Archives for category: Massachusetts

Retired teacher Christine Langhoff calls out the editorial board of The Boston Globe, which advocates for mayoral control of the schools, despite the wishes of the citizenry. Langhoff is right. Mayoral control is undemocratic, and it does not have a record of success. The mayor is not an educator. She or he may stack the leadership of the school system with cronies or—best case scenario—clueless business-school graduates. Mayoral control was tried and failed in Detroit and Chicago. New York City has had mayoral control since 2002 and that political arrangement has increased the number of charter schools, closed scores of schools, destabilized neighborhoods, and produced no notable improvements.

Langhoff writes:

Last year, 80% of Boston voters approved an elected school committee (a campaign that owes much of its organizing to a presence on Twitter, by the way). Now the process is underway, as the state would have to approve such a move.

This morning, the Boston Globe has published a disgusting editorial, calling for the abolition of any school board in the capital city. Reed Hastings would be proud. Who cares what citizens want, when the billionaires hellbent on privatization want something else?

There are certainly problems with the city’s current school governance system, in which the mayor appoints all members of the seven-person school committee. But if the city is to overhaul school governance, the way forward shouldn’t be to switch to a popularly elected school committee — an antiquated way of managing schools in the 21st century. Instead, Boston should get rid of the body and centralize control of the schools in the mayor’s office.” (Boston Globe)

And while the Supreme Court looks to originalism to undermine our rights, The Globe (or more likely the Barr Foundation, to whom the newspaper of record outsources its education coverage) would throw out centuries of history of governing public schools in Massachusetts:

Ending a school committee may seem radical, since local school board elections are so ingrained in American tradition. But the local school board, and its considerable power over the education of children in a geographic area, is a particularly North American phenomenon, and something of an accident of history. The colony of Massachusetts required towns to establish and pay for schools in 1647, in a law known as the Old Deluder Satan Act, and local control of schools — and local responsibility for funding them — has endured since.” (Boston Globe)

Funny, I doubt the same people would call for dissolving all school boards across the state, especially not in those wealthy towns where these writers likely live, and whose elected school boards they serve on.

The Boston Globe wrote about the activities of a Dark Money group called Parents Defending Education, which has filed lawsuits against the public schools in Wellesley and Newton in their quest to ban books and cleanse the schools of teaching about racism and gender.

Maurice Cunningham wrote a letter to the Globe explaining the reason for the harassment. He thinks their goal is intimidation. He’s right. But there is more. I think their goal is to undermine confidence in public schools and build support for privatization.

He wrote:

LETTERS

In its challenges to schools, group’s object lesson is intimidation

Updated November 18, 2022, 2:30 a.m.

Moms for Liberty, represented at an event last month in Vero Beach, Fla., is among the groups associated with Parents Defending Education, which has been promoting conservative values in education and challenging school districts in court.

Re “Schools wary as nonprofit targets teaching: Right-leaning group’s complaints cite bias in lessons on gender, race, sexuality” (Page A1, Nov. 15): Parents Defending Education is an obedient franchise of right-wing interests, including Charles Koch and the Council for National Policy, that are working to destroy public education.

Legal actions such as Parents Defending Education’s civil rights complaint against the Newton Public Schools and its lawsuit against Wellesley Public Schools are meant to generate publicity and foster intimidation. As the Globe has reported previously, the group’s civil rights “complaints likely will go nowhere.” The lawsuit settled on terms favorable to Wellesley.


However, Parents Defending Education isn’t after legal recourse; it’s after harassment. Wellesley School Superintendent David Lussier said he has received “obscene” and “awful” e-mails from people connected to the group. In December 2021, the Globe reported that two Black school principals in Newton had received “racist and confrontational” messages after the right-wing publisher Breitbart published an article misrepresenting how the principals’ schools were handling lessons about the verdicts in the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse and the men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery. Breitbart’s story was framed by Parents Defending Education.

Racist and obscene messages menacing educators are not an unfortunate consequence of Parents Defending Education’s machinations; they are entirely foreseeable.

