Bernie Sanders Opposes Question 2

Senator Sanders joins NoOn2 - promoted by hesterprynne

This summer I mentioned that I was surprised that Bernie Sanders hadn’t opposed Question 2. After all, the question is quintessence of corporate overreach. I’m happy to report that Senator Sanders has waded into Massachusetts politics and formally opposed Question 2.

–Mark

Here’s the press release:

Sanders Stands Up for Public Schools in Massachusetts

October 31, 2016
Michael Briggs (802) 233-8653

BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont called Monday for the defeat of a Massachusetts ballot initiative backed by Wall Street that would drain taxpayer dollars from public schools and allow12 new or expanded charter schools per year.

Hedge fund managers and other backers of Question 2 have funneled millions of dollars into television advertising on one of the most expensive ballot initiatives this year.

“Wall Street must not be allowed to hijack public education in Massachusetts. We must defeat Massachusetts Ballot Question 2. This is Wall Street’s attempt to line their own pockets while draining resources away from public education at the expense of low-income, special education students and English language learners,” Sanders said.

Charter schools in Massachusetts already siphon $450 million away from public education. The hedge funds and corporate backers of Question 2 would gain an additional $1 billion over the next 10 years if Question 2 passes.


“The goal of public education is to educate every child and that is why teachers and 200 elected school boards and city councils in Massachusetts oppose Question 2. Question 2 must be defeated,” Sanders said.

Nationwide, $500 billion is spent on K-12 public education. Wall Street wants to tap into that funding. The Massachusetts proposal would take a billion dollars away from local public schools and give it to privately-run charters that are not doing enough to educate all students equally.

Studies have shown that charter schools enroll fewer special education students and pupils learning English not deemed to be “profitable.”



Discuss

91 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. That's great, but...

    …officials from other states should probably be extremely cautious about wading into state politics of states other than their own.

    • He's a former presidential candidate

      with a reputation for fighting corporatizing and billionarizing. Charter schools are a national issue played out at the state and local level.

      And why should officials from other states be extremely cautious about wading into state politics?

      • Hard to resolve definitely

        Christopher has a point though. I’m pretty sure none of us care what Mark Kirk thinks about Question 2.

      • Because...

        …it’s way too easy to trigger a backlash against “meddling outsiders”.

        • The problem is not that Bernie is a meddling outsider. The problem is he’s clueless on this problem.

          If the Boston district schools had a plan to improve education outcomes, then maybe parents in Boston would not be as desperate to seek placement in charters.

          • Whatever BPS's plan would be

            I don’t think taking tens of millions of dollars away from them will help them accomplish it.

            How will increasing the cap help? If there are 40 charters still available, why do we need to lift the cap for ever? Why have 200 school committees voted to oppose the question? Boston isn’t the be all and end all. Why does the rest of the state have to live with the parochial interests of our state capital?

            • Question 2 isn't just about lifting the cap.

              And it’s not just about the parochial interests of Boston. This language gives relatively unfettered reign to add charter schools. Up to 12 new charters or expansions per year. They need to fix the governance of these schools before we lift the cap. The Globe had a great article on Monday about how Charters “lag” in enrolling ESL kids. What a shock. They also lag in adhering to special education law. I know – because I was tossed out of one for daring to ask if they had convene a hearing (per state law) to determine whether the behaviors being exhibited by a young boy were connected to his disability before they suspended him for the umpteenth time. They need to be held accountable like any other school, and I don’t want to hear about innovations. It’s an old rap that isn’t supportable by anything resembling evidence. There is a Senate bill that could address some of the concerns, but the venture capitalists and Wall Street denizens pushing for Charters wants the whole nut. I say – let’s not give it to them.

              • > They need to fix the governance of these schools before we lift the cap.

                What about the governance of the district schools? A lot of the problems observed with district schools could be a consequence of governance as well.

                • Most local district schools have elected school committees

                  The taxpayers have the right to vote against their school committee. There’s no such governance with a charter, whose board and trustees are not elected by the taxpayers. If they’re using tax dollars – they ought to be accountable to somebody, right? Right now – they’re not. And when parents want to address a matter, it falls on deaf ears – because there’s no accountability.

  2. Good on ya, Bernie!

    Thanks for endorsing No On 2!

    Seriously, charter school operators can sometimes get the wrong mindset for education. Mystic Valley Regional Charter school is penalizing teachers for switching schools during summer break and making them sign “non-compete” agreements. Crazy stuff that has no place in public education. And Question 2 would mean more crazy stuff.

    Stephen Tassinari [a teacher] says he was charged $4,900 in damages after accepting a position in the Stoneham Public Schools and resigning from Mystic Valley in July.
    ..snip…
    The Mystic Valley teacher contract for 2016-17 also includes what is effectively a non-compete clause. Between the date the contract is signed and the end of the 2016-17 school year, employees are not allowed to be associated with schools in six communities that send students to Mystic Valley, even if the contract has been terminated.
    Mystic Valley employees cannot work at, or have any involvement with, public and private schools in Malden, Everett, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham or Wakefield.

    Can’t have any involvement with? Can’t share lesson ideas? I’ve had some powerful professional development working in Math Circles with teachers from other schools. And I know plenty of teachers who coach athletic teams at other schools, which it’s a good benefit to those kids who enjoy athletics. This charter school contract is crazy, and I hope Bernie’s statement helps more of his supporters in Mass join the fight against Question 2.

