Archives for category: Massachusetts

Maurice Cunningham, a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, is a specialist in exposing the influence of “dark money” in our political life, especially in the area of education politics. In this post, he explores the connections among Christian conservatives, economic royalists like the Waltons and Charles Koch, and the so-called “National Parents Union,” which enjoys Walton funding.

The same people now running the NPU were funded by the Waltons, Mike Bloomberg, and other billionaires in 2016 to press for unlimited charter expansion in Massachusetts. When Cunningham exposed the money behind the “Yes on 2” campaign, the wind went out of its sails. Voters realized that the campaign was intended to divert money from their public schools to billionaire hobbies. I wrote about the fight over Proposition 2 in Massachusetts in my latest book Slaying Goliath as an example of successful parent-teacher resistance to the billionaires.

Maurice Cunningham is the Master of the Mysteries of Dark Money. In this post, he traces the shifting membership of the board of directors of the Walton-funded “National Parents Union.” You know what NPU wants: charter schools. After reading the story, you will understand who pays the bills: the Waltons and Charles Koch. They are parents too! Be sure to read Christine Langhoff’s comment.

Maurice Cunningham specializes in digging up the facts about Dark Money (political contributions where the donors’ names are hidden). His expose of Dark Money from the Waltons and other billionaires turned the public against a 2016 state referendum in Massachusetts to expand the number of charter schools, and it was defeated. I wrote about this campaign in Slaying Goliath.

In this post, published here for the first time, he exposes a “parent group” demanding more charter schools in Rhode Island.

Cunningham writes:

Parents who care about public education need to be wary of dark money fronts masquerading as concerned reformers. These are lavishly funded efforts with the goal of privatizing public schools. Rhode Islanders should take a long hard look at Stop the Wait RI.

This operation registered with the Rhode Island Secretary of State as a social welfare organization organized under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue on February 25, 2021. That status allows Stop the Wait to engage in a wide range of political activities including spending on political campaigns. The big advantage for a 501(c)(4) is that it can take in unlimited sums from individuals or corporations, spend generously on politics, and never have to disclose the names of the true donors—the real powers hiding behind the curtain. It’s dark money—political spending with the true interests hidden from the public. Stop the Wait’s web page is pretty explicit—its mission is to “preserve and expand school choice—including access to high-quality public charter schools.” Translation: privatization of public schools.

Privatizing fronts often present as an underdog group of grassroots parents. In politics though, power flows to money and so it’s key to know who is funding such groups. That’s tough with a brand new 501(c)(4) like Stop the Wait, but there are clues.

The first name on the Board of Directors is Janie SeguiRodriguez. Ms. Rodriguez works for the charter school chain Achievement First which is underwritten by among others, the WalMart heir Walton family. She is also on the board of a related corporation organized under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Parents Leading for Educational Equity. A 501(c)(3) can do reports, organize, advocate, communicate with the public, but can’t get into political campaigns. Contributions are tax deductible, so taxpayers subsidize this advocacy. Even though PLEE was only organized as a non-profit corporation as of July 13, 2020, only three months later, on October 19, 2020 the Rhode Island Foundation announced that PLEE was one of several organizations it had funded and offered it as an example for its new $8.5 million Equity Leadership Foundation. (It’s a little curious that a foundation funds an organization and evaluate it as a model of success in three months). The Nellie Mae Foundation was more patient—it waited all the way until December 21, 2020 before dropping two grants, one for $40,000 and the other for $120,000 into PLEE’s bank account. Actual check writers often give through donor advised funds, a tax advantaged option that keeps their interest in groups like PLEEever unknown.

Web searches indicate that PLEE has actually been around since 2018. But it couldn’t have taken in sums from foundations until it registered with the IRS. 

Ms. Rodriguez is a political veteran as well. She ran for city council in Pawtucket city wide in 2018 and in ward 5 in 2020, losing both (by two votes in ward 5). Another member of PLEErecently assailed teachers unions in a hearing over reopening Pawtucket schools. Look for more of this from PLEE and Stop the Wait. Across the country similar organizations are funded by anti-worker oligarchs like the Waltons and Charles Koch. Examples of right wing billionaire operations masquerading as parents groups include Massachusetts Parents United and National Parents Union

Using upbeat sounding front organizations funded by unidentified billionaires is what Jane Mayer in her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right calls “weaponizing philanthropy.” But communities can beat the billionaires. Ask questions, demand answers, accept nothing less than an accounting of the true interests behind dark money fronts like PLEE and Stop the Wait, publicize your findings, contact elected officials. This is your democracy and your public school system.

