I had hoped to write a big ol’ primer on the Walsh Administration’s plan to charterize the Boston Public Schools. But it’s hard for me to write coherently about something that makes me so angry, and, anyway, anything I wrote would basically just be a collection of links to Mary Lewis Pierce’s Blog. If you want a meticulously sourced intro to the current shenanigans, go read her. Also follow on twitter @googiebaba.
But if you don’t want to click and scroll, there’s this: Working from a Gates-funded blueprint, Walsh is looking to drive charter school enrollment by folding charters into the BPS enrollment process and also to close as many as 37 BPS buildings so as to hand them over to charter schools.
My contribution here was sparked by something The Boston Compact’s Rachel Weinstein said at one of the dog-and-pony show meetings they had about their proposal to have a unified enrollment process for real public schools and charter schools. Someone asked whether the Boston Compact would make their meeting minutes public. “We’re not a public body,” Weinstein said. One wonders, then, why they are making public policy. One also wonders, if one is me, who the unelected people making public policy are.
I was especially suspicious about Kevin Andrews, who spoke at the meeting and identified himself thusly, “I advise charter schools. Well, and public schools as well. But I’m here as an advisor to charter schools.” Interesting that he identified himself as primarily an advisor to charter schools, when he’s a “Special Advisor’ to the Boston Compact, which is supposed to represent charter schools, real public schools, and parochial schools.
So who is this guy? Well, he was, for many years, the principal of the Neighborhood House Charter School. (Interesting side note to that: Andrews revealed at the meeting that he had no idea how itinerant special ed providers work. Which tells you all you need to know about how charters comply with the special ed laws.) A founding board member of the Neighborhood House Charter School was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. So, okay, this guy is connected to city hall that way. But I found out he was also a fellow at the Barr Foundation in 2007.
What the hell is the Barr Foundation? Well, I did a little research and found that local parents’ focus on the Gates and Walton foundations may be a bit misplaced: we’ve got an anti-public school foundation right here in Boston that has been busy for years creating the network of people who are now trying to destroy the Boston Public Schools.
Here are some interesting factoids: Diana Lam, who became principal of Boston’s Conservatory Lab Charter School after resigning in disgrace from the New York City Public Schools, is also a member of The Boston Compact. She is a current Barr Foundation fellow.
Before joining the Walsh Administration as Education Director, Turahn Dorsey worked for…The Barr Foundation.
Codman Academy Founder and Boston School Committee member who publicly attacked Boston Public Schools teachers…Barr Foundation Fellow in 2009.
Jesse Solomon, Executive Director of the quasi-public and quasi-shady Boston Plan for Excellence..Barr Foundation Fellow in 2009.
The Barr Foundation’s list of grantees reveals that an association with Barr benefits not only the fellows, who take home $40k, but also the organizations they work for:
$170k to Neighborhood House Charter School in 2014.
$1.5 million to Conservatory Lab Charter School in 2014.
Another $44k to Conservatory Lab Charter School in 2015.
$5 Million to Boston Plan for Excellence in 2013.
Codman Academy Foundation: $1 Million in 2014
Grants to MATCH, UP, and Stand for Children show that you don’t have to be a fellow to benefit from Barr’s largesse: you just have to be anti-real public school.
Still, this whole thing just feels uncomfortably cozy to me. From behind the scenes, armed with huge amounts of money, the Barr Foundation is trying to reshape public education over the objections of charter and real public school parents. In the education realm, anyway, it’s less a charitable foundation and more of an advocacy organization using its substantial resources and the network it has built to create public policy without the whole messy “consent of the governed” thing.
I guess anyone who pays attention knows that money calls the shots in American politics. Education reform is no different. It’s shameful that an organization with as much money as Barr is throwing money at an anti-public school agenda rather than trying to improve the public schools that serve the majority of Boston’s students. And it’s shameful that Barr’s bought-and-paid for “fellows” are our behind-the-scenes policy makers.
They are so confident in their power that they’re making no efforts to disguise what they’re doing. I guess I have to hope just pointing out what these people are up to will help.