Maurice T. Cunningham

Cambridge

The writer is the author of “Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.” He is a retired associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston and a former state assistant attorney general in Massachusetts.

We have been following the activities of various rightwing groups that purport to represent parents. Many if not all are funded by Dark Money, meaning their funders are anonymous. “Parents Defending Education” is now active in Massachusetts, suing districts for events related to race, gender, and sexual orientation. As the article notes, PDE has a staff of 13, some with a Koch background, and is represented by a Trump-connected lawyer. The goal of such groups is to undermine public confidence in public schools and in the judgment of professional educators. The ultimate goal is to heighten the teacher shortage and encourage privatization of schools.

The Boston Globe story begins:

An increasingly active right-leaning non-profit called Parents Defending Education filed a federal civil rights complaint against Newton North High School last month, alleging that a student-led theater production broke the law by limiting auditions to people of color only.


The same group sued Wellesley Public Schools last year for alleged illegal discrimination when Wellesley High School hosted a forum for Asian students and students of color to discuss a mass shooting at an Asian massage parlor in Atlanta. The teacher who organized the session wrote that it was “not for students who identify only as White.”


So far, the national group has identified 43 “incidents” in which they say Massachusetts schools inappropriately – or even illegally – taught students about race, sexual orientation or gender, setting school districts across the Commonwealth on edge that they might be sued next.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before in all my years here,” said Wellesley School Superintendent David Lussier, who settled the lawsuit with the organization in February. “They try to go after superintendents and get people fired.”


Parents Defending Education did not return repeated requests for comment, but supporters say the group offers a vital counterweight to an education system steeped in liberal values.


“I think it’s good because, for a long time, education has been very one-sided,” said Jennifer McWilliams, a consultant to Parents Defending Education who runs her own advocacy group in Indiana. “Schools have decided that they need to teach children morals, values, attitude and worldview over academics.”


The two-year-old organization, based in Washington D.C., urges parents across the country to report incidents in which they believe schools are dividing students on racial lines or inappropriately teaching students about sex or gender roles. The group states on its website that education must be based on “scholarship and facts” and says ethnic studies divides “children into oppressor and ‘oppressed’ groups,” while teaching white students “guilt and shame.”

And the organization has a sizable, well-connected staff to promote their agenda. Parents Defending Education’s website lists 13 staff members including Nicole Neily, former president of an organization affiliated with the Koch Brothers called Speech First and Aimee Viana, a former Trump Administration appointee.


Schools have long been battlegrounds in the nation’s culture wars, but experts say Parents Defending Education marks something new: an attempt to nationalize the agenda. The group has been promoting conservative values across the country, enlisting local groups with names like Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education along the way.


“We see increased coordination, national coordination among groups of all political stripes and partisan stripes, thanks to social media,” said Meira Levinson, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “The right more than the left seems to have mastered techniques of developing language that then can be replicated in legislation, or policy across different municipalities and state governments.”

For Massachusetts educators facing criticism from Parents Defending Education, it suddenly feels like the group is everywhere. The group criticized Brookline schools in April after teachers organized a walkout to protest a Florida measure opponents have characterized as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
In June, the organization condemned Milton for teaching a lesson about the country’s first openly gay politician Harvey Milk and the importance of the letters LGBTQ.


“Who the hell wants to go into this profession anymore if this is going to be the type of community that we’re serving and the type of pressure that we’re going to experience,” Wellesley Educators Association President Kyle Gekopi said. “It’s really been forcing a lot of people to question their choices.”


Most recently, Parents Defending Education filed a federal civil rights complaint on Oct. 4 against Newton North High School.


The group alleged to the United States Department of Education that the school violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Both are meant to protect people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. That protection extends to white students, they say.


Parents Defending Education claims the school’s student-led production, “Lost and Found: Stories of People of Color by People of Color,” restricted auditions to only students of color. The show, which organizers described as “a no-cut, cabaret-style show for students of color,” was meant to “provide a safe community space for students of color to express themselves through the performing arts.”


But Newton Public Schools put out a statement stressing that “no one is turned away or excluded from participating” in the play.


