Monday, June 27, 2016

1 Boston City Council Hearing FY17 Budget Testimony

Below is the transcript of my prepared testimony for the June 27th, 2016 Boston City Council (BCC) Ways & Means Hearing on the Boston Public Schools' FY17 Budget Amendment which will add $4.68M to the previously submitted BPS budget for FY17. This was the last hearing prior to the City Council vote on the FY17 city budget on Wednesday, June 29, 2016. 


Please note that I was testifying in both my role as one of the Co-Chairs of the Boston Citywide Parent Council (CPC) and as a BPS, public and special education advocate and extremely proud parent. The first part of the testimony is from the email sent by the CPC Executive and Budget Committee to all Boston City Councillors on Friday, June 24th, 2016. The rest is my own testimony.  


Good Afternoon: 
First, the Citywide Parent Council would like to reiterate our gratitude to the Mayor for adding $4.7 million to the current budget proposal. Video of the BPS School Committee hearing to vote on the additional money can be viewed here
However, much of the additional money has been allocated to fund positions in the Central Office and does not offset the $26m reduction that will have significant and very real impacts upon building level budgets at schools in every City Council district in this city.
In light of these cuts, we urge you to reallocate the Mayor’s $4.7 million directly to support students and families at the building level
We have prepared the following recommendations for your consideration:
Recommendation 1
$2.2m for partial restoration of Weighted Student Funding cuts for students with Autism and Emotional Impairment.
Recommendation 2:
$1.2m to support the rollout of the Excellence for All Program. 
Recommendation 3
$900,000 to completely reverse ALL cuts to the District’s Early Learning Centers
Recommendation 4
$375,000 to support Superintendent’s initiative to improve student safety

The following is my own additional testimony:

Ideally, we would ask that our City Council demand that the mayor go further and add the additional $26M  necessary to restore all the cuts his decision on the BPS budget has made. If the mayor will not agree to the additional funding, then we would ask that you vote NO on the budget. To do so would be showing all of our current and potential BPS families that our city council highly values our Boston students. Of course, it would also revert us back to last year’s budget which would be horrific for our students and schools.
Mayor Walsh is correct, this is the largest BPS budget ever. However, what he fails to mention is that, since the founding of public education in this country right here in Boston, every year we have added to the school district budget. In fact, his (now) 1.8% budget increase is well below many prior years’ budget increases for BPS when you look at our history.
For several years I and others have asked for a fully transparent BPS budget – an itemized, line-by-line breakdown to see where every cent is going that BPS receives. To date, we have never received such a breakdown. This needs to change.  
Without a doubt, we need to explore more deeply how to reallocate funds when it comes to the BPS budget. However, this year’s reallocations have led to cuts that will harm our students. The cuts that have been made are not the cuts that needed to be made. The programs, services and changes to programs directly impacting students, especially those with social-emotional needs or on the Autism Spectrum, did not need to be where we cut this year.
I fear these cuts will end up costing the city far more than we may save in the short-term.
A compromise I would like to suggest that may be more palatable to all of our students, families, schools, BPS, city council, and possibly even Mayor Walsh,and which may lead to less likelihood of repeating the cycle of bleeding our schools dry, is to:
  1. Require that BPS reallocate the funds as outlined in the CPC’s recommendations above;
  1. Advocate to Mayor Walsh for the city to provide “soft-landing” money to schools for the next year to address the cuts which impact BPS students directly by working with the city council education committee, CPC and SpedPAC leaders to identify the school cuts needing said funding (other than those outlined above);
  1. Require that BPS provide a complete line-by-line budget breakdown on its website; and,
  1. Request that BPS and the mayor’s office, with CPC and other officially recognized BPS groups (SpedPAC, DELLAC) designees as full team members, delve into the BPS budget to identify areas where reallocations are needed or should be made to ensure that every possible dollar truly benefits our students and gives them a high quality education.
Thank you for your consideration of our requests and my suggestions. 
Karen Kast-McBride
Proud BPS parent and CPC Co-Chair
PLEASE be sure to email, call, visit, tweet, message, snapchat, instagram - whatever works best for you - the Boston City Council members also regarding the importance of increasing funds to BPS! Email and phone contact information, along with a template email, means you can do this quickly! BCC will vote Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - meeting starts at noon.

