public school systems has been one of the top priorities for me. As a State Representative, I will work to support those efforts.
Massachusetts has always been a community with high expectations for its schools – in academics, in athletics, in the arts and in community service. In my years with the School Committee, our focus on the classroom delivered a consistently high-performing school district. Students and parents here enjoy a high return with minimal investment. Our children face an increasingly competitive and demanding world. We must continue to invest in their future. We should do everything in its power to bolster that commitment and strengthen our education system. I will bring that commitment with me to Beacon Hill.