Inequality is for Winners

I talk to Tom Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, about the Democrats’ break up with the working class and why education can’t save us…

listen liberalEduShyster: Your recent book, Listen, Liberal argues that Democrats are no longer the party of the working class, which now seems to have some, well, data behind it.

Tom Frank: The Democrats are now a party of the professional class: affluent, white-collar professionals. They themselves say this all the time; they talk about the professional class as being their constituency. But we don’t often try to put the pieces together and try to figure out, well what does it mean to be a party of the professional class vs. the working class? One thing it means is that inequality is seen as the natural order of things. In fact, professionals believe in inequality. They think of inequality as totally fair and the way things should be, and they think that because they themselves are the winners in the great inequality sweepstakes. Continue reading →

What Went Down in Massachusetts

Image result for marty walsh save our public schools ma

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh with parent organizer Malikka Williams.

Why the campaign to lift the Massachusetts charter cap went down in flames…

We were motoring around when the ad came on. It was one of those golden fall afternoons we’ve had a string of lately, the foliage suspended in a globally-warmed cocoon of brilliance, and suddenly there he was: Boston’s mayor Marty Walsh. Or as he pronounces it, *maeh.* Even with the mostly missing ‘r’s,’ his message was unmistakable: Question 2, the proposal to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, was deeply misguided. And he didn’t just mean bad for Boston, he meant bad for the whole state, making an already broken school funding system worse. *What were they thinking by going to the ballot?* my husband asked. Actually he said *What were they !@#$% thinking?* And for once I didn’t chide him for swearing.

I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By election day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters. Continue reading →

Boston Parent: Why I’m voting No on 2—and you should too

Boston parent Lisa Martin was determined to keep her son from attending the Boston Public Schools, but now she’s urging parents to vote against Question 2. What changed her mind?

lisaBy Lisa Martin
Many people have asked me why I am voting no on Question 2.  The answer is both simple and complex. I believe that all children are entitled to a quality education, and no child is entitled to a better education at the expense of another. I feel compelled to share my perspective because my son has been a student in both charter and district schools, and I’ve worked in both. I can recall thinking that there was absolutely no way my son would ever attend Boston Public Schools.  No matter what it took, I was determined that he would attend a charter, a private school, or attend a suburban school through METCO.  I remember racing around with friends to drop off applications at  every charter school that admitted kids starting at K1.  I attended the lotteries of several schools and prayed that my son was one of the lucky few plucked from a lottery of hundreds of wishful families.  It felt hopeless but finally we hit the lottery.  I was ecstatic for about 10 seconds.  Then I realized that my friend’s son hadn’t been selected.  It didn’t seem fair.   Continue reading →

Families for Excellent Trains

The campaign to lift the charter school cap in Massachusetts goes off the tracks…

Around the 20 minute mark of Arne Duncan’s talk, I began to choke. I’d made it through Duncan’s endorsement of Question Two, the ballot initiative to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts, and the occasion for last week’s *Education Party* thrown by Democrats for Education Reform. It was when duncanDuncan started to talk about the need for school reformers to genuinely engage parents and families—*I’m not talking about astro-turf*—that the dryly bitter chuckling sound I’d been making escalated into something more profound. You see, that very morning, the Boston Globe had run an expose on the *family* at the very center of Question 2: a husband/wife team of GOP operatives who have orchestrated seemingly every aspect of the campaign.

There are other families involved, of course. Like Republican philanthropists Seth Klarman and Joanna Jacobson, whose largesse got the multi-pronged effort to lift the charter cap rolling, and who are referred to in the trove of internal emails the Globe made public as Klarman and JJ. And there is Families for Excellent Schools, whose CEO, Jeremiah Kittredge, is CC’d on all of the emails, along with a small army of lobbyists, PR hacks and the heads of a handful of Boston charter schools. An exemplar of the new *parent power,* FES was transplanted here from NYC, thanks to the aforementioned largesse of the aforementioned families, to marshall an army of parents behind the effort to lift the charter cap. The group quickly became known for such innovative marshalling techniques as automatically enrolling parents whose kids attended Boston charter schools in the parent army. Continue reading →

Miss Information

I talk to Tracy Novick about what Question 2 actually says, and what’s behind the Massachusetts school committee rebellion…

EduShyster: I thought we could start out with a little TV viewing. Here’s one of the latest spots for the campaign to lift the charter school cap in Massachusetts, and it features none other than our own governor, Charlie Baker.

The spot is just 30 seconds long, but my sense of confusion persisted long after that. The Governor doesn’t seem to be talking about the same ballot question that I’m helpfully linking to here.

Tracy Novick: It is not accurate to say that Question Two is only about nine cities. Right now, when the state considers new charter schools, priority goes to school districts in the lowest 10% of performance. But under the ballot question, the district performance doesn’t even have to be considered unless the state gets more than 12 applications in a year. The largest number of schools the state has actually chartered in a year date back to the mid 90’s, when they chose six or seven in a year. Having more than 12 applications isn’t likely. That means the charters really could go anywhere. Question Two actually replaces a system where some of those nine cities are first in line with one where most of the time they won’t be.  Continue reading →