    • Can’t have any involvement?

      But I thought the idea of a charter was for that school to try new things that might help the public schools?

      • As likely as not

        That will be precisely the reason that the non-compete is unenforceable as against public policy.

        • The idea WAS for charters to be laboratories, and for district schools to adopt ideas from charters.

          The reality? District schools are criticizing charters at any opportunity, and are proudly rejecting any educational idea that the charters deigned to implement. It is all-out war, to who’s been paying attention.

          Maybe, originally, this was all envisioned to be a great collaboration, where everybody played friends and picked what was best from the other.

          Instead, it’s been cutthroat competition – more like character assassination, really.

          • One of the last times I got

            into an exchange with you I lost my temper. I’m trying not to do so here.

            You are ignorantly spouting industry talking points. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

            The idea WAS for charters to be laboratories, and for district schools to adopt ideas from charters.

            That was one idea. Fortunately, our school systems can’t force teachers to work lots of overtime without extra pay to raise test scores. That’s one charter school innovation. Fortunately, most public schools don’t suspend kids at the rate some charters do with their innovation called “no excuses discipline.” Fortunately, we don’t lose 30-50% of our students between grades 9 and 12. Fortunately, we aren’t all test prep factories, though many urban districts have become such.

            This isn’t an anti-charter question. It’s an anti-uncontrolled proliferation question.

            • …What industry talking points are you talking about? Hello!!! The “industry” does not care about charters.

              Boston parents, on the other hand, care. I used to be on the fence about this ballot question until I saw the Suffolk polling numbers made public about a week ago.

              Just look at page 13: The overall poll indicates support at 45-45% for the Charter question. But whites oppose it 48-43%, while minorities support it a whopping 58-33%.

              Also look at the distribution across the states (p 40). Contrary to conventional wisdom, suburban Mass is split 45-46% on charters. It is rural Mass which opposes charters 52-43%. Urban Mass supports charters 46-42%. Suffolk County, in particular, including Boston (p 13), supports charters 48-39%.

              So, what is going on with the charters ballot question? Simply, Boston has had enough of its bad district schools. Minorities also have had enough of district schools, and desperately want more charters.

              Whoever on BMG wishes to oppose the will and the need of Boston on this, go ahead. But don’t kid yourseves, it is not a ‘progressive’ position. Rather, it is a position in defense of an untenable status quo.

            • Fortunately

              There is a charter school in my neighborhood that is very popular indeeed, and not necessarily with the white, native-English speaking families, and I don’t think that it is much of a secret that “no excuses discipline” might be the single most important factor that drives its popularity. Hello, welcome, congratulations for winning the lottery to get here, now earn your keep, or leave.

              I’m not entirely sure when it was decided that everyone had the right to an education, rather than the right to an opportunity for an education, but it strikes me as a rather fundamental mistake, and one that forces urban public schools to attempt to be all things to all people, which is not a thing that can be done.

          • What new ideas?

            Most ideas are kept secret through non-disclosure agreements, and “non-compete” clauses that hamstring educators. They’re trade secrets as far as the charter industry is concerned. Profit before kids.

            But don’t believe me — check out the DESE database of charter innovations. The newest is six years old, and the rest were long ago implemented in public schools.

            sabutai   @   Wed 2 Nov 7:30 PM
            • The idea of whole class instruction, for example; or of using a high performing curriculum aligned between subjects; or of maintaining stricter discipline to minimize distractions; etc.

              It’s the first time I hear that “most” education ideas are kept secret. Rather, all these schools seek to proselytize and make converts to their education philosophy, whatever it may be. And book shelves are heavy with educational studies and ideas.

              Why would there be non-disclosure or non-compete agreements even allowed in charter schools? This is something the Legislature could fix in a jiff, if it’s found to be the case.

              • Whole class instruction is a very, very, very old idea. As in 1700s old. The modern idea is teaching each student in a way that reflects his/her talents and skills. Strict discipline? Also a 1700s idea. Punish and berate the children until they comply. What you present as the charter industry’s best ideas are ones that literally predate the country.

                sabutai   @   Thu 3 Nov 8:13 PM
  3. GIVE 'EM HELL, BERNIE !

    Every true progressive in the Bay State is proud of you for having the integrity and courage to speak out for public education.

    Fred Rich LaRiccia

  4. Hey Bernie, read the Bay State Banner editorial: Vote ‘yes’ for better education opportunities!

    • Interesting

      n/t

    • That's a confusing editorial

      You should never say a No vote is a Yes vote, that’s what hurt the anti-casino referendum.

    • Wow

      That editorial is a textbook example of poor reasoning. “Some charter schools are good, so vote for more charters! Here’s an example of good charters!”

      Heck, some Space Shuttles were workhorses (Discovery), but there’s a reason we don’t build them anymore. We can’t afford to help some kids succeed.

      sabutai   @   Tue 1 Nov 7:12 PM
      • On the contrary – the editorial hits the nail on the head. How many times have we heard from district school supporters that the poor performance is the students’ fault?

        “Continued excuses for failure in the academic outcomes from public schools are unacceptable. Charter schools like Brooke indicate that educational success is possible. Brooke achievements create a challenge to public school systems.” – says the editorial.