Educators far beyond Newton are nervously watching the case unfold. Brian Fitzgerald, president of the Plymouth County Education Association, said Parents Defending Education remind him of activists in past decades who have fought to curtail sex education, making it difficult to teach students about health.


“My fear is that they’re going to impact the ability of a student to learn,” Fitzgerald said.

Maurice Cunningham, a retired professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, is a specialist on the subject of Dark Money. That’s money given to a group or campaign where the donor’s name is hidden. His most recent book is Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization.

Cunningham was instrumental in the defeat of a referendum in Massachusetts in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools. Early polling showed it would pass easily. But Cunningham dug into the funders and discovered that the proposition was funded by billionaires, including the Waltons and Bloomberg. He learned of an astroturf parent group called the National Parents Union, funded by the Waltons to promote charters and pretend there was a huge parent demand for them. The proposition was overwhelmingly defeated.

Imagine his surprise when he learned recently that the U.S. Department of Education was creating a Nation Parents & Families Council, and the National Parents Union was a member. He wrote to Secretary Miguel Cardona to express his concern that NPU was a Walton-funded astroturf group whose goal was to discredit public schools and promote charter schools.

He received a boilerplate response from the U.S. Department of Education’s communications office, dismissing his concerns.

Maurice T. Cunningham Maurice.Cunningham153@gmail.com


Dear Mr. Cunningham,
August 1, 2022


Thank you for your email to Secretary Miguel Cardona regarding National Parents Union (NPU) representation on the Department of Education’s (the Department) National Parents & Families Engagement Council (the Council). Your letter has been forwarded to the Office of Communications and Outreach and I am pleased to respond.
The Department acknowledges your concern and appreciates the in-depth information shared from your research regarding NPU. The Council is an opportunity for the Department to listen, learn and engage families and caregivers and will be a channel for parents and families to constructively participate in their children’s education. The goal of the Council is to be reflective of the diversity of the country and our public schools and the Department is open and accepting of all parent voices.
Again, thank you for your concern regarding organizations participating on the Council. Please know that the Department’s commitment to all parents, and their crucial role in their children’s education, is unwavering. The Secretary and staff here at the Department will continue to not just listen to parents but seek out their counsel and feedback because a school community works best when parents and educators are working together.
Sincerely,
/S/
Kelly Leon
Press Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach, Delegated the Authority to Perform the
Functions and Duties of the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Communications and Outreach

Undeterred, Cunningham wrote another letter, going into greater detail.

MAURICE T. CUNNINGHAM, PhD, JD

August 16, 2022

The Honorable Miguel Cardona

Secretary of Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Ms. Kelly Leon, Press Secretary, Office of Communications and Outreach

U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20202

Dear Secretary Cardona and Ms. Leon:

I am in receipt of Ms. Leon’s August 1, 2022 reply to my letter to Secretary Cardona of June 28, 2022 in which I detail some of my research showing that National Parents Union does not belong on the Department of Education’s National Parents and Families Engagement Council. Ms. Leon’s response, which simply recites boilerplate about the council seeking to solicit the views of parent, is disappointing and inadequate. National Parents Union is not a parents’ organization at all. That’s the point.

I would have thought that an organization like NPU that was founded in 2020 and almost immediately received $700,000 in funding from the Vela Education Fund, a joint venture of the Charles Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, might elicit DOE’s curiosity as to NPU’s authenticity. The WFF and individual Walton family members have been involved in school privatization efforts for years. WalMart, the company inherited by the family, is one of the most virulently anti-labor corporations in the world. As the labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein writes, WFF is “the single largest source of funding for the ‘school choice’ movement and a powerful advocate of charter schools and voucher initiatives.” The Waltons’ support for 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 . . . education . . . 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.

Charles Koch came to K-12 privatization only in recent years, announcing his intentions in a 2018 Koch Seminar in which another Koch network member ($100,000 required simply to attend) called K-12 privatization “low-hanging fruit.” As reported by the Washington Post’s James Hohmann, “Making a long-term play, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and his like-minded friends on the right are increasingly focused on melding the minds of the next generation by making massive, targeted investments in both K-12 and higher education.” The Koch network “dreamed . . . of breaking the teachers unions.” Charles Koch, skeptical for years about impacting K-12, had a Koch Industries vice-president named Meredith Olson investigate, and her strategic scheme spurred him on.

