This weekend I saw some veterans of the NoOn2 campaign rejoicing over the news that all three of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Massachusetts pledged their allegiance to the anti-charter movement this weekend in Western Massachusetts.
The saddest part of all of this? It’s pure politics and it means little to nothing for kids.
None of these candidates have any idea what they are talking about when it comes to education — public, private, charter — early ed or higher ed — none of them have a clue. I have met all three of the candidates several times, have had lengthy conversations with two out of the three of them and I can absolutely say without equivocation that none of them have a serious platform about improving education in Massachusetts. We’re talking about an INCH DEEP. How progressive.
One thing they do know: in order to appease the Massachusetts Teachers Union, they must come out early against charter schools and go along with their continued plan to … I don’t know, continue fighting the ballot campaign that is already over?
If you press them on the issue, I’m sure you’ll find they’re not even really sure about why they stand in opposition to the expansion of charters, save for regurgitating the same, tired talking points that have been refuted by studies at Harvard, Stanford and MIT. You’ll talk to them privately and they’ll confess how many people they know who love charter schools, talk about the charters they have visited and loved and once again bleat out the same tired line, “Well, you know, I really don’t have anything AGAINST charter schools — it’s just the funding that’s so hard.”
There’s a couple of things that are incredibly problematic with all of this.
It’s pretty clear that education is not going to be a serious part of the conversation when it comes to the Governor’s race in 2018. Even though voters tell us every single year that it’s among the top 5 most important issues facing the Commonwealth — we continue to let our elected officials get away with patting us on the head while blurting out the first few lines of Whitney Houston’s classic “The Greatest Love of All …” instead of articulating a substantive platform on the future of education in Massachusetts.
Can’t we just stop the bad karaoke and leave Whitney to Whitney?
We need some meat on that bone, gentlemen.
Anyone else tired of listening to elected officials whine about how things are “just so tough” when they are the ones completely in the driver’s seat when it comes to fixing it? I mean seriously people — if I had a dime for every time an elected official whispered to me about how “they really loved charter schools — especially the one in their district — but you, know, the FUNDING thing is JUST SO HARD …” I might be able to live high off the hog the way the MTA crowd thinks I do with all of my EVIL DARK MONEY.
But seriously people, we like, elect you to FIX stuff like this. If there is a problem with the charter school reimbursement formula, then get to work and fix it. How about articulating a plan that brings folks together and gives parents the freedom of choice while satisfying district school cries for additional funding?
Don’t hold your breath.
Honestly, the only way anti-charter folks are going to be satisfied is the day we tied the district school or foundation budget formula to birth rates. At this point, the MTA thinks that charter parents (who actually make the decision to enroll their children in charter schools) are stealing money from district schools by making the decision to NOT enroll their kids in district schools — because the funding follows the child.
(Oh and maybe automatically making every single teacher at every single charter school a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association without them having to organize a single one of them.)
The MTA has convinced people that they are entitled to funding for every child, regardless of whether the child even attends a district school — by virtue of being born in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
I mean, as it stands, when a kid leaves a district for a charter, the MTA convinced the legislature to “reimburse” the district school for losing the kid — while also providing the funding to the public charter school — because, you know, they’re actually like, EDUCATING THE CHILD.
And not just for one year — so the school can “adjust” to the loss of funding. For FIVE years.
Now, when a child moves from one district to another district, we don’t pay the original district for the next five years?
Hell no. Because that would be CRAZY, right?
Or like when I took my kids out of their assigned underperforming district school and put them in a Catholic school (because our local charter is full) the district school wasn’t reimbursed because I decided to leave and enroll them somewhere else. Because again — CRAZY.
But hey — maybe that is what it will take for us to actually have the room to have a REAL conversation about education in Massachusetts. Sure, it kind of feels like a hostage negotiation, but I’m open to ideas. But ideas that don’t seem to be coming in the gubernatorial campaign of 2018.
I’m sure as hell not content with the status quo of what we’re getting done for low income and students of color in the Commonwealth — why is turning a blind eye to it considered an untouchable “progressive” value?
It makes me sad to see my party — the champions of public education from years gone by — cowardly refusing to stand up for the people who really need our best work when it comes to really addressing inequities in our education system and instead putting our passion and brains on auto-pilot to serve a dying master. We’re better than this, Democrats.
Now let’s see some REAL education platforms, candidates.