        Here’s the problem: (A) District schools refuse to adopt strategies that make charters successful (B) District school officials offer no plan to improve outcomes in their own schools, but keep chastising charters.

        Add to this (C) too many Boston parents are sick and tired of excuses, and are not willing to wait years for district schools to improve: they want improvements NOW!

        Put all these together, and it’s no surprise that the Bay State Banner editorializes in support of Question 2.

        • Horse feathers

          No, no, no, a thousand times no.

          Charter schools achieve a substantial portion of their apparent gains by simply manipulating the numbers — such as by either not admitting or by immediately expelling low-performing students. It is easy for a school to look great if it only accepts students who excel at testing.

          Parents of ANY special needs child should celebrate the reality that “District schools refuse to adopt strategies that make charters successful” — if public schools followed the model of Charter schools, those special needs children would be out on the street with nowhere to go.

          We know, from decades of experience, that good public school performance correlates very strongly with prosperity — not just school funding, but prosperous families living in prosperous communities.

          The most effective way to improve the performance of our worst public schools is to increase the prosperity of the communities that surround them and nurture the students that attend them.

          Massachusetts has a very long history of talking a good talk about racial and ethnic discrimination while making sure that white neighborhoods and towns preserve and expand their advantages. Question 2, and the charter school movement that promotes it, doubles down on that already bleak and destructive strategy.

          Put all this together, and those who care about living in a civilized state that recognizes the importance of educating ALL of its children will vote “NO” on 2, and will find ways to decrease rather than increase the wealth disparity that is already so destructive in Massachusetts.

          • How do you know a child will excel at testing...

            …when no charter in the state admits by testing, unlike Boston Latin and the other exam schools?

            • You expel them afterwards

              Read the many narratives about what actually happens.

              Students who do poorly at standardized tests do not stay in charter schools long, even if they do manage to slip past the admissions barriers.

              • You DO understand...

                …that the barrier is a lottery?

                • > Parents of ANY special needs child should celebrate the reality that “District schools refuse to adopt strategies that make charters successful” — if public schools followed the model of Charter schools, those special needs children would be out on the street with nowhere to go.

                  I am a parent of a special needs child. …That’s the problem with these big pronouncements, “parents of ANY special needs child” this and that. By definition, special needs are special, and are addressed in special ways – and it could be in some circumstances that they are better addressed by the type of program, curriculum, support provided in a charter rather than a district school.

                  • Me too

                    I, too, am a parent of a special-needs child. I am therefore well aware of the plethora of programs and process imposed by state law on public schools regarding services provided to each child. I am also aware of the significant cost factors imposed on schools.

                    Data from multiple sources like this show that charter schools significantly underserve special-needs children. Your argument about the uniqueness of each such child is irrelevant to the reality of what charter schools actually do.

                  • Suspend, suspend, expel

                    Special needs kids often struggle in a “zero tolerance” environment. And let’s face it – these kids cost money and resources. The charters have a wonderful strategy for that – suspend, suspect and expel. I’d love to see a study not just on the special ed kids that are still in the charter school – but all the ones they booted out, too. Otherwise, it’s only half the story.

  5. Proud to vote no on 2

    Especially as a future educator!

    • Don’t be proud, J.

      This is not (or should not be) about you being a future educator. This is (or should be) about what’s best for the students.

      • Another false dichotomy

        This IS about what’s best for ALL the students of Massachusetts.

        Your comment sounds like yet another thinly-disguised attack on those who chose to become educators. Charter schools are, if anything, more corrupt and more susceptible to all the worst abuses of private industry than public schools.

        The premise that expanding charter schools will somehow help students is pure right-wing malarky. It has approximately as much validity as the Fox News claim of being “fair and balanced”.

        • What false dichotomy? District school educators oppose the charters (no surprise there, because they are out-competed by them). And voters in a district like Boston that has reached the charter limit, support charters.

          So… you can vote YES or NO! It’s only a false dichotomy if you wish the water to be muddled!

          Do you really think if parents were satisfied with their Boston district neighborhood school that we’d have these waiting lists for charters?

          Whichever way you put it, Boston district schools have failed:
          - Research shows charters outperform them
          - We know Boston district schools refuse to adopt any improvements learned from the charters who outperform them
          - Parents flock to charter waiting lists, while district schools stay empty

          • Not worth a rebuttal

            This argument is not worth a rebuttal. You simply assert talking points that have been addressed (and rejected) at length here, and then re-assert the premise you started with.

          • Boston district schools have failed

            Okay, so why not fix that problem? Opening charter schools does not repair a failed school. It’s akin to having a fire in the kitchen so one moves to the dining room. The fire still burns and eventually, the house burns down.

      • about as bass ackwards as can be gotten without the assistance of machinery...

        Don’t be proud, J.

        This is not (or should not be) about you being a future educator. This is (or should be) about what’s best for the students

        How in the bluest fuck can a student have anything if he/she doesn’t have a committed and engaged teacher? This is, flat out, the MOST EGREGIOUSLY STUPID statement ever made at BMG. Ever. EBIII at his worst never said anything this stupid.

        It is completely around the bend to purport to defend students by playing a vicious offense against teachers. By hamstringing teachers, you cripple the student you purport to defend.

        • Sure, it’s ‘bass ackwards’, ‘egregiously stupid’. etc. Rather than respond with arguments, the insults flow.

          • If it's egregiously stupid, it's not a valid argument...

