Merrimack Valley Legislators Call for Equity in Funds

Representative L’Italien led the fight for a more equitable distribution of funds for the Connecting Activities Program in the Merrimack Valley. The program, which helps students gain employment experience and improve MCAS scores, was disproportionately funded in comparison with similar programs across the state.

Haverhill- Led by State Representative Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), the Merrimack Valley Legislative Delegation sent a letter to Commissioner of Education David Driscoll requesting that he make funding for the $4.1 million Connecting Activities program more equitable.

The state allocated significantly less funding for the program in the Merrimack Valley in comparison with similar regions across the state. Of the sixteen regions, Hampden County is the closest demographically to the Merrimack Valley. The two regions have similar dropout rates, English proficiency and number of students transitioning to the workforce. However, Hampden County was funded at $349,056 while the Merrimack Valley received just $46,359.

Representative L’Italien said, “Due to this disproportionate funding by DOE, services in the Merrimack Valley will be severely impaired and expansions planned for FY05 into areas such as Georgetown and Methuen will be impossible. We are awaiting an answer from the Commissioner as to why these disparities exist and how we can begin to correct them.”

The Connecting Activities program provides work experience connected to classroom education that has proven effective at both keeping students in school and raising MCAS scores. Without this program various local school-to-career activities that connect high school youth with employers who offer work experience would not exist. These programs are essential in helping students who choose not to further their education beyond high school to enter the workforce with the experience and motivation necessary for success.

Locally administered through the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board, the program has proved successful despite years of declining revenue.

Rep. L’Italien declared, “We should be helping to grow these programs which have proven themselves to be beneficial to both students and the community. For some students who would otherwise slip through the cracks this offers up the opportunity to work with local businesses and gain the skills necessary for a successful career.”