Meredith Olson is also important because by June 2019 Koch and WFF (both members of Stand Together) were announcing matching $5 million investments in a joint venture named “4.0”to “transform America’s education system” in their corporate image. Ms. Olson was K-12 Initiative Vice President at Stand Together. More importantly for considering the legitimacy of NPU, Ms. Olson is CEO and a board member of Vela Education Foundation. As her LinkedIn page shows, Ms. Olson is an oil and gas executive. She has no background in or understanding of education. She would have been responsible for the $700,000grant Vela made in August 2020 to NPU—an eight month old organization with no track record in grants administration.

Charles Koch’s “interest” in education was discussed on the podcast “Have You Heard” by Christopher Leonard, author of the best-selling Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America. Leonard described Charles Koch, like the Waltons, as an ideological libertarian. Leonard confirmed Koch’s intense anti-unionism and continued: “when you have public education … one of the biggest problems for the libertarians is that it’s funded through taxes. . . they see taxation truly as a form of of (sic) theft and robbery.” An extensive remark by Leonard is worth your careful consideration:

Know what the blueprint is. The Koch influence machine is multifaceted and complex and I am just telling you in a very honest way, there’s a huge difference between the marketing materials produced by Americans for Prosperity (Koch’s political organization, a parallel to NPU) and the behind the scenes actual politicalphilosophy. There’s a huge difference. And here’s the actual political philosophy. Government is bad. Public education must be destroyed for the good of all American citizens in this view.

So the ultimate goal is to dismantle the public education system entirely and replace it with a privately run education system, which the operatives in this group believe in a sincere way is better for everybody. Now, whether you agree with that or not as the big question, but we cannot have any doubt, there’s going to be a lot of glossy marketing materials about opportunity, innovation, efficiency. At its core though the the (sic) network seeks to dismantle the public education system because they see it as destructive. So that is what’s the actual aim of this group. And don’t let them tell you anything different.

One person who is not fooled by the Koch network’s PR machine is Charles Siler and that is because he was once part of it as a lobbyist and communications expert for the Goldwater Institute and Foundation for Government Accountability. Siler describes his former bosses: “Their ideal is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families . . .” Siler describes one public relations technique as the “human shield.” Privatizers front a vulnerable and politically sympathetic population to protect them from progressive criticisms. They also understand that public schools are enormously popular. Thus, their proxies employ a steady drumbeat of messaging about “failing schools.” The goals are the same: destroy unions, strangle public schools, and privatizeeducation.

National Parents Union is a vehicle for the plans of the Waltons and Charles Koch. It presents as representing parents of color in search of a better life for their children, right out of the playbook Siler describes. The NPU team is drawn from alumni of the failed Families for Excellent Schools/Great Schools Massachusetts operations in New York and Massachusetts and as I explain in Dark Money and the Politics of School Privatization FES was in reality the surrogate for Boston hedge funders and yes, the Waltons. NPU has used the Vela money to fund homeschooling pods that weaken public schools. At nearly every media opportunity, NPU spokespersons parrot the “failing schools” script.

Is there any conceivable reason to believe that National Parents Union is the blessed exception to the Waltons’ and Charles Koch’s laser-like focus on destroying public education? As Siler and Leonard teach us, DOE must ignore the elaborate marketing blitz that NPU can deploy and recognize NPU for what it is: an agent of wealthy libertarians with a wildly different and unpopular prescription for what is good for parents and children.

I understand that the council is on hold pending litigation brought by among others Parents Defending Education. As I explained in my letter of June 28, PDE is also a franchise in Charles Koch’s attack on public education. It is in alliance with Moms for Liberty, created by the right wing directorate Council for National Policy; and with Fight for Schools and Families, also a plaintiff in the litigation and headed by a former Trump administration and Republican Party communications executive. Should PDE prevail in its lawsuit and gain a seat on the council that would give Koch two seats on it. Even Betsy DeVos would blush.

