This week we’ve been treated to yet another cookie cutter op-ed about education funding — this time from Matt Malone, the current superintendent of the Fall River Public Schools — a system that has been mired by dysfunction, underperformance and racism since the days I was a reporter in the area and for generations before.
Matt, of course takes on the much-threatened path of legal action against “the state” if they fail to provide access to “a quality education” citing the Equal Protection Clause under the Massachusetts State Constitution.
This is the big joke that’s been floating around the edu-space for a minute now — but hasn’t been floating around a courtroom because the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents doesn’t have legal standing to sue the Commonwealth.
Now don’t get me wrong — people who know me know I’m always down for a lawsuit. Let’s sue eerrrrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyybody!
Personally, I think that a instead of suing the state around “equity” in funding, we should be suing Massachusetts superintendents for failing to adequately run school districts and fulfilling their obligation to the public. I mean at this point, does anyone really have any question about how poorly most local school districts are run and the amount of waste in central offices. (Our lawyers think this is a pretty fascinating idea — especially since it would be driven by parents, not a special interest group using parents as their legal vehicle.)
I also think we should sue school committees across the Commonwealth for failing in their fiduciary responsibility to negotiate fiscally responsible contracts on behalf of local municipalities and for failing to have the political backbone to make the right decisions on behalf of the communities they serve and instead deciding to serve their teachers union masters — who usually aren’t even their constituents. These of course are the fiscally irresponsible, sweetheart contracts that are crippling many of our school districts and have landed us in this mess. And they didn’t negotiate themselves.
Now that’s a lawsuit I’d get behind.
I mean, come on people! Just last week, Democrats for Education Reform released a stunning report detailing how the City of Lawrence has been able to turn it’s system around — not with an influx of dollars, but instead with an influx of brain power and political will via receivership. Yes, money is needed — but so is powerful leadership and direction.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the sob story coming from poor Matt in Fall River who references the OUTRAGEOUSLY overpopulated classrooms that are forcing as many as 30 children into one room. The problem is the fact just don’t seem to back that up.
According to Fall River’s reporting to the state, the student to teacher ratio is actually:
13.8 to 1.
The other issue? The “amazing faculty and staff” in Fall River — of which only 6% have been rated “exemplary” according to DESE data. And out of more than 1300 teachers — less than 100 of them are people of color.
The fact of the matter is — this scare tactic pointed at the legislature is nothing more than an empty threat. The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and the Massachusetts Association of School Committees don’t have standing to sue the state for “equitable” funding.
The plaintiffs in the McDuffy and Hancock cases weren’t Superintendents and School Committee Members. They were children in the system and their families. But you think that parents in Massachusetts want the folks running bloated bureaucracies to reroute much-needed funds from their children’s classrooms into central offices?
And how does the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents or the Massachusetts Association of School Committees actually expect to have a serious conversation about “equity” issues when their nearly all white membership are the ones calling the shots and making the decisions that got us into this mess?
Call me crazy, but I just can’t understand how we are supposed to trust the folks who literally create and run the school to prison pipeline for our children to now be the champions of equity.
Beacon Hill has a chance to get things right when it comes to education funding but quixotic claims cannot be the basis for serious policy decisions. Families deserve an education system that will evolve for the better as investments increase. Blank checks to these guys make no guarantees other than more money to negotiate away or help fill up central offices.
Our kids deserve better.