            Sure, it’s ‘bass ackwards’, ‘egregiously stupid’. etc. Rather than respond with arguments, the insults flow.

            Here is my response to your ‘argument’, which I laid out previously:

            A teacher, without a student is just an unemployed teacher. A student, without a teacher, is a lost soul. IF this is really ‘about what’s best for the students’ you’re doing it poorly if you don’t consider first what’s best for the teachers and you’re doing it in the most bass ackwards way if you actually and actively attack teachers and/or would-be teachers. The stupid gets deeper when you attempt to attack teachers on behalf of the students. Derp.

            If you care about the students you are to be an ally of the teacher, who is not just on the very front lines of addressing the students needs, the ARE the front lines. Derp. The best schools in the state, from kindergarten on up to MIT are the best for two reasons: they have the best teachers and they treat them well. The worst schools have some of the best teachers, but who are treated like dirt. That you would treat them worse and call yourself an advocate for students is straight up stupid.

            • Jesus H. Christ

              I object to this over the top rhetoric. Can’t you reply without insults?

              • What's the 'H" stand for...?

                I object to this over the top rhetoric. Can’t you reply without insults?

                I reply with descriptions of what I see. In this instance I see an ‘argument’ about teaching that is an absolute wrong in a painfully simpleminded way. If the fellow on the ‘other side’ of this argument objects to being told his arguments are stupid, he should first refrain from making stupid arguments, rather than rely upon me to treat his understanding with kid gloves.

                • This is not constructive

                  You’re certainly within your rights to call “it’s about the student” a stupid argument, but we don’t really get anywhere if one side calls the other stupid and leaves it at that, do we?

                  Question 2 (which I oppose) is going to pass, and it’s going to pass by a wide margin. Because the other side is winning the argument.

                  And all we can offer is “You’re stupid.”?

                  • but I did not...

                    You’re certainly within your rights to call “it’s about the student” a stupid argument, but we don’t really get anywhere if one side calls the other stupid and leaves it at that, do we?

                    .. ‘leave it at that’, did I? No. I told him what was wrong with his argument and I told him how to correct it. I said, straight out “If you care about the students you are to be an ally of the teacher.” This is the next step for him, should he care to take it, in his quest to be an advocate for students. (I suppose the even better step would be for him to attempt to become a teacher himself…)

                    But I most assuredly did not simply call his argument stupid, only to be left at that.

                  • More evidence

                    If question 2 passes (and I hope it does not), it will not be because the proponents have made a better argument.

                    It will instead be because too many voters — even here in “liberal” Massachusetts” — are increasingly unwilling to allow facts, rationality, and logic to dissuade them from their biases and prejudices. This is especially so in issues like this where one side freely and egregiously lies in order to pander to those prejudices — and where our media have become completely ineffective at exposing those lies.

                    Our democracy depends on a contract, observed by all parties, that:

                    1. Voters are willing and able to engage issues in informed, substantive, and at least semi-rational ways.
                    2. Participants on all sides agree that when logic and facts point to a specific outcome for an issue, then government policy should reflect that reality.
                    3. Participants that are shown to flagrantly misrepresent the facts, rationality, and logic of an issue are marginalized and ignored.
                    4. Voters on all sides accept and respect the legitimacy of the electoral process itself.

                    In my view, we are in this cycle systemically shredding all four of these bedrock principles. The GOP has been doing this for decades — sorry, that’s just the truth, going all the way back at least as far as Ronald Reagan’s “voodoo economics”. It is not surprising, then, that the result is totally dysfunctional.

                    When “winning” an argument is more important than the facts of that argument, then calling the “winning” side “stupid” is not any worse than characterizing it as “ignorant”, “incompetent”, “irrational” or any of a long list of other negative characterizations that come to mind.

                    The attack on jconway to which petr is responding is a baseless ad hominem attack founded on nothing but the bias and prejudice of its proponent. Although I try to avoid words like “stupid” in my own commentary (sometimes I can’t help myself), I think the response is well within the envelope implied by the offensive and insulting attack on teachers.

                    • I leave it to jconway whether he was attacked

                      But as to the rest of your comment … seriously? We’re shredding truth, and that’s why question 2 will pass?

                    • Sure looks like it to me

                      Whether it’s misleading information about the relationship of the Q2 proponents to the charter school industry, or flagrantly cherry-picked “data” about charter school performance, or utterly demolished claims about privatization, it looks to me as though the Q2 proponents are in fact simply shredding the truth.

                      The shredder-in-Chief is, of course, Donald Trump. The rest of the GOP seems to be doing the best to emulate his example.

                      Yes, we are shredding the truth. I hope that Q2 fails. If it passes, it will not be because the “winning” arguments were true or accurate.

                    • I disagree, a little

                      I am not opposed to charters, within some degree of reason. If parents in an “urban” really want to send their kids to a school where the kids know that, if they are disruptive or don’t work hard, they are gone, who am I to tell them otherwise. I pay for parochial high school for similar reasons. If public schools want those kids back, then they can do something to convince the parents that the district school is better.

                      Nevertheless, I am opposed to Question 2 because it is unlimited, and therefore is unreasonable. At some point, charters do drain the school district of funds, and therefore could create a local death spiral for public schools.