The Department of Education should rescind its offer to National Parents Union to join the National Parents and Families Engagement Council.

Respectfully submitted,

Maurice T. Cunningham

Associate Professor (retired)

Department of Political Science

University of Massachusetts at Boston

cc: The Honorable Martin J. Walsh

Secretary of Labor

You can see the writing on the wall. All the astroturf parent groups will demand a place at the table. They fought masking, they fought vaccines, now they fight teaching about racism and gender, and they demand gag orders and book banning.

Will Secretary Cardona invite them to join his Council?

It would seem obvious that students, like adults, have a physical need to use a bathroom during the school day. But in Massachusetts, many schools are closing bathrooms to avoid student misbehavior and vaping.

The condition of bathrooms in Boston Public Schools, and in other urban districts, has fueled public outrage for years, with broken taps and empty towel dispensers seen as sorry symbols of a failure to meet even basic needs.

But across the state and country, an even more fundamental problem is gaining attention: increasing restrictions on students’ access to bathrooms, as administrators keep more restrooms locked and off limits for more of the school day.

Driven by efforts to curtail teen vaping, and to prevent outbreaks of vandalism sparked by the TikTok trend known as “Devious Licks”, the widespread crackdowns on bathroom access have left students in some schools searching urgently for unlocked stalls — and pining for any open restroom, no matter how broken or dirty. As teenagers learn to hold their urine for hours – or stop eating and drinking at school to avoid discomfort — the outcry against the closures from students and parents has grown louder.

“I understand that there are safety concerns, but the whole school shouldn’t have basic human rights taken away,” said Nevaeh Lopez, 16, a student at Holyoke High School who started an online petition to push back against bathroom closures at her school this spring.

The issue has provoked fiery debate at school committee meetings and in online forums around the region in recent months, as well as calls and e-mails to principals and school nurses. A post about bathroom restrictions at New Bedford High School, on the New Bedford Live Facebook page in October, garnered nearly 200 comments, from students who described missing class time while waiting in long bathroom lines, and from adults who placed blame squarely on the teenagers. (“If they would act like civilized human beings they would be able to be trusted,” wrote one.)

There is no doubt uncivilized — and sometimes violent — acts have taken place in school bathrooms. Several students were suspended at Wilmington High School in March after they picked up another student and tried to force his head into a toilet in a boys’ bathroom. “What is equally disturbing is the fact that other students were present and did nothing to stop the incident, and in fact recorded the altercation,” Superintendent Glenn Brand said later.

School leaders nationwide have reported a general uptick in discipline and behavior issues, including fighting and bullying, since students returned to full-time, in-person school following two years of disruption. The troubling trend has been linked to the mental health toll of the pandemic, and to social development delays possibly caused by students’ recent isolation.

Student use of electronic cigarettes has alsorisen at “epidemic” rates in recent years, health officials have warned. As countless school bathrooms have become de facto vaping lounges, desperate school leaders have grasped at any possible solution, including removing doors from restroom stalls and installing vape-detection sensors.

Yet even Donna Mazyck — head of the National School Nurses Association and a leader in the fight to curb teen vaping — said rampant restroom shutdowns are not the answer…

Staffing shortages, exacerbated by pandemic burnout, have reduced the number of hall and restroom monitors available in many districts, forcing more closures of unsupervised bathrooms. But staffing is a problem that can be solved, said Worcester School Committee member Tracy O’Connell Novick, who spoke forcefully against the locking of bathrooms at the committee meeting in January.

“I taught high school, I know why we lock bathrooms, and I don’t think it should be against a policy — I think it should be against the law,” O’Connell Novick told the School Committee. “There are things that are right and things that are wrong, and denying students access to bathrooms is wrong.”

The Boston Public School board selected a new superintendent. She is Mary Skipper, who has had many years of teaching experience in Boston and is currently superintendent of the Somerville, Mass., district.