[Full disclosure: as an educator in the UMass system, I am a union member. I write about dark money.] 

Maurice Cunningham is a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts who specializes in unmasking the influence of billionaires’ dark money. “Dark money” is money that is contributed with the expectation that the donors’ name will not be disclosed. I wrote about the role of Cunningham in exposing the dark money behind the 2016 effort to pass a referendum to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts; his exposes alerted voters to the vast sums spent by out-of-state billionaires like the Waltons and Michael Bloomberg to buy education policy in Massachusetts.

As he demonstrates in this article, the Waltons–who cumulatively are worth about $200 billion–are still funding pro-charter, anti-union groups in Massachusetts, still pushing their anti-public school agenda. The Waltons’ vehicle of choice is the “Massachusetts Parents United” group, which claims to be just a lot of concerned moms while collecting millions each year from the Waltons and other oligarchs.

The leader of the Walton-funded parent group is collecting, according to tax records, nearly $400,000 a year. Not a bad gig.

Cunningham reviews a story in Commonwealth Magazine that compares funding for Massachusetts Parents United with funding for the state’s teachers union.

But there are crucial differences, Cunningham writes:

Stories like this tend to equate spending on organizations like MPU with the unions. They’re not comparable. Union funding comes from members’ dues. The unions are democratically organized. My local voted out an incumbent last year, as have other teachers’ unions. MTA term limits its president (a good thing, as Barbara Madeloni was far tougher than her surrender-prone predecessor Paul Toner). There is no democracy to MPU. The Waltons are from Arkansas and probably couldn’t find Chicopee or Tewksbury on a map; never mind getting Alice Walton to pronounce Worcester or Gloucester. The Waltons just write checks and measure ROI–return on investment. MTA and Massachusetts Federation of Teachers members live here. Want to hold the Waltons accountable for the vast changes to Massachusetts education policy they seek through MPU? Good luck with that.

If you’ve gotten this far let me say a few words about why I care about this stuff. We simply do not have a functioning democracy when the vast wealth of a few oligarchs sets the policy agenda and gains influence by showering money on upbeat sounding fronts like Families for Excellent Schools and Massachusetts Parents United. Nor do we have a functioning democracy when the true power—the men and women behind the curtain—remain unknown to the public and uncovered by the media. In Dark Money, Jane Mayer talks about “weaponizing philanthropy.” In Just Giving, Rob Reich points out the “plutocratic bias” enjoyed by the foundations. (Hey, did I mention all these public policy altering contributions by oligarchs are a valuable tax deduction to them? Yes, you’re subsidizing them to change your state’s policy. Never give a sucker an even break). Huge investments in policy change and hidden money threaten rule by the people.

And that’s what MPU is—a tax deductible front for oligarchs weaponizing their philanthropy in a campaign to privatize public goods. The Waltons, Koch, and other oligarchs don’t want us to peek behind the curtain. It is our democratic obligation to tear that curtain down.

Distinguished economist Helen Ladd and her husband, journalist Edward Fiske, studied the accountability system for charter schools in Massachusetts. They specifically addressed equity issues of access, fairness, and availability of a high-quality education, not test scores. They found considerable variation among charter schools, as one would expect. They also found that some charter schools had unusually high attrition rates and unusually high suspension rates. These should concern policy makers, whose goal is to offer better opportunities for disadvantaged students. Their aim in writing the paper is to alert policymakers to the value of an equity-oriented accountability system that goes beyond test scores.

The Boston Globe reports that Chelsea, Mass., is about to launch a bold experiment in addressing the persistent problem of poverty.

Chelsea, one of the poorest cities in the state, is about to host a bold experiment in reimagining capitalism, one that may answer an age-old question: Can giving away money with no strings attached help people out of poverty?

Beginning in November, about 2,000 low-income families will be given $200 to $400 a month, money that can be used for anything from food to paying bills. The trial, with $3 million in seed money and set to run for four months at first, is a version of the universal basic income concept that has long been debated, tested in small measures, but not implemented by any country. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang made it a plank of his brief presidential campaign.