                      That isn’t the ground upon which this is being fought though. The phrasing of the question is devilishly clever, because it allows proponents to argue “school choice” which is a winner, 100 times out of 100. In my view, opponents didn’t really make any effort to resist this obvious trap, and instead walked willingly right in.

                      Opponents have made their case against “charters,” generally, rather than against “unlimited” charters, or whatever other detail of the Question is bad. Unregulated and unaccountable, or something.

                      I suspect that the question will pass, though I hope not. But if it does, it will be as much because of tactical decisions by opponents as it is because of a generalized embrace of irrationality by the voters.

                      The fact is that charters have already been established, and are widely viewed positively. Based on what I have seen, the “No on 2″ organization have willingly made the question a referendum on charters, generally. To the extent that the voting public sees the question thus, it will lose.

                    • It's very hard to keep the

                      question precise. Voters really don’t understand the deeper issues. We’re seeing a turning point in charter school policy. It’s happening in other states where proliferation has led to scandal after scandal.

                      Question 2 people have mostly lied about their question, claiming that it will bring more money to public schools and that charter schools don’t take money from charter schools.

                      I’m not opposed to charter schools in concept, but there needs to be a policy objective. “Choice” is not an objective, it’s a means. Most of the rationales for charter schools have failed to pan out. What is the goal for charter schools? There needs to be a real conversation. This question isn’t it.

                    • Politics is a profession

                      I very much hope kbusch is not reading this thread, because I will now say that T as eam No did a poor job framing the issue in the ballot question.

                      The ads and materials that I have seen have been arguing about whether charters are good or bad. It may be that the ones invested in fighting a fight on the issue are the ones that have always opposed charters, period. Maybe they don’t want to concede the point in general.

                      But, as mentioned above, in my own neighborhood there is a successful charter, and so an argument that charters are universally bad, which is what we have been getting, can be easily dismissed.

                      Its unfortunate, because this ballot question seems like a very large can of worms.

                    • Sounds like a good argument...

                      …against direct democracy in principle.

                    • Only if one does not consider

                      the poo-parade that is our Great and General Court, and the brigade of boot-licking toadies that are the caucus of its majority party.

                    • The reason they say...

                      …that the question will bring money to public schools is because the charters see themselves as public schools, so by their logic money that comes to charters comes to public.

      • It's about both

        Yes I am looking forward to the solidarity of having a union backing me up, and tenure, but I am mostly looking forward to teaching either at my alma mater CRLS or teaching in another urban school setting like BPS or Chelsea. And charters will lead to district level cuts to those systems, even if individual charter schools and their teachers and students are doing a good job.

        I am applying to several charters as well and have no objection to teaching in one, but I wouldn’t want the school I teach at to take funds from another at risk school, which is what the current formula allows. The Senate bill was good, the charter proponents should’ve said yes to it. They will hopefully come back to the bargaining table after we defeat Question 2.

        • This is not – again – or should not be about solidarity to the teaching union. The union is there to protect its own interests, at the end of the day – which is fine by me, but this vote is about what is best for the students.

          And polling data indicates that union support goes against the preference of Boston parents, and against the preference of minority voters – incidentally, the voter categories most hurt by Boston’s bad district schools.

          I have nothing against the unions, but if it comes to pick between them and the interests of the students, it’s quite clear what I have to pick.

          • Why is this not the case worldwide?

            I hear it every time on this subject, that the teachers in a union only care about themselves, never the children or education. Why is this not true worldwide? ? If so, Finland, as an example (there are many, many more) would have the worst outcome for students.

            • great point

              Why is it that our education “experts” constantly tell us that 1) our public schools are terrible when compared to other countries and, 2) the solution is to adopt policies that none of the more successful countries use?
              Shouldn’t we be trying to to learn from our successful competitors?

              • The underlying reasons

                …are always the same. It’s a class war between the haves and the have nots. The problem we see in the USA is that the have nots are not united. They are pitted against each other.

          • Andre, your arguments are

            so ignorant they take more time to rebut them than they are worth.

            Teachers unions do not just think about themselves. We are also Massachusetts citizens. We think about kids and communities. Many of the time our interests overlap. Part of the charter school movement was intended to pressure public schools to pay teachers less. Unions interfere with the initiatives of policy-makers because we want to get paid for extra work. Policy-makers don’t necessarily make good policy; without union opposition, we’d be blowing in the wind of capricious policy change. Besides, the unions are the only organized opposition to this question. There are no other organizations as organized as we are on this question. The Question 2, proposed and written by billionaires, has all kinds of money behind it.

            • This is what I don't get

              The Question 2, proposed and written by billionaires, has all kinds of money behind it.

              Why is that?

              • Oh, that's easy!

                People with all kinds of money want MORE money. They are keenly interested in return on investment, tax shelters, avoiding risk. We see it all the time. To a simple man like me, it does not make sense that anyone with over two million dollars in liquid assets would worry about such things, much less anyone with tens or hundreds of millions, or billions, but they do.

                What could be a more safe and secure investment than owning a building that is rented by a charter school? Recessions do not affect school attendance. Kids have to go to school. Payment comes from taxpayers and people have to pay their taxes. This is one key reason why the wealthy class, the rent-seekers, the rentiers, all love the idea of charter schools. Charter schools, if run as some would have it, are a guaranteed cash cow for any investment portfolio.

                • That's it?

                  The entire charter school movement is to get real estate tenanted by a steady paying tenant? There must be more to it than that.

