Andrea Gabor writes in the Boston Globe about the remarkable success of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which involved a bipartisan agreement: more funding, equalization of funding, in exchange for standards and assessments. Gabor’s new book, After the Education Wars: How Smart Schools Upend the Business of Reform, is officially published today. It is a smart book that deeply understands the futility of the corporate reform movement, which substitutes competition for collaboration and guarantees repeated failures.

She writes:

Twenty-five years after Massachusetts passed a historic education reform law that helped make it the gold-standard for American schooling, the Bay State reforms are coming under scrutiny again — and for good reason.

What happened in Massachusetts is actually a tale of two reforms. The first, signed into law on June 18, 1993, was a bipartisan achievement hammered out by a Republican governor and Democratic state legislators, and informed by a vigorous local debate among educators, parents, and business people who agreed on a “grand bargain”: substantially more state spending for schools in exchange for higher standards and increased accountability.

The law worked initially as intended. It infused over $1 billion in extra education funding — mostly to poor communities. Massachusetts achieved top scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card. By 2000, the gap between NAEP scores of black and white students had actually narrowed.

But tax cuts, the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the mandates of Race to the Top eroded the state’s gains:

A new 2010 education law only made matters worse. While providing a one-time $250 million cash infusion from the Federal government, the law failed to make up for school-funding inequities, yet imposed dire consequences on schools, districts, and teachers who failed to make test-score gains. It also gutted the much-lauded curriculum standards.

It is time to revisit how the original 1993 legislation worked — and why it remains a model worth building on. The law was a response to a decade of property tax cuts that hit poor communities hardest. A successful class-action lawsuit, led by Brockton students, and decided just days before the Education Reform Act was passed, sought to remedy that inequality, arguing that Massachusetts was not meeting its constitutional obligation to “cherish” education for all students — language written into the state constitution by John Adams.

Support for the plan in 1993 was not only bipartisan but had the support of the business leaders.

They were willing to pay more for better schools, and they wanted strong foundation aid for the poorest schools. In a time of charter-mania, charters were capped at only 25 for the entire state.

Erosion of that support in recent years hit Brockton High School, where the rebellion began, extra hard. What was once a miracle story–the failing school that became one of the best in the state–was upended as funding became unequal again.

In recent years, Brockton has struggled to navigate new state and federal mandates, including new teacher evaluations and a common core-aligned MCAS. In 2016, Governor Charlie Baker and his top education officials imposed a charter school on the community against overwhelming local opposition. During the last school year, Brockton ran a $16 million deficit; the town is now exploring a new funding lawsuit.

It is time to restore equitable funding for schools — the aim of an education-funding bill that just passed the state Senate — and to fully realize the vision of the 1993 reforms. This encompassed not just a rich curriculum, but also a robust role for local school-based decision-making and a wide array of accountability measures, and, as the MBAE pointed out in 1993, “not simply results of standardized tests.” All these measures are needed to return schools like Brockton High to their former levels of fiscal and educational sustainability.