Usually I do not read my testimony, as many times I create it on the spot, but I did read the majority of the first portion because it was the ask of the CPC and at that point I was testifying as the CPC Co-Chair. Even when I write my testimony before a hearing or meeting, I do tend to go off-script in order to address things I hear while at the hearing. This time was no different during my own personal testimony...

Councillor Linehan had commented earlier in the hearing that $20K per student should be more than enough to educate them, also implying that it was actually too much to be spending. This misconception that $20K per student is spent directly to benefit each student is one of my biggest pet peeves - though Mayor Walsh's consistent reiteration of the (very wrong) "93,000 seats" for BPS students has taken the number one spot! 

If you would like to see the video of the hearing the City of Boston Cable Office should have it up within the next day or so (usually.) In the meantime, my testimony is available here.

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

0 Boston City Council Members - Reject Mayor Walsh's FY17 Budget

UPDATE: According to Boston City Council President Michelle Wu: No BPS or General Boston budget vote today. Budget version 2 will go to committee and there will be a hearing on revisions Monday, June 27 at 11:00 a.m. (Boston City Hall 5th floor). The final vote will be on June 29th.

What does this mean? 

  • More time to spread the word and ask family, friends, neighbors, groups and everyone you know to email, call, visit and use social media to demand that our Boston Public Schools be, at the least, level funded! 
  • Time to plan our next steps for Monday and next Wednesday!
  • Because this will now only allow one vote prior to the June 30th budget deadline, City Council is more likely to pass the budget, so we must take action!

If you are interested in getting involved in next steps since we now have more time, please email me!!

At last night's Citywide Parent Council (CPC) meeting we decided to put together a draft email for all Boston residents to use to ask City Councilors to reject the FY17 Boston budget at today's hearing. Below is everything they need to email the Councilors:
  • the email addresses for all City Councilors, 
  • a subject line to use (to ensure they are recognized as the same ask) 
  • and the template email for folks to personalize before sending. 

Please remember to DELETE items in RED and any of the notes below before sending!

If you have questions, feel free to email me directly.

You will also find below
  1. A great graphic created by John Lerner which shows the percent spent by cities and towns on education out of their budgets. This disproves the "Boston spends more than anywhere else on education" mantra by Mayor Walsh et al.
  2. List of the City Council Hearings (which I edited to get rid of old meetings) showing the two potentially scheduled city council votes on FY17 budget.
Don't know who your City Councilor is? Find out now!

If you want to watch the hearing and vote you can do so online.

Follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Make sure to follow the city councilors, and those who are always on top of the budget issues:
Kristin Johnson,
Kenny Jervis,
Heshan Weeramuni,
Mary Lewis-Pierce
and me (though my posts will be sporadic)

List of city council members which includes phone numbers - if you have family, friends etc who don't like technology! 

Please:
1) SEND YOUR EMAIL first!!!!
2) SHARE WIDELY! Ask everyone you know to email and call RIGHT NOW and - if possible - stop by city hall in person before or during the hearing which will be held in City Council chambers on the 5th floor of Boston City Hall. 

City Council Email Addresses to copy and paste into your address line:

Subject line: Reject Boston’s FY17 Budget Until BPS Funded Correctly

Copy, paste & personalize:

Dear Members of the City Council,

I am a Boston resident who is extremely concerned that our Mayor is devaluing our students and their futures despite the wealth of our city. First, I want to thank you for refusing to pass Mayor Walsh’s FY17 budget at your June 8, 2016 hearing. You clearly heard the voices of all of the students, families and community members regarding the harmful effects the BPS budget cuts will have on our most vital resource: the students who are the future of our city.

Now, as you are no doubt aware, since your vote on June 8th, Mayor Walsh has added an additional $4.68M to the BPS budget. Unfortunately, though appreciated, with the exception of a small percentage (approximately 36%), the majority of these funds will never reach the school level, our students directly or offset the detrimental and, in some cases, potentially harmful cuts impacting all of our BPS students. Even with this sudden influx of $4.68M, which is still about $25M short of the funds necessary to level-fund our BPS schools, the Mayor is clearly not prioritizing our students or their education.

In the long run, many of the choices now being made for BPS to the tune of “we don’t have the funding” may lead to many costly, and potentially precedent setting, legal cases which will cost the city far more than what we are demanding now.