The Chelsea pilot may seem like a simple way to support families living on the brink during the pandemic, but the social experiment could have broader implications — perhaps shedding light on the argument over whether giving money away without conditions encourages poor people to quit their jobs or spend it unwisely, or empowers them to make decisions to break the cycle of poverty…

To United Way chief executive Bob Giannino, the real value of the Chelsea pilot is removing the indignities of receiving public assistance — whether it’s standing in line for food or battling a bureaucracy for benefits. Giannino knows the feeling too well, having grown up in a family that relied on government handouts.

“The tactic is putting money on a card so people can buy their own food,” Giannino said of the Chelsea program. “The strategy is independence. The strategy is dignity.”

Maurice Cunningham, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, specializes in exposing the role of Dark Money in education. If you read my book, Slaying Goliath, you know that Cunningham’s research and blog posts helped to turn the tide against a state referendum in 2016 to expand the number of charter schools in Massachusetts. Cunningham showed that “Yes on Two” Organization was funded by billionaires and that the billionaires were hiding their identities. Despite being outspent, the parent-teacher-local school committee won handily.

In this post, originally from February, Cunningham explains why the Waltons and Charles Koch are so devoted to privatizing public school governance. He’s right that they want to lower their taxes. They also want to smash teachers’ unions; more than 90% of charters are non-union. The corporate sector doesn’t like unions, and most private unions have been eliminated. The teachers’ unions are still standing, which annoys the billionaires.

Maurice Cunningham is a dogged researcher into Dark Money and its role in the pursuit of privatizing public education. Cunningham is a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts. Open the link and read in full.

In his latest post, he reports that Koch money as well as Walton money, Zuckerberg money, Gates money, and Dell money, is supporting the “National Parents Union,” a front for the billionaires.

He writes:

There’s millions of dollars sloshing around Massachusetts Parents United and National Parents Union these days. Some of it is from Charles Koch…

The Koch connection was apparent when Charles Koch put a proxy on the board of National Parents Union. Now we know for sure Koch has money invested in NPU. Others holding stakes in NPU (housed in the same shop as Massachusetts Parents Union and run by the same team) include Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Michael Dell, Reed Hoffman, John Arnold, Eli Broad, etc.

It’s not just Koch, the Waltons are tossing even more money at NPU.

NPU is also feasting on big bucks from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm.

Cunningham reminds us to “follow the noney. Dark Money never sleeps.”

And he adds:

We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” – Louis Brandeis

Students, parents, and alumni of the high-performing Mystic Valley Regional Charter School have raised questions about racism at the school, alleging that racism permeates its culture. Similar questions have been raised at Success Academy in New York City and other “no excuses” charter schools that emphasize test scores and tough discipline over human relations.

Hayley Kaufman wrote in the Boston Globe:


The questions came from parents, from alumni, from the president of the class of 2020. How would Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, known for rigorous academics and ranked a top high school in Massachusetts, address a long and alarming list of concerns about diversity, inclusion, and the treatment of students of color?

The questions came at a June 8 meeting with the Mystic Valley trustees, where 15 speakers raised the issues, describing a culture that penalized students who spoke out about inequities, while seeming to shrug off reports of bias. They also demanded to know why a series of controversial social media posts made by a cofounder of the Malden charter school hadn’t been publicly denounced.

“It’s going to take somebody to get their hands dirty, really going in and really, really, really looking this horrible situation in its eye,” Alvin Buyinza, a 2015 graduate, told the board. “There is a conversation on race that needs to be addressed at the school level.”

Amid a nationwide outcry on racial injustice, an urgent chorus of voices is calling for change at Mystic Valley, a K-12 charter school ranked in April as the sixth best high school in the state by U.S. News and World Report. One alumni group gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition demanding a more diverse faculty and a restructuring of the school’s mission statement to “address issues of systemic discrimination.” Another group said it has compiled more than 150 examples of alleged incidents of racism and LGBT bias. On June 25, parents and students held a protest, waving signs as drivers honked their horns.

“The culture has to change at the school,” said Zane T. Crute, president of the Mystic Valley area branch of the NAACP, who sent a scathing letter to administrators endorsing the petitioners’ demands. For change to happen, he said, an independent evaluation of policies must be conducted “to keep the school honest — separate from the donors, separate from the board.”