                  For one thing, those that occupy space that is a closed public school likely pay rent to the school district. If the property is private property– at least here in Central MA– the schools have been sited on rather marginal property, like brownfields. I don’t think that they are exempt from building code requirements for schools, which means that the construction costs are significant, and what you get is a building that is useful for only one thing. If the charter fails to attract students, or has its charter revoked, that means the building is a white elephant. That seems quite risky to me– and no sure thing.

                  Add to that my personal and professional maxim that having the government as the most important customer is a nice way to get screwed, unless your business is building weapon systems. I was once involved in a case where a construction company did a significant interstate repaving job in a western state, and finished on time and on budget, and should have made a nice profit. But then DoT had to stop payments, because Congress was having one of its budget standoffs. The IRS told him that, notwithstanding the government’s failure to pay, he had accrued the income and owed tax, and eventually the contractor lost everything and the case wound up being litigated between the IRS and DoT. I would also point out the lawyers who do state-appointed work here in Massachusetts– who sometimes are just not paid for months on end, just because.

                  I don’t think the point of charters is to have a get-rich-quick scheme in the real estate market. Better to invest in a good location and rent to Starbucks or something.

                  Nevertheless, there is certainly some mustache-twiddling big money here, and I share jimc’s question of why, precisely, that might be so.

                • right...

                  What could be a more safe and secure investment than owning a building that is rented by a charter school?

                  … because a wonderful source of income is untenanted property requiring complex HVAC in which hundreds of children, some of them impulsive and destructive, are shoved hither and yon eight to nine hours of the day, for only six months of the year, and sits empty otherwise.

              • The short answer...

                The Question 2, proposed and written by billionaires, has all kinds of money behind it.

                Why is that?

                … is just this: many billionaires think they know better. They are, after all, billionaires and thus having been crowned the top of the heap with billions of merit points for all to see they exercise their special brand of noblesse oblige.

                The longer answer is a mix of middling intellect, libertarian fantasy, too much money and even more idle time, as well as the nagging suspicion that they were just plain lucky and, in fact, don’t merit the lavish praise and affection of other billionaires who are in the exact same position… all of which is requiring them to ‘fix’ the education system they either spurned or which spurned them.

                The distance between righteous and self-righteous is inversely related to the size of the bank account. It is for this reason that Gandhi termed one of his seven sins “wealth without work” (and another, related one, which he termed ‘knowledge without character.’)

                • well

                  A charitable way of rephrasing that is that the initiative is funded out of a misplaced sense of improving the community. If you delete the word “misplaced” in that sentence, it describes, charitably, every single person involved in politics in any way. The use or non-use of the word “misplaced” just depends on your politics.

                  But there is a whiff of the evil robber barron here: they don’t do things out of civic obligation, as they have none. Rather, they steal from the community, beat you up, steal your wallet, and then move to a gated community.

                  Washington Post had a story a few years ago on why hedge funds love charter schools in a mustache-twirling way a few years ago, but it doesn’t really answer the question well, I think.

                  Evil reasons to support charter schools:

                  1. Using a tax break designed to encourage investment in inner cities, hedge funds can get tax breaks that allow them to double their money in seven years, in mysterious ways that aren’t explained. That might be so, but unfortunately there is some serious fuzzy math going on there.

                  2. The real estate industry loves charter schools, because they can be packaged with other commercial development such as movie theaters and retail space, thus driving up property values and contributing to gentrification. Also a matter of complaint is that the overall development also gets tax breaks (gasp!).

                  That one strikes me as straight-up BS. The inner-city tax incentives are designed to promote investment in inner cities, and investment tends to make the property more valuable. That’s the whole point.

                  This is the sort of thing that seems to me to come straight from the more silly “Occupy” school of protest: On Monday, a protest to prevent Supermarket from developing a new store in Inner City, because it will contribute to gentrification. On Tuesday, a protest because residents of Inner City live in a “food desert” and cannot buy food other than processed crap.

                  So that leaves the tax-break thing.

                  I still feel like something is missing.

                  • There's the union element

                    But that seems like too long a game.

                  • Sounds like you've lived in Chicago ;)

                    On Monday, a protest to prevent Supermarket from developing a new store in Inner City, because it will contribute to gentrification. On Tuesday, a protest because residents of Inner City live in a “food desert” and cannot buy food other than processed crap.

                  • hmm.. .interesting.

                    A charitable way of rephrasing that is that the initiative is funded out of a misplaced sense of improving the community. If you delete the word “misplaced” in that sentence, it describes, charitably, every single person involved in politics in any way. The use or non-use of the word “misplaced” just depends on your politics.

                    There is a difference in fiat versus finding consensus. Mao, et al, proved that you could not improve community at gunpoint. Many people involved in politics both hear the word ‘no’ far far more often than a billionaire might and are, it seems, more capable of dealing with that sort of refusal… that is, I daresay, a vital part of the process. The notion that having nominally unlimited funds at your disposal entitles you to impose your will upon the world runs counter to the very idea of community itself, never mind any attempts, misguided or no, to improve same…

              • I think there are TWO reasons big

                money is behind charter schools: 1) they believe that the world should be recreated in their own image 2) there is a lot of money to be made in the commodification of education.

                There are charter schools that are founded because people want to offer something not readily available in public schools. Then there are chains and schools that very much seek a profit. We don’t allow for-profit charter schools directly, but we allow them to be managed by educational management organizations that can be for profit.