Currently the head of Somerville Public Schools, Skipper will take over at a crucial juncture for Boston, which only days ago fended off a state takeover by agreeing to a long list of improvements that she will now be charged with seeing through. She narrowly edged out the other finalist, BPS regional superintendent Tommy Welch, in a 4-3 vote.

The 55-year-old Skipper previously worked in Boston for nearly two decades, teaching Latin at Boston Latin Academy before working her way from principal to district administrator overseeing three dozen high schools. She earned a reputation for innovations at a high school she previously led. A decade ago, then-president Barack Obama held up Skipper’s school, TechBoston Academy, as a national model when he delivered a speech there.

She’s been superintendent of the roughly 4,700-student Somerville district since 2015.

Skipper was not available for comment after the vote. But she previously has said that teachers were surrogate parents to her, playing a deep role in her life, so she felt teaching was something she needed to do.

The job she’s stepping into has already been largely redefined by an agreement finalized this week between Mayor Michelle Wu and state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley, who had threatened to label the district as “underperforming.” In exchange for maintaining autonomy and the district’s reputation, Skipper will have to carry out a long list of mandates from a district improvement plan agreed upon Monday that aims to overhaul special education, services for English learners, and transportation, among other things…

Skipper’s selection could carry some risk for the district, since she’s not available to take over full time in Boston until late September, after the deadline for completing 10 of 24 action steps required by the joint agreement for improving Boston’s schools…

Skipper will also have to overcome frustration from some community members that the superintendent search did not yield Black or Latino finalists. Civil rights leaders and education advocates called on district leaders to halt the vote or extend the process after the search committee presented only two finalists; Skipper is white and Welch is an Asian American.

Two other would-be finalists, a Black woman and a Latina, withdrew before the list was finalized and made public. The panel overseeing the search selected Skipper and Welch from a field of 34 applicants.

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education and the Mayor of Boston reached an agreement not to label the Boston Public Schools “underperforming” and the state backed away from taking control of the district. Perhaps they realized that state takeovers typically make things worse, not better.

Our reader Christine Langhoff is a retired teacher in Boston. She added the following informed comment.

Christine Langhoff writes:

Despite the Boston Globe’s heartfelt desire for privatization – its education reporting is outsourced to privatizers and charteristas at The Barr Foundation – public pushback had an impact. The state has had zero success in the school systems where it intervened, when measured by the metric the state board loves: test scores. Boston scores, even during the virtual schooling of the pandemic, have been higher than in Lawrence, Springfield, Holyoke and Southbridge, where the state is in charge. They failed to get this done before Governor Charlie Baker – funded by the Kochs and the Waltons – leaves office this year.

Our newly elected mayor, Michelle Wu, has her own two young sons in BPS and is committed to public education. She has refused to back away from her advocacy for the schools. Her predecessor, Marty Walsh (now Biden’s Secretary of Labor), was himself a founder of a charter school, and underfunded the schools during all seven years of his mayoralty. He made no effort to solve the issues cited in the state’s report in his quest to defund, destabilize, and destroy the school system.

Wu has managed in a brief time to recruit two excellent finalists for the superintendent’s position. Both of them are true public school educators who live in Boston. Mary Skipper’s three children are BPS graduates and Tommy Welch’s kids are presently enrolled as well. Contrast with Laura Perille, who was named superintendent by Walsh, despite being completely unqualified save for the fact that she ran an umbrella group for the foundations bent on privatization. (Perille took over from Broadie Tommy Chang, who was responsible in LA for the disastrous rollout of laptops.)

It’s a new day for public education in the city of Boston. The Waltons are somewhere, licking their wounds in defeat once again.

For a while, the state board of education was threatening to take over the Boston Public Schiols, despite the fact that state takeovers have a dismal record. Then the state threatened to label the district “underperforming,” which served no purpose other than humiliation. But a deal was reached, and the state has backed off its heavy handed tactics.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and the state Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley came to an eleventh hour agreement Monday to prevent the state from designating the district “underperforming” and stepping up oversight of the district.

The agreement between the state and city, announced Monday night, details district improvement efforts following a state review that found Boston Public Schools was failing to make enough progress in addressing long-standing problems, including providing services to English learners and students in special education.

