Half a century ago, regionalization in Massachusetts drove small towns across the state to ditch their old high schools and consolidate. Regionalization made it possible for small town kids to attend larger schools with a wider range of teachers and more sophisticated facilities and resources. But it also struck a blow to the New England small town’s integrity and tradition of home rule.
By the early 1970s, with significant cajoling and financial incentives by the state, all of Massachusetts had been regionalized. On the one hand, we got bigger and better resources and greater fairness for all. On the other, we got teachers forced to teach to tests and towns with increasingly limited say over our educational choices and planning.
Now, the rural education system is in financial crisis: Transportation is a nightmare. Changing demographics coupled with rising costs lead districts to close one local elementary school after another. When schools need replacing, the debt required is astronomical.
Regionalization is failing our towns and children in rural Massachusetts. It was the state that pushed us toward regionalization policy over 50 years ago. Now, the state needs to help us move toward whatever public education model needs to come next.
Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition from Farrell Video Productions on Vimeo.