                The reason for Question 2 is to push the charter school question in liberal Massachusetts to make a statement and to make sure charter schools proliferate so they accrue more power. When they have more schools and more power, they will be able to change the agenda.

          • again...

            The union is there to protect its own interests, at the end of the day – which is fine by me, but this vote is about what is best for the students.

            … How in the world can you so cleanly divorce the “interests” of the teachers from what is “best for the student”? The primary interest of teachers is teaching. The primary interest of the teachers union is to enable teachers to teach. If a given teacher did not have, as his/her primary interest, teaching they would go do something else and the union should encourage them to do so. Furthermore, what is best for students is first and foremost defined by teachers both in the general and in the specific case.

            The atomic unit of education is, in fact, a student and a teacher. You can not have education without, at the least, that relationship.

            And polling data indicates that union support goes against the preference of Boston parents, and against the preference of minority voters – incidentally, the voter categories most hurt by Boston’s bad district schools.

            Having seen parents attempting to lean on teachers and/or administrators because their Princess was confronted with her own limitations or so that Knucklehead Jr can be excused some requirement in order that he may focus on football, I have a more jaundiced eye towards the preference of parents. Teachers often care more about an actual education than the parents do. I wish it were not the case, but in my experience, it is. My experience has, mostly, been in schools and districts that performed well. I can only imagine that in poverty stricken areas the pressure upon a parent is orders of magnitude more intense and so the problem of parental involvement is likely exacerbated

            I have nothing against the unions, but if it comes to pick between them and the interests of the students, it’s quite clear what I have to pick.

            It can’t possible come to that choice. That’s not even a possible option. The way the whole thing works depends upon the interests of the teachers (and their union) aligning with the interests of the students. It is not just the center of the whole thing, it is the whole thing.

            • Here I disagree a bit

              Seems to me that the roll of the teachers union is (1) to see that teachers are paid on a professional scale, and don’t have to go on food stamps as teachers once did; (2) to see that teachers get benefits, including pensions, that are likely to benefit union members; and (3) to protect the jobs of union members.

              That is under various circumstances where that creates a direct conflict of interest with “best for the students.” In my kids’ schools, we occasionally get a crummy teacher, and they usually wind up moving on because parents go to school committee meetings, and tend to make their views known. Those teachers just get moved to another school where parents don’t get in the school committee’s face, but they are still teaching. That’s in part because the union does its job. But it screws kids, somewhere.

              • That's either because your administration

                is too lazy to get rid of the teachers by showing cause or they didn’t get rid of them in the first three years when they can do so for no cause. My high school just let a teacher go at the end of last year. The union couldn’t do anything if it had wanted to. Unions protect teachers. We have to do so by law, but that doesn’t mean they can’t and aren’t gotten rid of. A bigger problem is that many school systems–primarily urban–are victims of the teacher shortage. They start the year without enough qualified teachers and scramble to keep them.

              • ...

                Seems to me that the roll of the teachers union is (1) to see that teachers are paid on a professional scale, and don’t have to go on food stamps as teachers once did; (2) to see that teachers get benefits, including pensions, that are likely to benefit union members; and (3) to protect the jobs of union members.

                The role of any union is twofold: to enjoin collective bargaining in order to resist exploitation and to enable and uphold craftsmanship in the field. For teachers both are important in the context of policymakers (who are most often not teachers) and their eager willingness to treat public education as a political football.

                That is under various circumstances where that creates a direct conflict of interest with “best for the students.” In my kids’ schools, we occasionally get a crummy teacher, and they usually wind up moving on because parents go to school committee meetings, and tend to make their views known.

                I heavily discount the judgement of parents on the competence of teachers. There are a wide variety of dynamic between the teacher and student all of which are hard for onlookers to perceive, and parents are essentially onlookers (and each with a heavy bias). The experience parents have with the teachers is, at best, filtered through the student. In many cases the student might be a good and fine person but unable to judge quality teaching (and why should they be thus able? They are kids.) In other instances the kid might just be a total brat or a complete muppet and the parent is unwilling to accept that the teacher is in the right and the student is not. In all honesty, their is a built in antagonism between non-parental authority figures and young adults that teachers have to navigate. My own children have had teachers that they liked, whom I thought were middling at best. They had teachers they disliked and whom they judged poorly, whom I thought were good… and in fact I often thought the teachers willingness to hold my children to account and to weather the scorn of students is part of what made them good teachers. Teachers in this position often get a reputation as being ‘crummy.’ I think, too, as class size increases, classroom management skills takes precedence over pedagogy and an otherwise fine teacher might be overwhelmed. This is especially true in a large classroom where one or two students are impulsively disruptive or actively trying to be agents of chaos ( often just because that’s considered accomplishment amongst the teen set.) So if Jeff Spicoli is actively trying to get Mr Hand to fly off the handle, some kid in the fourth row has to explain to the parents why he/she is not getting a good grasp of the subject… It’s a problem and it needs to be addressed, but it’s not indication, per se, that Mr Hand is incompetent…

                Teaching is hard work. There are a lot of variables, like class size or disruptive student, or even just curriculum fiat, which are outside the control of the teacher. A lot goes into teaching and the best judge of a teacher is another teacher. Unfortunately, we’ve set up a system of ‘standards’ and ‘test scores’ that attempts to get at a judgement about teachers that doesn’t rely upon other teachers. That’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pull off. I think the teachers, as a union, can have a better grasp on what makes a good teacher and which teachers are good. This is not to say there are no bad or incompetent teachers, but I don’t think that under a truly professional union that cohort could be allowed to grow large enough to be a real problem.