Few would deny that Mystic Valley, which was founded in 1998 and enrolls more than 1,550 students from Malden and surrounding communities, provides strong education to a diverse student body. Sixty-one percent of seniors in 2019 earned the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. While most schools in Massachusetts require 180 days of instruction, Mystic Valley tops out at 200.

But the school also has an unsettling track record on issues of race and inclusion. Recent data shows Mystic Valley disciplines Black and Latinx students at sharply higher rates than white students, and disabled students at a higher rate still.

In 2017, in a widely publicized move, Attorney General Maura Healey determined a school policy that banned hair extensions and other hairstyles discriminated against students of color, especially Black students, who’d been suspended and banned from activities. Two years earlier, regulators pushed back on efforts to increase enrollment because the school lacked proper services for non-English speakers. And when a student wanted to form a gay-straight alliance club in 2014, her efforts were stymied until the American Civil Liberties Union got involved.

A series of social media posts made by Neil Kinnon, a Mystic Valley cofounder and former Malden city councilor, has sparked the latest conflagration. As protests swelled after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer, Kinnon posted a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.”

“Please consider the real facts not the propaganda,” he wrote on his “Kinnon For Malden” Facebook page, a screenshot of which was obtained by the Globe before it was taken down. Systemic racism, he commented, is “a false narrative” and “the millions marching are indeed pawns.” Kinnon did not respond to e-mails and phone calls for this story.

The backlash to the Facebook post was swift. Students, alumni, even one of Kinnon’s neighbors blasted his statements. Meanwhile, screen shots of additional posts allegedly made by Kinnon on other Facebook pages triggered further outrage.

Long a divisive figure in Malden, Kinnon resigned from the charter school’s board of trustees in 2019 and no longer holds an official role there. But students say his influence is still felt. Petitioners asked that the school “further disaffiliate” from him by ending the Neil Kinnon Citizenship Award, presented annually to a graduating senior. And Alfie Tsang, 2020 class president, pushed trustees for clarity on Kinnon’s connection to the school, and why they hadn’t condemned the social media posts.

Chairman George Warren said at the June 8 meeting that the board was aware of Kinnon’s statements but needed time to “digest” things. “We will get back to you and the public,” he said, “if it’s deemed necessary.”

On June 16, Warren and Alexander Dan, the school’s superintendent/director, released a letter to parents. In it, they said Mystic Valley had undergone an “expansive internal investigation” in 2017 after the attorney general’s investigation. They’d “voluntarily implemented” suggestions from the review, which was conducted by a third party. Staffers received implicit bias training. Efforts to recruit more teachers of color were ongoing.

They also invoked George Floyd and condemned “the unacceptable tolerance of racism by sections of our society.” There was no mention of Kinnon.

In response to calls and e-mails from the Globe, Dan forwarded an annotated version of the letter to parents that was sent separately to the alumni behind the petition. There, Dan did refer to Kinnon: “Respectfully, we will not address the conduct of any person who is not a board member and not an employee at the school.”

Dan further noted: “Prior to your letter, Mr. Kinnon had already voluntarily determined to suspend his citizenship award at the school.”

Parents and students say the problems at Mystic Valley run much deeper than offensive social media posts. They say marginalization is baked into the foundation of the school, starting with its mission statement. It describes a “world class education characterized by a well-mannered, disciplined and structured academic climate” based in the “fundamental ideals of our American Culture.”

But how that discipline is delivered, and to whom, has left many frustrated, particularly when it comes to students of color.

“What they purport as discipline is essentially authoritarianism,” said Eric Henry, a retired Navy veteran and father of triplets going into ninth grade. Henry, who is Black, described several encounters his children have had, ranging from microaggressions to disciplinary incidents. In one, his daughter Thora was pulled out of class and reprimanded by a white teacher she did not know because she had dropped off a book in a classroom without knocking.

“She’s experiencing harassment and conflict resolution at way too young an age,” said Henry, who served on the PTO for several years. If parents complain about the way their children are treated, “They say, ‘Don’t forget, you asked to come here.‘ ”

Thora added: ”If you’re a student of color, you won’t get the benefit of the doubt.”

Indeed, data provided to the Department of Education showed that of the 289 Black students enrolled at Mystic Valley in 2018-19, 34, or 11.8 percent, received some sort of disciplinary action. Of 151 Latinx students, 17, or 11.3 percent, were disciplined. By comparison, 49 of 762 white students were disciplined, or 6.4 percent. Dan could not be reached for comment on the DOE numbers.