“These commitments will set up the district for success right away,” said Wu in an interview Monday night. “I’m eager and ready for the work ahead.”

The deal comes after weeks of negotiationsand political brinksmanship that, at times, played out before the public. After the state in May released its audit outlining chronic dysfunction in Boston Public Schools, Wu pushed back on the state’s initial proposals to improve the district, which would have made her directly accountable to Riley for improving schools and imposed short deadlines for addressing problems. She instead called for a “partnership” with the state.

And when talks broke down last week, the state upped the ante by recommending Boston receive more oversight and be labeled underperforming, an embarrassing designation that can take years to reverse.

The negotiations have cast a feeling of uncertainty over the district, as it searches for a new superintendent. The Boston School Committee meets Wednesday to vote on two candidates: Mary Skipper, the Somerville superintendent; and Tommy Welch, a regional school superintendent in Boston Public Schools and BPS parent.

Welch has said he could begin Friday, after outgoing Superintendent Brenda Cassellius departs. Skipper has committed to staying in Somerville until the fall.

The agreement includes deadlines as early as August for the city and school system to complete many steps.

It’s hard to imagine any meaningful reforms that can be completed in the next six weeks.

The state board of education in Massachusetts, dominated by “reformers” is itching to take control of the Boston public school district. State takeovers have consistently failed. Failure never deters “reformers.”

Dear families, students, educators and community partners,

[Español aqui. Todos están invitados a unirnos para el foro comunitario y la protesta en DESE]  

The Receivership issue is heating up again. Yesterday, Commissioner Riley recommended that the Board vote to declare BPS an “underperforming district.” See the BTU bulletin here for more information. You are invited to join us for two events:

1) We are holding an EMERGENCY Town Hall this Sunday, June 26 from 7:00pm to 8:00pm to discuss what Commissioner Riley’s new proposal to declare BPS “underperforming” is and what would happen to BPS if the Board votes to do so. This will be a public town hall, and we encourage you to invite fellow families and students. Sign up now.

2) This Tuesday, June 28th, we will gather at 8 am outside the DESE headquarters (75 Pleasant St. in Malden) to rally against state takeover and for a BTU contract now. At 8:30am we’ll enter the meeting to watch public testimonies when the board meeting begins at 9am. RSVP at bit.ly/Rally628. There’s garage parking right next to Malden, easy Orange Line access, or if you’d like to take the bus with us from the BTU, email Daphne (dsoto@btu.org) to reserve your seat.

In solidarity,

Ari + the BTU

Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from Boston Teachers Union, please click here.

Reader Christine Langhoff sent a warning that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is poised to take control of the Boston Public Schools. This would be a mistake. No state takeover has ever led to better education. The state is not wiser than the city. If anything, the state education department is far removed from daily practice, as it is simply another bureaucracy. The current board is dominated by advocates of choice. Apparently they are unaware that the root cause of low test scores is poverty. The best the board could do would be to reduce class sizes and to promote the creation of community schools, which makes the school the hub of valuable services for children and families. Such proven strategies are unfamiliar to choice advocates. They prefer a failed approach.

Christine Langhoff wrote:

It seems that MA DESE is poised to place Boston’s public schools under receivership, perhaps by a vote as soon as May 24. Doing so would fulfill the Waltons’ wet dream which has been frustrated since the defeat of ballot Question 2 in 2016, which would have eliminated the charter cap.

The board is appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, whose donors are, of course, the Waltons and the Kochs. Four members of the board have day jobs tied to the Waltons: Amanda Fernández, Latinos for Education; Martin West, Education Next; Paymon Rouhanifard, Propel America; and Jim Peyser, New Schools Venture Fund and the Pioneer Institute. Baker is a lame duck, which may explain the haste to pull this off.

No state takeover has yet been successful, and once a system enters receivership, there is no exit. BESE has pointed to low MCAS scores to say our schools are failures, but Boston’s scores, invalid as they may be during the covid pandemic, are higher that in the three districts the state runs: Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge.

The Boston Teachers Union has an action letter if anyone is so inclined to support public education in the city where it originated: