Archives for category: Massachusetts

If you believe that any genuine parent organization is funded by the Waltons, Eli Broad, and the City Fund (which was funded by the Reed Hastings, John Arnold, and other billionaires), please contact me at once, as I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I can sell you for a reasonable fee. Really! I’ll even print up a gen-u-wine bill of sale!

One of the leaders of the National Parents Union, Keri Rodrigues, runs the Massachusetts Parents Union, which was also bankrolled by the Waltons. Her group was one of the prominent voices demanding more charters in a state referendum in 2016, which was overwhelmingly defeated. The Waltons invested a few million in that referendum. Keri’s MPU reported revenues of $957,683 in 2018, half from the Waltons. Her salary at MPU, that grassroots parent group, is $172,500, according to Dark Money specialist Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at U Mass. Just an average parent.

Many grassroots parents groups belong to the Network for Public Education. None of them have bank accounts with six figures or nearly seven figures. All are powered by volunteers.

New Orleans is an apt place for the big launch of NPU. It is the first (and thus far the only) school district that has eliminated all public schools and the teachers’ union. According to the latest reports, 49% of its highly segregated schools received a D or an F from the state. The selection of NOLA suggests the goal of this faux “parent union”: the elimination of public schools.

Here is an announcement of the organizing event of the new Walton-funded NPU:

 

NPU is launching on the streets of New Orleans (1/16-/18) with delegates from all 50 states with parents of color, low-income parents, special needs parents, single moms and dads, grandparents, formerly incarcerated parents, and parents in recovery. Led by Alma Marquez and Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union co-founders, Ilyasah Shabazz, Community Organizer and daughter of Malcolm X and Sharif El Mekki, Black Male Educators for Social Justice. 

 

Keri is an education activist (and a Democrat) who is launching a new organization, the National Parents Union, which will heed the call to organize otherwise independent and uncoordinated parent organizing efforts into a national voice and movement to ensure teacher unions no longer have a stranglehold on the education system in America. She’s a former labor activist who plans to use the tactics that make unions so powerful and apply them to this movement led by parents.

 

MEDIA ADVISORY 
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES ONLY

Contact: NPU@mercuryllc.com 

 

THE REVOLUTION IS COMING… NATIONAL PARENTS UNION TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH AT PARENT POWER 2020 IN NEW ORLEANS 

Kick-off summit will bring parent activists and organizations to New Orleans to define a national K-12 agenda and make education equity a reality for all children 

 

New Orleans, LA – The National Parents Union (NPU), an intersectional, parent-led organization, will hold its inaugural summit in New Orleans to advance education reform and define a new K-12 national agenda. 

Parent Power 2020 (January 16-18) will bring over 100 delegates and organizations from all 50 states for a series of skills-building workshops, campaign clinics and activations designed to provide parents with the tools and infrastructure to effect change in their own communities and exert greater influence on the national conservation around education reform.  Parent Power 2020 will feature several notable speakers, including keynotes from journalist and activist Felipe Luciano, and author and activistIlyasah Shabazz, the daughter of the late Malcom X. 

The summit will also include a Jazz Funeral through the French Quarter in New Orleans on January 17, to officially bury the status quo that has been plaguing education in America for decades and commemorate the dawn of a new day in our schools.

The convening will conclude with a vote and ratification of NPU’s Statement of Values that lays out the goals and objectives of parent activists ahead of the 2020 Presidential election. At the conclusion of the summit, delegates will vote in a straw poll assessing the education proposals and policies of the 2020 Presidential Candidates. 

 

Parent Power 2020 is open to press. Please contact Dan Bank npu@mercuryllc.com to register for credentials.    

 

Click here to learn more about NPU’s mission. 

                          

WHO: 

Featured speakers at Parent Power 2020 will include: 

·        Alma Marquez and Keri Rodrigues, National Parents Union co-founders

·        Ilyasah Shabazz, Community Organizer and daughter of Malcolm X

·        Antonio Villaraigosa, Former Mayor of Los Angeles 

·        Felipe Luciano, The Young Lords 

·        Colleen Cook, National Coalition for Public School Options 

·        Gerard Robinson, Center for Advancing Opportunity  

·        Sharif El Mekki, Black Male Educators for Social Justice 

 

WHEN: 

Parent Power 2020

January 16 –January 18, 2020

 

Jazz Funeral 

Friday, January 17

6:30pm-7:00pm local time

Additional details will be provided 

 

WHERE:

Parent Power 2020 will be held in New Orleans. The exact location will be shared during the registration process. 

 

About National Parents Union:

The National Parents Union is a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States. NPU unites these organizations behind a common set of principles that put children and families at the center of education politics and policy. With delegates representing each of the 50 states, NPU disrupts the traditional role of parent voice in policy spaces and develops a new narrative that is inclusive of families from a wide variety of intersectional perspectives.

