Tonight the Somerville School Committee voted to elect ward four school committee member Andre Green as the next chair of the group. And that puts the city of Somerville in an extremely difficult situation.
Normally, Andre’s election would give me a tremendous sense of pride for a couple of reasons. Ward Four has been the home of my family going back four generations. I have been one of the rare voices in my “progressive” city calling for more elected leaders of color to better represent the demographics of our city and Andre would be a positive step forward. And Andre is a personal friend of mine — I mean, I even went to his birthday party this year.
But instead, we have a gigantic mess on our hands.
Because Somerville School Committee Chair-Elect Andre Green recently accepted a position as a paid consultant for FairTest – the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
FairTest is a special interest backed anti-test think tank that makes it’s money cranking out anti-testing propaganda that are often used by teachers unions to validate their anti-testing and accountability agenda. Which is completely ridiculous, given that their funding comes almost exclusively from labor unions.
That’s like having pharmaceutical companies fund a think tanks that crank out nothing but favorable studies backing the drugs they make. Duh.
But now FairTest has gone a step further by literally purchasing a member of the Somerville School Committee. A member who has now been elected chair of the Somerville School Committee – Andre Green.
Now when Andre took the job, I immediately called him out privately for what is a clear conflict of interest because he’s a friend of mine. I mean, Andre was already elected to office when he took the gig at FairTest, so it’s not like the voters were aware that they were electing FairTest to this position. I warned him that the move was going to be incredibly problematic. Even asked him to check it out with the state ethics commission. This is going to be a problem.
I mean, this would be like Verizon taking a member of the FCC Commission and hiring them as a “paid consultant” and then writing an op-ed saying that the same FCC commissioner supported their position on Net Neutrality. And then expecting us to believe that the FCC commissioner was going to bring an unbiased opinion to not only his view of Net Neutrality — but his votes on the FCC commission.
I mean, who DOES that?
Now, some will come to Andre’s defense and say, “Keri, how do you know Andre won’t do the right thing? FairTest will not do anything shady — you’re just an evil ed reformer!”
Unfortunately, we already know this to be untrue. Just last week, FairTest Policy Analyst Lisa Guisbond wrote a piece for CommonWealth Magazine with the following quote:
As Somerville school committee member Andre Green said, “We could save ourselves a large amount of money and time and replace the entire MCAS with ‘How many bathrooms does your home have?’ We’d get roughly the same information about students and districts.”
Now aside from Lisa’s point of view being completely off-base (which I address at length in my own piece for Commonwealth) I hit the roof when I saw Andre’s quote and immediate reached out to him directly.
Note: I also contacted Commonwealth Magazine about the issue. Days later, the article was updated to reflect Andre’s position as a paid consultant. But, come on.
Now adding to the list of problems outside of the obvious conflict of interest because Andre gets a check from FairTest — FairTest is now using his title without his knowledge? And FairTest is failing to disclose on their own that they are using a staff member’s outside title as an elected official to validate their bought-and-paid-for opinion? And Andre’s consulting has nothing to do with their day-to-day operations? What are they paying for exactly?
None of this is ok.
Adding insult to injury, Andre represents a section of the city that badly needs representation on issues directly related to the achievement gap — with two of Somerville’s most underperforming schools for children of color — including the Healey School and the Winter Hill Innovation School.
We deserve better than losing our representation on the school committee because FairTest has decided to buy one of our elected officials.
And Mayor Curtatone should have the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission look at this situation — sooner than later.