Archives for category: Massachusetts

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.

Once upon a time, long ago, a man named Jonah Edelman founded a group called Stand for Children. Edelman had instant credibility because he was the son of civil rights leader Marion Wright Edelman.

Somewhere, somehow, around 2009, Stand for Children decided to change its focus. So it became a grantee of the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation,  and an advocate for charter schools, high-stakes testing and test-based teacher evaluation. Gates and other billionaires gave millions to Stand to act as a pass-through.

Stand was active in Illinois, fighting against the Chicago Teachers Union. It funded pro-charter candidates in local elections such as Nashville. It was active in Massachusetts, trying to pass a referendum in 2016 to lift the state limit on charter school expansion. That referendum failed.

But, reports U Mass professor Maurice Cunningham, the money people in Massachusetts shut off the spigot, and Stand for Children is leaving, perhaps for another assignment.

Cunningham is a specialist in tracking Dark Money and the ways that the elites are undermining democracy.

What we learn from this tale is that there is no “reform movement.” It has no grassroots. It is a phenomenon of wealthy elites trying to buy public policy.

 

 

 

 



 

Chris Hendricks, State Representative for the 11th Bristol District in Massachusetts, explains why he opposed a deal to open a second campus for a charter school in New Bedford. 

He writes:

THE PROPOSED charter school expansion plan crafted by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Alma del Mar charter school, and state education Commissioner Jeff Riley earlier this year was simply too risky for New Bedford. After reading the memorandum of understanding (MOU), which became public in March of 2019, I saw this as a bad deal.

This plan was a perceived as a compromise, which would have allowed Alma, which already operates a charter school in New Bedford, to open a second school with 450 seats, instead of its sought-after 1,188 seats. New Bedford, in turn, would have to provide Alma with a school building, free of charge. This new charter school, Alma II, would enroll children from the adjacent neighborhood only, as opposed to enrolling through the citywide lottery, which state law currently requires. If this proposal fell apart, the state education commissioner would grant Alma 594 seats through the traditional enrollment system and New Bedford would not be required to give a school building to Alma.

This is one of the strangest deals ever.

Under this agreement, a student living in the proposed neighborhood zone would, by default, be assigned to the charter school. That fact, alone, is jaw-dropping. But it gets worse. According to the MOU, no student would be guaranteed the option of going to a public school. Instead, all requests to attend a public school would require “the approval of the [New Bedford Public Schools] Superintendent.” In what world is it acceptable to tell a child they have to go to a privately-run charter school?

The MOU also mandates that the superintendent consider “Alma’s target enrollment and growth plan” when pondering a student’s request to attend a public school. Call me crazy, but I would prefer that the superintendent consider the interests of the child, not the interests of a privately-run charter school. Sadly, the MOU says nothing about what’s best for the child when considering requests to attend a public school. The superintendent can only consider what’s best for Alma II. Can you imagine the superintendent telling a child they have to go to a charter school because Alma II’s “plan” depends on it? Is this how we want New Bedford managing the education of our public school students?

No “waiting list” at Alma II. Just a promise that it takes the place of the public school.

Charter school giveaway alert!

 

In my new book, Slaying Goliath, I focus on heroes of the Resistance. One of them is Professor Maurice Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts. He is a professor of politics and a blogger who believes in “follow the money.” His relentless pursuit of Dark Money in the Massachusetts charter referendum of 2016 (where voters overwhelmingly rejected charter expansion) led to the demise of the billionaire-funded front group called “Families for Excellent Schools.” It so happened that the “families” were billionaires who never set foot in a public school and never will.

In this post, Cunningham describes his fruitless effort to get a media outlet to acknowledge that the “parent group” it featured was Walton-funded.

Back on June 10 Masslive.com ran an editorial titled Meet the Newest Education Union: Parents which turned out not to be about education or unions at all but about the WalMart-heir front Massachusetts Parents United of Arkansas.  Helpful as always I sent an op-ed to Masslive setting the record straight but they paid no attention. Oh well. You can read the op-ed below.

It surprises me how little most media care about writing the basic facts about corporate “education reform” groups like MPU of AK, which would be non-existent without the millions of dollars poured in by the Waltons. The editorial board can take any position on issues they wish but it doesn’t excuse them from not informing their readers about who is funding and thus controlling the privatization fronts. Are they just not curious? I can’t imagine the motto “We don’t ask too many questions” would look good on the masthead. Is “follow the money” an elective in journalism school that got axed due to budget cuts?  Is it not news that state education policy is being hijacked by family of billionaires? Is it still not news that the billionaires are from Arkansas?

If you’re from western Massachusetts, ask Masslive yourself, and feel free to pass along my Letter to Massachusetts Education Reporters which has six reasons why reporters should report on who is behind front groups with tantalizing names like Massachusetts Parents United, Educators for Excellence, and Democrats for Education Reform.

Cunningham says “Dark Money never sleeps.”

Any Group funded by the Waltons or other billionaires is by definition “inauthentic.”

Cunningham hates hypocrisy.

So do I.

Citizens for Public Schools needs you now to stand up for public schools in Massachusetts.

mail

Three ways you can stand up and speak out for public education today!

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 6.53.46 AM

Take a few minutes today to raise your voice about these three important issues for our schools.

1) Less Testing, More Learning
Citizens for Public Schools members will testify at a public hearing before the Joint Education Committee Monday in favor of a moratorium on the high-stakes uses of standardized testing and other crucial reforms to improve assessment in the Commonwealth.
You can make a difference by asking your legislators to support five bills to reform and improve state assessment practices. Collectively, they would: stop the high stakes uses of standardized test results, establish a grant program to develop alternatives to high-stakes standardized testing, inform parents about their rights vis a vis state testing, allow local districts to determine graduation requirements, and make other improvements.
Read more about CPS’s priority education legislation here.
ACT TODAY! #StandUpForPublicEducation and ask your legislators to testify in support of these bills at Monday’s Joint Education Committee hearing, 10am, Room A-1. And then, spread the word. Thank you. (Email us if you would like to testify or submit written testimony to the committee.)
2) Fund Our Future
Thanks to all of you, our message about the urgent need to update the state school funding formula is getting through and resonating! A recent poll found 60% of voters believe our schools are not adequately funded, and nearly 60% are willing to pay more in taxes to fix funding disparities.
And today, parents are filing a lawsuit naming four state education officials for “violating the civil rights of low-income, black, and Latino students by failing to provide them with the same quality of education as their mostly white affluent peers.” (CPS is a member of the Council for Fair School Finance, backing the lawsuit.)
Now’s the time to keep up the pressure on legislators to pass urgently needed education funding legislation!
Contact your state senator and representative to support the PROMISE and CHERISH public education funding bills. Click below to find out if your legislators support the bills, then call to thank them or urge them to take a stand. Urge them to contact the appropriate committee chairs and express their support of these two crucial bills!
3) Keep Play in our Kindergarten Classrooms
A courageous group of Brookline kindergarten teachers are speaking out about program and curriculum practices, implemented without meaningful educator input, causing “everlasting negative impact” on their young students’ social-emotional well-being. In their letter, they say kids need play-based learning, not only stressful academic blocks that aren’t developmentally appropriate, create anxiety and hamper the joy of learning. Watch a video of their public comment here. Click the button below to sign a letter from a group of Brookline parents supporting the kindergarten teachers, and don’t forget to mention that you’re a CPS member in the comments! (You don’t have to be from Brookline to sign.)