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OpEd from the Greenfield Recorder: “Glaring hole” when it comes to the governor’s plan

Posted on Thursday April 5th 2012

The issue:  A rally is scheduled at the Statehouse today in support of a plan for the community colleges.
Our opinion:  There’s a glaring hole when it comes to this rally and the plan it supports — the 15 colleges and communities they serve.

Giving support – Let’s rally around our community colleges.

This doesn’t mean joining this morning’s event at the Statehouse, however.

No, we mean standing by the 15 unique and local community colleges that exist today across the Commonwealth.

Oh, we know that this particular demonstration, if you will, is being put on by the group known as the Coalition for Community Colleges: Putting Education to Work. And in its press release announcing the rally, the coalition says the purpose of the event is “… support for legislative efforts to improve Massachusetts community colleges.”

Those alleged improvements, which Gov. Deval Patrick has put forward, are based upon the Boston Foundation’s report that called for an overhaul of the state’s community colleges, retooling them to be more in tune with workforce development under centralized control of the state.

And since its creation roughly two months ago to garner support for this particular plan, the coalition, an arm of the Boston Foundation, wants the public to know that it has grown to 57 members, groups composed of diverse interests across the state.

But look at the membership and you’ll see a very glaring hole in this group. Not a single Massachusetts community college is on the coalition’s rolls.

And while this still appears to be quite the impressive list of members, you’ll notice something else: there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of businesses or organizations from western Massachusetts or really outside the greater Boston beltway.

No community colleges, and membership centered in the Boston area? That sounds more like a coalition based upon special interests than one that is truly interested in what’s best for the individual colleges and the communities they serve in Massachusetts.

We would think that the first step for any coalition professing a desire to see the community colleges improve at helping students achieve their goals would be collaboration with those very schools. We’re confident that as educational institutions, these schools are looking to improve and to better serve their respective communities.

And that means not only providing specific kinds of workforce training to those who might be seeking it, but also a more traditional education with the goal of going on to a four-year college.

If the governor and others in the state want to improve community colleges, let’s begin with more of a dialogue. The schools can learn about what kind of workforce development is needed and the state, in turn, can hear from the individual schools and communities about what they’d like in their respective circumstances when it comes to meeting the needs of their students.

And then there can be a Statehouse rally that better represents the interests of these two-year colleges and their communities.

Otherwise what you’re doing is catering to special interests and that’s not what community colleges are about.

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