One of the very exciting episodes in my new book SLAYING GOLIATH describes the struggle in Massachusetts  surrounding a 2016 referendum to expand the number of charter schools in the state. The referendum was called Question 2. Yes on 2 received funding from billionaires (the Waltons and Bloomberg), DFER (hedge fund managers), and out-of-state groups whose donors were unknown. The last group is called “Dark Money” because it hides the names of the donors.

On February 26, I will be at the First UU Church in Cambridge at an event sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools, joined in conversation with two of the prominent figures in that campaign, Barbara Madeloni (who was president of the Massachusetts Teachers Union) and Maurice Cunningham (a professor of political science at the U of Mass whose blogs reported on Dark Money in the campaign),

The groups that fought Question 2 were teachers’ unions, civil rights groups, and local school boards.

The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated.

After the election, the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance investigated the funding of the campaigns. It found that one of the funders of the “Yes on 2” side was a Dark Money front based in New York City. It required the group to disclose the names of its donors and fined the group nearly $500,000, which cleaned out its bank account. Not long after, the Dark Money Group (which had also stacked the deck in New York State without being exposed) collapsed and closed its doors.

Recently, the director of this state office retired, and parents thanked him for upholding the integrity of state elections.

This letter to the editor by a parent activist appeared in the Boston Globe.

 

Watchdogs have state’s outgoing campaign finance chief to thank
 

What a pleasure to read Matt Stout’s folksy portrait of Michael Sullivan, who retired last month as director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (“A career spent helping people ‘do things right,’ ” Business, Dec. 25). I met Sullivan at a “hackathon” sponsored by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting. The center needed volunteers to test computer software. We got pizza, and a little orientation from the state’s campaign finance chief, who trained neophytes to navigate Office of Campaign and Political Finance databases.

Behind the scenes, Sullivan’s staff investigated an unusual pattern of financial transactions. They discovered that Families for Excellent Schools – Advocacy Inc. of New York illegally solicited, received, and funneled funds to the Great Schools Massachusetts ballot question committee to influence the 2016 Massachusetts election and increase charter school market share. Sullivan skillfully negotiated a six-figure fine.

Thanks to Sullivan, citizens can comb campaign finance data for evidence of expenditures that reveal fake-news media events. Remember those rallies with people wearing blue T-shirts demanding “Great Schools Now”? It turns out Great Schools Massachusetts paid for the T-shirts and had people show up at events to give the illusion of massive dissatisfaction with our public schools.

If only I had a “Great Schools Now” campaign T-shirt, I would give it to Sullivan in gratitude for providing me a political education I never received in school.

Peggy A. Wiesenberg

Boston

Over the past decade or more, policymakers have spent zillions of hours discussing governance (charters, vouchers, state takeovers, etc.), while ignoring the basic issue facing public schools: adequate and equitable funding.

Jan Resseger writes here about the dramatic and much-needed response in Massachusetts to address the need to fund its schools appropriately: The legislature passed and the Governor signed, a bill to increase funding by $1.5 billion a year.

Resseger reviews the near collapse of funding in other states after the 2008 recession, a decade in which funding in the Bay State held steady but did not grow.

And she cites the determination of state leaders to meet the needs of today’s students.

She writes:

For NPR’s Morning Edition, Max Larkin reports: “The law is projected to add about $1.5 billion in annual state aid to schools by 2026, when it is fully phased in. The increase will reach most of the state, but it will be particularly targeted at urban districts with high concentrations of low-income students and English learners, and where many district funds now flow to charter schools.”

Larkin describes the reaction of Boston’s school superintendent to the new funding bill: “Brenda Cassellius, the new superintendent of Boston Public Schools… said… that she wants ‘to spend every single dollar’ of new aid that BPS receives on the district’s ‘neediest’ students.”

Schoenberg quotes Governor Baker’s remarks at the signing ceremony: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 63 years, it’s that talent is evenly distributed… What’s not evenly distributed is opportunity. There’s a reason why this is the Student Opportunity Act, because this legislation is about making sure that every kid in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, regardless of where they live, where they go to school, where they’re from, has the opportunity to get the education they need to be great.”

School funding ought not to be the kind of contentious partisan issue we see today across so many states. Kudos to Massachusetts’ legislators and Governor Charlie Baker for grappling actively with the cost of our public responsibility to provide equal opportunity in the public schools. The new Massachusetts Student Opportunity Act should be held up as a challenge to legislators in the 24 states recently identified by the Center on Budget Priorities where combined state and local school funding still lags below the 2008 level when adjusted for inflation.

Both houses of the Massachusetts legislature unanimously passed a major funding bill for education, directing $1.5 billion mainly to the neediest districts.

