Why “almost despite himself”? Well, to take Deval at his word, this isn’t even a big part of his “vision” for education. Looking at his ersatz eternal campaign/parallel government website devalpatrick.com, his spiel on education doesn’t mention a SecEd. Instead, he talks about how the Education Reform Act “recognized that there is no more important issue than education”. Ha! The ERA opened the door for hacks and academicians to stumble around school districts, trying to recreate a pedagogic idyll that never existed.
However, the Herald among others places a higher priority on Deval’s effort here. Patrick filed his proposal for a SecEd under Article 87, which demands that the Lege vote it up-or-down, with no provision for amendment. Furthermore, such a bill must be voted upon within 60 days.
And promptly vote on it, the Legislature did. Apparently, the Legislature can embrace change quickly and efficiently if it believes said change has merit. The vote was a combined 168-24 in favor. If “Elder Affairs” and “Veterans’ Services” deserve dedicated cabinet-level positions each, so too does education.
Despite the legislative malpractice that is Dubya’s and Ted Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind, it is the state of Massachusetts that does everything from adjust funding formulas to writing curriculum. While I have some sympathy with questioning the need for a federal Secretary of Education (not least of due to its root not in Constitutionality but rather the pernicious spending power of Washington), it’s a no-brainer to me that the state needs someone to manage education.
Don’t those numbers indicate a need to have a single, important person in charge? I don’t believe too many companies turn a $6 billion branch that serves 1 million customers over to a group of shadows at the helm. I do want a specific someone, too, not a collection of appointment hacks who are a mixture of current and past administrations and meet about once a month. A place for the buck to stop, as it were.
Though Chris Gabrieli has some wacky ideas on education, I could look forward to his tenure as SecEd. On the other hand, if Deval tries to install Dana Mohler-Faria, grand poobah of that dysfunctional mass of byzantine capriciousness that calls itself Bridgewater State College, I take it all back.
Oh, and one last thing. This isn’t a sop to teachers’ unions, that ever-present bad guy. My union isn’t nearly as powerful as people want to believe. It doesn’t have much influence on its members, trust me. If my union was this powerful, we wouldn’t be suffering under No Child Left Behind, further exacerbated by a completely arbitrary toughening of standardized test benchmarks because
not enough schools were failing it was too easy.