Written Testimony of The PROMISE Act

On behalf of the 350+ mentoring programs that serve youth across the state of Massachusetts, providing wraparound social-emotional support services, particularly those supporting  school-based programming, Mass Mentoring Partnership submits the following testimony favorably in support of the PROMISE Act, An act providing rightful opportunities and meaningful investment for successful and equitable education (S.238/H.586). 

At MMP, we believe that for children to grow up and become engaged members of the community, they need adults in their lives to help them explore, learn and evolve. Unfortunately, thousands of youth in Massachusetts lack the crucial relationships they need because of racial, ethnic and economic disparities which plague our communities, and this disadvantage is evident through the underfunding of our schools in underprivileged communities. Social emotional supports like mentoring and developmental relationships, especially counseling services, often do not exist in particular schools which cannot afford it. There is proven research to show that students who lack these supports are less likely to graduate,receive a college degree, or gainful employment, forever changing the trajectory of their life. 

Mass Mentoring Partnership fully supports the Education PROMISE Act, the only bill that would implement all 5 recommendations of the FBRC and do right by economically disadvantaged children and children of color. In short, it is the only bill that will produce the effective, equitable finance reform our youth desperately need and provide the wraparound support that our children deserve in their schools.

Every student in Massachusetts deserves equal access to a quality education, and the committee has the distinct opportunity to fix the education funding system, finally making education equitable for every student regardless of their race, ethnicity, or zip code. The PROMISE Act is smart and comprehensive – and the only bill to fully address the failures of our school finance system. This piece of legislation will ensure that any and all disadvantaged students have the supports in place to succeed both in and out of the classroom. 

Massachusetts’ achievement gap between affluent and poor students is among the nation’s worst. The schools, and the students, who suffer the most are those in poor and low income communities of color. We see this every day when a student drops out, is chronically absent, starts to disengage from school and there’s no one for them to turn to in their underperforming school districts. The current funding structure, leaves many children attending schools without the adequate resources for support or innovation in learning. 

These shortfalls are all avoidable, yet they result in devastating outcomes for our students here in Massachusetts, such as low lifetime earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of incarceration. For many children the achievement gap begins as early as the third grade and can predict future chances of graduating from high school or college and of low lifetime earnings. Education is a crucial step in poverty alleviation, lifting up individuals, families and entire communities. The U.S. Department of labor reports that the average weekly earning for those without a high school degree is 40.67% less than the average for workers of all educational levels. The unemployment rate for those without a high school degree is also 75% higher than the median unemployment rate. Research shows that income can increase by at least 10% for every additional year of secondary schooling. According to a policy paper by UNESCO, just two more years of secondary schooling could lift 60 million people out of poverty.

Critical supports are already in place in affluent districts who have the financial capability of hiring staff, and providing them with the professional development opportunities to bring innovation to their lesson plans. Even though hiring more guidance counselors, social workers and other forms of aid can be expensive, it is the only way to ensure students are arriving to school ready to learn. The $1 Billion from the PROMISE Act, is strictly state aid which will go directly to making this educational goal a reality. 

We are faced with a tremendous opportunity as a state to provide resources and programming that is proven to enhance the education of all of our young people. After years of study and bipartisan backing, it’s past time to implement the PROMISE Act’s sensible, effective plan to reform our broken school finance system. The young people in our commonwealth, systematically disadvantaged by race and economic disparity, deserve equal opportunities in education. The PROMISE Act will ensure that all youth have the opportunity to flourish, a mission that cannot be given a price-tag. 

Lily Mendez,

President & CEO, Mass Mentoring Partnership