Herald Editorial: Lesson in Accountability

This article originally appeared in the Boston Herald

By the Herald editorial staff. 

There appears to be a slight disagreement on Beacon Hill over whether lawmakers should invest more of their energy into campaigning for a tax increase on millionaires -- or into a bill that would toss out the MCAS test and guarantee that kids get recess every day.

Can the sponsors of these measures really be this out of touch?

At a briefing with the Massachusetts Teachers Association on Wednesday, the State House News Service reported, Sen. Michael Rush made a push for his bill, which would implement the 2015 recommendations of a commission that said Massachusetts is under-investing in education to the tune of $2 billion.

Along with a big funding boost, the bill would effectively eliminate the concept of accountability, which over the past two decades has helped to ensure that students in Massachusetts outperform their peers in other states, and that taxpayers are getting a quality return on their investment in education. Among other things, the bill would suspend the MCAS graduation requirement and forbid the use of student test performance to evaluate teachers.

But the day before the Wednesday briefing, Senate President Stan Rosenberg had gently warned education reformers to pick their battles, the News Service reported, as the campaign for a ballot question that would boost education funding heats up. That initiative calls for imposing a 4 percent income tax surcharge on individual earnings above $1 million, with the revenue intended for education (and transportation, too).

We suspect Rosenberg may support the meat of Rush's bill -- but isn't thrilled at the idea of going 10 rounds over mandatory recess, or giving fired teachers more tools to fight their termination, while at the same time trying to convince the public to give Beacon Hill billions more to spend on schools.

In the end neither approach puts a premium on accountability. That's a standard Massachusetts can't afford to weaken.