By far the highest percentage of disciplinary action was taken against students with disabilities. Of 221 students identified as having disabilities that year, 44, or 20 percent, were disciplined.

Parents and students also raised concerns about what they see as a pervasive insensitivity toward students with multicultural backgrounds.

Vanessa Santos described a situation in which her daughter, a rising eighth-grader, was chastised by a teacher who told her to stop “speaking Spanish.” When the girl noted that she was speaking Portuguese, she said, the teacher waved her off, saying, “It’s all the same.”

Kedisha Clerger, a 2019 graduate who now attends Howard University, described a painful experience from her senior year. One day on her way to class, she was speaking to a friend about college applications, confiding that she’d thought about writing an essay “comparing Mystic Valley to slavery.”

A teacher who’d been eavesdropping broke into the conversation. “I guess you could compare me to a plantation owner,” she recalled him saying.

Stunned, Clerger reported what had happened to administrators. And there began a head-spinning series of events. She was told the teacher was “just making a joke.” She was told she bore responsibility, that if she hadn’t made the slavery comment, the teacher wouldn’t have responded that way. Dan could not be reached for comment on the incident.

When all was said and done, Clerger said, she was accused of being “rude and disrespectful” and was suspended for a day.

“You report stuff at the school and they try to silence you,” she said. I just felt hopeless.”

Clerger recently wrote about the experience, posting it to the Mystic Valley Parents Facebook page. She said God has been a source of strength as she looks back on her time at the school. And she urged the community to take action.

“Black kids at MV go through so much that is unknown to people,” she wrote. “Fight for change.”

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at hayley.kaufman@globe.com.

The Boston Globe reports on the questions that public officials are trying to resolve in Massachusetts:

State and city school officials haven’t made a firm commitment yet as to when Massachusetts public schools might reopen for a number of good reasons. Before they can welcome a million students back to their classrooms, administrators must resolve a seemingly endless series of hard questions.

How do you load elementary school children onto a bus while keeping them 6 feet apart?

How do you protect the estimated 20 percent of teachers who are 55 or older from getting seriously ill?

How do you serve lunch?

And that’s before you even get to the money problem: Running a school is about to get a lot more expensive, just as the crashing economy may force state and local governments to cut school budgets…

In in recent testimony before a legislative committee, state Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley described potential recommendations that could make school look markedly different than before the pandemic, including the extensive reliance on social distancing, expanded mental health services, and the possible need for students and staff to wear masks.

In addition, Riley said schools may need to develop plans for “potential extended school closings.” He held out the possibility that schedules will need to be modified, and that at least some classes may continue to be taught remotely.

“The plan will include guidance on physical and virtual learning environments and many other topics,” Riley said in a statement.

Riley declined to provide an outline for when schools might resume in-person classes, saying only that officials were beginning to map out a plan to reopen schools “when conditions are right…”

Boston school Superintendent Brenda Cassellius struck a similarly cautious tone on providing a timeline for reopening the city’s 125 schools. There are just too many unknowns — including the possibility of a fall surge in COVID-19 cases — to provide even a tentative reopening date.

“It just depends on if we get through these phases [of reopening the state] successfully,” she said. “At this point we are still sheltering, and until we hit all the indicators, that will be our reality.”

New guidance from the federal government suggests school could be a lot less fun when it finally does reopen. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call for a three-step approach that includes reduced student movement within schools, canceled field trips and extracurricular activities, and meals that are served in classrooms. Staff should wear masks. Students and teachers should undergo daily temperature and symptom checks if possible, and high-risk staff should be allowed to work remotely.

Ultimately, the number of restrictions and safety measures is likely to vary from district to district, depending on the prevalence of the virus. But schools in Massachusetts, which has the fourth most cases in the country, are likely to be among the most disrupted.

“You could have school in Montana where school is functioning pretty normally, but there may be rolling closures in New York and Boston,” said John Bailey, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“Hopefully these disruptions only impact this coming academic year,” he added, noting that vaccine development often takes at least 18 months. “If that is really the timeline, it means all these disruptions not just for this coming academic school year, but the following one, too.”

The problems start the moment a student climbs aboard the bus.