        • But the current ed formula

          unfairly gives extra money to Chelsea in the first place. They need to hog all of it? While still not improving despite the extra millions?

          • Viewing the charter ballot question strictly through the lens of funding is another mistake. How much money are we spending on public education, to be sure everything is done to perfection? Really, there’s few expenses spared. We don’t necessarily always get the bang for the buck, but that’s another story.

            I am not persuaded that charters create the big funding drag that has been advertised. For one, they are reputed to have worse quality facilities; and they have less senior staff than the public school. Generally speaking, I would expect it’s cheaper to run a charter – speaking operating plus capital expenses. But I have not seen firm figures to say for sure.

            • My son's charter operated for years...

              …in a largely abandoned strip mall with a Chinese restaurant. Now it is in a defunct movie theatre which they were able to buy and remodel.

              The Sturgis Charter High School is in a bankrupt furniture store. But are these ‘worse’ facilities?

              Remodeling and painting and building in The Underground Mall was fun. It had been built into the side if a hill with geodesic rooms and a grass roof for insulation. It was a commercial failure, but the building itself was an ecology lesson.

              Repurposing buildings in this way is cheaper. No Davis Bacon or SBLA either. The finances and overhead can be modest in this way.

              • Those are side questions/reply to union comment

                We should definitely find ways to cut down on construction costs, plenty of charters are gleaming start up looking buildings like Excel in East Boston. We had trailer classrooms even in Cambridge due to overcrowding and older buildings.

                Pablo has a great plan that would equitably fund both types of schools. The SenTe did too. It’s called a compromise, and it’s something charter advocates went out of their way to avoid.

                To Andre, I am applying to teach in charters too! I just want to teach. Period. I am tired of office jobs that bore and underpay me and the best insight I got through campaigning is I have a good knack for explaining civics and history to people from all walks of life.

                Everyone comes to me for information about elections and voting, I enjoy editing other people’s papers, and this is my gift and calling, to bring this joy of learning to others. I am turning down more lucrative job offers to take this path, but if tenure means I won’t get fired due to budget cuts or test results that aren’t entirely in my control, that’s a big benefit. It’s blowing everyone’s mind except my wife, my closest friends and parents, who only asked what took me this long?

  6. And many thanks

    To BMGs own Pablo who has been kicking ass on this question both on here and on twitter.

  7. That escalated quickly

    n/t

  8. Whose schools?

    Boston parents made this video They don’t have millions of dollars to put it on TV. If you like it, pass it on!

    Little known fact: There are more students on waitlists for Boston Public Schools than for Boston charters.

    Letter from 100 Boston parents to suburban parents.

    More voices compiled in my newsletter.

    And three questions about the funders of Q2:
    1. If the New York billionaires care about the achievement gap in Boston, why don’t they help fund a fair school finance suit? The successful 1993 one led to $1 billion in added equalizing school funding and raised achievement for low-income students across the state.
    2. Will they fund the Fair Share Amendment (“Millionaires’ Tax) ballot question in 2018, which would make possible $2 billion for investment in education and transportation?
    3. If the Walton family cares about the achievement gap, why don’t they raise the pay of their workers? The only time the achievement gap was reduced nation-wide was during the war on poverty. There is an absolute correlation of income and test scores.
    Possible answer: they would like to help poor children, but don’t want to pay higher wages or pay taxes for better schools. They think charter schools are a magic bullet.
    So: another question: what’s the special sauce for those charter schools that do well on standardized tests? Some answers in this response for a case study.

    • How is there a waitlist for Boston Public Schools?

      If you are a child in Boston they need to somehow fit you in to the public system unless your family has decided on something else, right?

      • I think you get a school, but

        it may not be the school of your choice. I don’t know enough to say whether parents who want their kids in their neighborhood schools have to apply.

        • I keep forgetting that's an issue.

          Definitely in the town I teach in and I’m pretty sure in the city in which I reside, you go to the school for the part of town in which you reside, with just the occasional exception if special services are required or your parent teaches in one of the other schools.

          • waitlists for Boston district schools

            In Boston, parents have a choice of a large group of schools. They can pick a first, second, and third choice — no more than three. This year, according to WGBH reporter Isaiah Thompson, 6981 students did not get into their first choice school and are on waiting lists. That’s probably more than the number of Boston students who applied to charter schools. Thompson seems to be the first reporter in the state who actually read the state waitlist report instead of just going with the bogus headline of 33,000.

          • More districts are moving away from this model

            Controlled choice is a way to create more racially and socioeconomic schools. It was probably the best part of my Cambridge education and something all of my peers look back on as a big part of our development. If you want to create a color blind society you have to create color blind people and diverse schools assists with that.

            Someday we will have a state where everyone can live in the community of their choice and our suburban schools will get to be as diverse as our urban ones without resorting to stop gaps like METCO.

            • I like districted schools...

              …mostly for convenience, though the town I sub in isn’t diverse enough to count. You know me, just let the chips fall where they may without trying to either segregate or integrate, but make darn sure funding is equitable.

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