Two Haverhill Families Join Lawsuit Alleging Chronic Underfunding in Schools

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Haverhill parent Ted Kempinski is among several plaintiffs in a case filed Thursday in the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, alleging that chronic underfunding provided to their districts unfairly leaves wide swaths of students behind compared to their peers. Kempinski joins another Haverhill family along with parents and students from six other communities including Lowell and Springfield to file suit, the State House News reports.

The plaintiffs are joined by NAACP’s New England Area Conference and the Chelsea Collaborative, according to a press release from the Council for Fair School Finance, a nonprofit that includes major teachers unions.

Kempinski, a Haverhill High School history teacher with three children in the city’s public school system, tells WHAV he equates the suit to the 1954 landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. Topeka case that declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional.

“Back then, it was about African Americans who couldn’t integrate into white schools. Now it is about poor people of color who don’t have equal access to resources provided by the state,” Kempinski told WHAV.

In Haverhill, Kempinski tells WHAV his family is particularly distressed over issues including the lack of librarians, band, technology teachers, district-wide social workers and, as has been widely reported on, and growing class sizes.

“That’s unacceptable and people just take it and accept it here in Haverhill. You go to Methuen or Lawrence and they have more opportunities in those programs alone,” Kempinski said. “They have more staff, more resources and better buildings.”

A copy of the lawsuit was not immediately available, but the press release indicated plaintiffs plan to file it Thursday and allege “constitutional violations of students’ education and civil rights as a result of the state's inadequate school funding system.”

Parents involved will join advocates at a press conference Thursday afternoon, scheduled for 1 p.m. in Room 428 of the State House, to discuss the case. The Council for Fair School Finance helped develop the lawsuit.

According to Kempinski, the suit has potentially far-reaching ramifications for not just students in Haverhill but those across the Commonwealth.

“The Supreme Court of Massachusetts could decide that education is a fundamental right of the children of Massachusetts. Currently is it not a fundamental right. If it is a fundamental right, it has to be done so on an equal basis and they have to come up with a system that provides everybody with equal opportunities across the board,” he said.

Closer to home, Kempinski and his Haverhill Education Association colleagues joined city teachers, parents and local education supporters to rally for more school funding on the steps of City Hall this week ahead of next week’s budget conference. Mayor James J. Fiorentini and members of the City Council plan to review the Haverhill Public Schools budget during an open session Tuesday starting at 5 p.m. in room 204 of City Hall, 4 Summer St., with the meeting open to the public.

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