Massachusetts has long had the most successful public schools in the nation. The state is poised to build on its record of success.

The majority of the $1.5 billion set aside in the bill will go to lower-performing and underfunded school districts, which means adding more teachers, bringing back art and music classes, and increasing funds for students from low-income households.

When voters were asked to pass a referendum to expand charter schools in 2016, they overwhelmingly said no. (I write about this epic battle in my forthcoming battle in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH).

 

The Dedham, Massachusetts, teachers strike ended after three days.

Classes resume Monday.

The teachers of Dedham, Massachusetts, voted overwhelmingly to go out on strike.

DEDHAM — Hundreds of striking teachers took to the streets Friday in this suburban town, holding placards, marching with students and parents, and cheering fresh support from high-profile Democratic politicians. Meanwhile, signs emerged that stalled negotiations could resume this weekend.

The first teachers strike in 12 years in Massachusetts followed an overwhelming vote of 275 to 2 on Thursday to walk off the job despite a state ruling that the strike is illegal. Public schools were closed Friday in this community of 25,000 people, bordering Boston.

Timothy Dwyer, president of the Dedham Education Association, called the strike “a last resort” after nearly two years of failed negotiations over salary increases, health insurance, and other issues such as sexual harassment grievances and cellphone use in the classroom.

 

Maurice Cunningham is the ghostbuster of Dark Money in education. He is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts. He is a hero of the Resistance in my forthcoming book SLAYING GOLIATH.

In this post, he details the efforts of the Walton Family of Arkansas to block the Massachusetts’ legislators who are trying to increase funding for the public schools of their state.

He writes:

The three interest groups pushing to undermine the Massachusetts senate’s education funding bill are all Walton funded, two of them essentially full-time agents of the Waltons. They have to solve a problem for the right-wing Wal-Mart heirs: not that funding public education might fail, but that it will succeed.

The Waltons, who contributed over $2 million in dark and gray money to the pro-charters side in 2016 through mechanisms set up by Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts, would prefer to promote charter schools and charge toward a fully privatized system with employee relations mimicking those of Wal-Mart itself. But the political momentum now is all in the direction of a vast increase in public funding, and the Waltons’ best hope is to throw sand into the implementation gears.

He quotes from two books that explain the Walton ideology. This is one:

This is the ideological mind set of the Waltons, as explained by historian Nelson Lichtenstein in The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business. Of The Walton family’s interest in education, Lichtenstein writes:

Because so much of Walton and Wal-Mart philanthropy is crudely self-interested, critics are tempted to find a pecuniary motive for the Walton family’s interest in education. But their support for competition and privatization is an entirely ideological project, based on a desire to enhance the social and cultural value of a free market in which government is weak while public goods like hurricane relief, education, and health care are the fodder for entrepreneurial transformation. Since public schools are by far the most pervasive of public institutions, and highly unionized to boot, this “$700-plus-billion-a-year industry”—John Walton’s phrase—has been a good place to start.

If you think all this sounds somewhat Koch-like, Charles and the late David Koch committed to K-12 education reform too –by which they also mean to destroy public education. The Kochs and Waltons have kicked in $5 million each as partners in a project called 4.0 that will be an ideas factory for privatization. Also, never untangle the Kochs or Waltons ideology with their fervor for low taxes on themselves.

 

 

Jamie Gass writes here about a powerful literary tradition that was honored in Massachusetts and perhaps a few other places, but was tossed aside by the state when it adopted the Common Core.

Gass illogically puts the blame on “educrats” and schools of education for the decision that junked the state’s reverence for literature: the political decision by its governors to pursue Race to the Top funding and endorse the Common Core. The blame lies with the Gates Foundation, which funded the federally mandated, content-free Common Core. Then with the authors of the Core, who took upon themselves the task of writing national standards. And then, of course, the elected officials of both parties who put money above principle.

Gass writes:

The Bay State, with English standards that were rich in classic literature and high-quality vocabulary, outperformed every other state between 2005 and 2017 on the reading portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), “the nation’s report card.”

When Deval Patrick and Charlie Baker studied English at Harvard, its revered professor W. Jackson Bate won the 1978 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for his Samuel Johnson biography.

Interestingly, Dr. Johnson’s Dictionarydefines “politician” as “a man of artifice; one of deep contrivance.”

In 2010, the hollowness of the Patrick administration’s sloganeering – “education is our calling card” – was revealed when they took $250 million in one-time federal grant money to abandon our proven English standards and MCAS tests in favor of inferior nationalized Common Core and PARCC testing, which cut enduring fiction by 60 percent.

The Baker administration could have easily ended Common Core’s academic mediocrity in the Bay State, but instead it followed Patrick’s example by deferring to the wishes of career state edu-crats.

Why blame state employees for decisions made by the governors of both parties, the state commissioner, and the state board?