Cassellius estimated that, under current physical distancing guidelines, a school bus that typically holds around 65 students might be reduced to around 13 passengers. For Boston, which already has the second highest per-pupil transportation costs in the country, expanding bus service would be astonishingly expensive.

And that’s just the beginning. Are those students given a health check before boarding and, if so, who would do it? What if they arrive without a mask? How often must the buses be cleaned? And that’s to say nothing of the health and safety of the drivers.

“Half of our bus drivers are older than 60,” said Cassellius, who’s a member of the working group. “You can only imagine the contingencies we are building in terms of our fleet, in terms of our scheduling.”

It gets no easier once students arrive at school.

Just consider hand washing, which by some estimates could take nearly as long as some classes.

“I’ve seen some scenarios where they may recommend kids wash their hands every hour,” said Billerica Public Schools Superintendent Tim Piwowar, who’s part of the working group. For a class of 12 students, he said, each taking about 30 seconds to wash their hands, the loss in learning time could be staggering. “That’s six minutes of every hour. That’s a little over half an hour every day — of just hand washing.”

And what about the availability of on-site health care?

Jenny Gormley, president of the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization, said schools are running low on personal protective gear after donating their supplies to hospitals and emergency responders. She added that many schools do not currently have a full-time nurse on staff. Meanwhile, in Boston, Cassellius said that roughly a third of all school nurses are older than 60.

The CDC’s guidelines call for each school to create an “isolation room” to separate anyone who presents with COVID-like symptoms — further instructing school officials to wait 24 hours before disinfecting it after use. That’s going to be a major concern in urban districts such as Lynn, which are already over capacity.

“In a school of 500, at least two kids come to you every day with a fever,” said Gormley. “The CDC is saying it should not be used for 24 hours and disinfected — so does that mean we’ll need two of them?”

Under current social distancing requirements, some classes may have to shrink to a third of their former size. So will students attend school in morning and afternoon shifts? Will they alternate days? Weeks? Even so, how do you keep first-graders from touching one another? And what will cleaning costs look like?

School leaders say remote learning is likely to continue to play some role when schools resume in-person classes. For instance, students could alternate days at home with days in school. But if teachers are expected to hold physical classes each day, who will staff online learning? Will classes have both in-person and online learners? Will districts have to hire more teachers? Will they enlist more subs? Will it fall to existing faculty…?

“We will need a New Deal level of funding from the federal government,” said Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

One of the first tasks when students return to school will be to figure out their academic levels after the most disrupted school year in decades. Some students will have lost more ground than others, requiring educators to come up with individualized plans to catch students up.

In addition to potential educational backsliding, many students will be returning to school with fresh trauma, be it a parent out of work, a death in the family, or months locked away with abusive relatives.

Cassellius said trauma in schools is typically confined to, say, the death of an individual student or teacher, which often affects the entire school community.

“What you have now is every single child, every single family, and every single adult within the community being impacted by this pandemic,” she said. “It’s unbelievable the amount of trauma that we’re going to have.”

What’s more, the virus threatens to exacerbate longstanding social inequalities in a school system already marked by vast gaps in student opportunity and achievement. For example, more than 20 percent of Boston public school students have likely not logged on to one of the district’s main online platforms this month; many of those students were the most disadvantaged, including many English language learners.

“Whatever gaps existed before are going to be even wider, because this crisis has exacerbated the disparities for children in their learning circumstances outside of school,” said Paul Reville,a former state education secretary. “Some children have virtually 24/7 stimulation enrichment, others have virtually nothing.”

Similarly, Jal Mehta, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, said the crisis offers an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how we educate students going forward. For example, since teachers’ in-person time with students will likely be limited, perhaps schools should concentrate on a few subjects in greater depth, while pruning away breadth in others, sort of like a college major.

“You’ve got to treat the contact time as gold,” said Mehta. “You want to think about what can we do in person that we couldn’t do at home, and vice versa.”

Others suggested holding tutorial sessions for low income students over the summer and other vacations — not unlike affluent families who send their kids to math camp. Still others called on schools to develop individual learning plans for all students, creating a more customized approach.

All of this, of course, will take money — lots of it.

“That’s going to be really where the shoe pinches,” said Reville, who warned against regarding a return to the status quo as a victory.

“That would be a gigantic wasted opportunity.”