New Bedford: Do the math. If you can … ?

Last week we discussed the new Dearborn STEM Academy — a new $73 million dollar facility that is Boston Public Schools new best hope for turning around the chronically underperforming school before the state is forced to take it over for consistently failing kids.

But the Dearborn is no anomaly. Let’s take a trip down to the SouthCoast — where politicians are trying to make some political hay by attacking their charter schools too. 

(Of course they are — New Bedford Public Schools are the 4th worst in the Commonwealth and on the verge of receivership. When they mayor couldn’t find an excuse as to why he couldn’t fix the schools, it’s soooooo much easier to just say it’s the kids and the parents fault. And when a charter school proves that’s BS … attack the charter! Gross.)

Just last year, New Bedford’s Alma del Mar Charter School moved into a new facility to serve 450 kids. And because public charter schools,  can’t access Massachusetts School Building Authority funding, like district public schools can, they had to scrape around for about $17 million dollars to get their kids the building they deserve.

(Because obviously charter public school kids are second class citizens who don’t deserve actual functional school buildings or access to the same funding. I mean, just because these charter public school kids live in our communities, it doesn’t mean they should be entitled to the same resources as DISTRICT PUBLIC SCHOOL students, amirite?)


Despite the fundraising challenge, the school was built on time and on budget — taking a long vacant school property and an abandoned lot that was an eyesore on the neighborhood and transforming into a beautiful school with a field and playground that are open to the public.

Meanwhile, the New Bedford Public Schools built the new Irwin M. Jacob elementary school serving 400 children.

Price tag? $36.7 million dollars. And delays, delays, delays.

Oh — but it’s a STEM school. And spending TWICE the money on the building must yield TWICE the results, right?


Actually, Alma del Mar students score proficient on the Math MCAS at twice the rate of kids at the Jacob.

And here’s a dirty little secret: What’s funny is that the people who started Alma del Mar are actually former educators in the New Bedford Public Schools who were so “inspired” or maybe “shocked and horrified” by what they saw — that they started a charter school. You know, like the way Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and the founder of the whole “charter school” concept intended.

Now Alma Del Mar has to rent space in the New Bedford Public Schools during their parent engagement/student expo nights because they have so many people excited to participate that they can’t fit them inside their own facility. They also have a lengthy wait list with parents all over New Bedford scrambling to get in and away from the atrocious district school options that have held the region in an economic development stand still since the mill days.

Must be a seriously horrible school.

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But now elected officials with their eyes set on higher office are blowing the anti-charter dog whistle and asking the state to deny kids and families the opportunity to attend a really great school just so they can score brownie points with special interest groups that will back their future campaigns. We are being told that we need to fight against schools that provide proven results for kids, because we should be MORE concerned that the schools that are currently failing our children won’t have enough money to continue failing our children in the future.

Do I have that right?

I’m actually starting to think that the reason some folks are trying so hard to kill charter schools is because from teaching in the classrooms to even BUILDING THE DAMN THINGS, the gross incompetence is on full display and frankly, it’s embarrassing.

And as always, in the end — it all comes down to who gets to control the money and which decisions make life easier for adults, not better for kids.

Isn’t it time we all got hip to this game?

What do you think?

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