A few years ago, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs pledged $100 million to launch 10 super new innovative schools, which she dubbed XQ schools. Each would get $10 million to show their stuff. She surrounded herself with veterans of the failed Race to the Top, like Arne Duncan and Russlyn Ali. What could possibly go wrong?

I reported last week that two of the 10 had failed.

The XQ school in Somerville, Massachusetts, was rejected when town officials realized that the cost of running a new school for 160 students would cause budget cuts to existing schools.

Leonie Haimson pointed out that a third had failed, in Oakland.

More on the Somerville story here (not behind any paywall): https://hechingerreport.org/anatomy-of-a-failure-how-an-xq-super-school-flopped/The XQ Institute also awarded $10M to start a Summit Learning HS in Oakland that never opened. https://www.sfgate.com/education/article/Backers-abandon-10-million-Super-School-project-11176992.phpThat means 3/10 of the awardees of their Super School prize have already failed. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-09-14-xq-institute-announces-ten-winners-of-super-schools-competition.

Stay tuned.

You may recall that Laurene Powell Jobs decided to reinvent the American high school by creating a design competition for new models. In 2026, she offered prizes of $10 million each to the ten best plans. Over 700 proposals came in. She called it the XQ competition. She hired leading lights from the Obama administration, including Arne Duncan and Russlyn Ali, to advise her. She bought airtime on all three major networks to bring together celebrities to proclaim the failure of U.S. education and the need for Mrs. Jobs’ XQ Initiative.

The awards were announced. Earlier this year, an XQ school in Delaware closed. It was called the Design Thinking Academy.

About 5he same time, an XQ project in Somerville, Massachusetts, was killed by the School Committee, the Mayor, and the superintendent, who were once enthusiastic about it. 

The Boston Globe tells the story, which is behind a pay wall. I will try to summarize it briefly and hope to do it justice.

It begins like this:

ALEC RESNICK AND SHAUNALYNN DUFFY stood in Somerville City Hall at about 6:30 on March 18, a night they hoped would launch the next chapter of their lives. The two had spent nearly seven years designing a new kind of high school meant to address the needs of students who didn’t thrive in a traditional setting. They’d developed a projects-driven curriculum that would give students nearly unprecedented control over what they would learn in a small, supportive environment. Resnick and Duffy had spent countless hours shepherding this school through the political thickets that all new public schools face. Approval by the teachers union, which became the most time-consuming obstacle, had finally come through in early January. Tonight, the School Committee members would cast their votes.

Resnick had reason to be optimistic. Mayor Joseph Curtatone sat on the School Committee, and he had been the one to suggest Resnick and Duffy consider designing a new public school in the first place, back in 2012. Mary Skipper, Somerville schools superintendent, had been instrumental in keeping the approval process moving forward when prospects looked bleak. She wouldn’t be voting, but she planned to offer a recommendation to elected officials. And then there was the $10 million. Resnick and Duffy had won the money in a national competition to finish designing and ultimately open and run their high school, and the pair knew it had helped maintain interest in their idea. Voting against them would mean walking away from a lot of outside funding.

The two had met as students at MIT. THey became interested in how children learn. They began making plans and trying them on a small scale in 2012. They called their school Powderhouse Studios. At full capacity, it would enroll 160 students. They intended to match the diversity of the district. The heart of their plan was “ambitious, self-directed, interdisciplinary projects focused on computation, narrative, and design — unheard of in a typical high school. Their work would be driven by goals laid out in individualized learning plans geared toward real-world concepts and would be supported by faculty serving more as mentors than as teachers. The school day would last from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the academic calendar would stretch year-round.”

In 2016, the pair had worked with middle-schoolers, trying out their project-based ideas. That year they applied to the XQ Project and had the support of the mayor and the superintendent. And they won. What could go wrong?

Finances. That’s what went wrong. Despite the initial enthusiasm of the school officials, they realized that the Somerville High School would lose $3.2 million each year to the new school when it had 160 students. The budget for the entire district is $73 million. The district’s comprehensive high school has 1,250 students. The new school planned to enroll about 13% of the existing high school’s students.

On the night of the decisive vote last March, the superintendent told the School Committee that “opening the new school would force the district to cut at least 20 teacher or counselor positions and to eliminate most before- and after-school programs districtwide. “As someone who believes in and has championed the power of new ideas my whole career, it pains me deeply to not be able to solve this problem,” she said. “In this case, the investment to create something that may only add an unknown amount of benefit to 2 to 3 percent of students, at the expense of the remaining 97 to 98 percent, is one I cannot recommend making at this time.

The School Committee voted unanimously not to open the school. The Jobs grant of $10 million was alluring, but when the startup money ran out, the district would have to absorb the ongoing costs.

And a second XQ project died.