So today, as you prepare for your second vote on the FY17 budget, I am writing as a resident(, voter, BPS parent and Citywide Parent Council member - Feel free to also insert your school and/or other affiliation or anything else you think important to personalize this AND DELETE THIS COMMENT and anything you do not use!) to ask that YOU prioritize our students and BPS schools by once again rejecting the FY17 budget until Mayor Walsh, at the very least, funds our Boston Public Schools to ensure that we maintain the current level of supports our students had during the 2015-2016 school year. 

I expect every one of you who represent Boston to join me, my fellow residents, BPS students and families to insist that Mayor Walsh again dig into the city’s purse to restore the cuts that are already negatively impacting all of our students, especially those with language and special education needs. Anything less is ethically and morally reprehensible and unacceptable in an elected official.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Your Name
Address
(Phone Optional)
School or other affiliation







Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

0 Walsh's Woe: Boston Public Schools Families Protesting State of the City 2016


Well, if you are a resident of Boston or a Boston Public School community member you may have heard that there is going to be a protest tomorrow afternoon before Mayor Walsh's State of the City address. The protest, already making news on Twitter using the hashtags #SotcProtest #SOTC16, has been getting a bit of news coverage

Why are the #handfulofparents protesting? Short answer: BPS budget "shortfalls*." Bet you are thinking, I heard Mayor Walsh has said he did not cut the budget and in fact is generously giving BPS another $14M to bring the BPS budget to a whopping $127B total! And rumors are that Mayor Walsh will be announcing a bit more money to add to that! Geez, BPS families and students sure are asking for a lot! What is the issue - you should really be able to educate every student with that kind of money! 

This protest is about the "shortfalls" to our BPS budget and despite Mayor Walsh's request that BPS "trim down" central administration which ALWAYS seems to trickle down and negatively impact ALL of our students and schools more than the central administration. Even with the central office trimming down, that doesn't stop the bleeding that happens at the school level - and quite frankly, if nothing changes then pretty soon BPS will bleed out completely. 

Shortfalls - however they happen and no matter what we call them- translate to actual cuts at the school level. Cuts which eliminate positions, services and programs like:
Nurses: It is rare to have a BPS school with a full-time nurse - better hope those students don't need emergency care except during that nurses' hours at the school; 
Teachers: Why do we need science, math, language, history or special education teachers? STEM? Eh, whatever, city students don't need that stuff - we are preparing them to WORK, what do they REALLY need to know to press a button or say "Welcome to Walmart"?!; 
Libraries and/or Librarians: students only need to read the items which will be on the MCAS/PARCC - so really no need for literature or fictional reading!;
Programs: Art - they can draw, sing, dance or play instruments at home! Sports - what obesity problem? Specialty programs - all they need to pass high stakes testing is ELA, Math, a bit of Science and we TELL those teachers WHAT to teach them for those! 
Supplies: computers? paper? toilet tissue? bottled water? Pshaw - the teachers that DO remain are getting paid so well, they can buy it!
The above is brought to you by me channeling my inner non-BPS parent 1% corporate ed reform political donor - to my regular readers, I apologize!

Maybe now you are beginning to think, well... maybe there is something wrong here (at least, I hope you are!) - students need more than just Reading, Writing (oh yeah, no cursive in schools anymore!), Arithmetic and testing. Wow, Boston is a very rich city, why do the public schools have to keep eliminating so much? 

That, dear reader, is the 127 billion dollar question! The answer: declining federal and state funding for education, costs taken out of the BPS budget for students who attend other schools, and rising costs all contribute to the issue.

Mayor Walsh is correct, he did not cut anything from the BPS budget. And yes, we are thankful he has actually kept the "shortfall" from being worse by allocating that $14M to the budget - thank you Marty! Without it the "shortfall" would actually be $64M  instead of the $50M it still is with these added funds. Of course, this latest "shortfall" is in addition to the prior two years "shortfalls" totalling $140M. And really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

What do we want? After all, the BPS budget takes up a huge portion of the city budget, do we think Mayor Walsh can give even more? Well, another short answer: yes, and no. 

If the city can afford to give huge tax breaks to General Electric to entice them to make Boston the home of their headquarters and propose putting the city into debt to bring the 2024 Olympics, and let's not forget Indy Car racing; well, shouldn't there be a way to add more to the most important resource for our city, state and country: the education of every single student in Boston?

Additionally, we are asking that Mayor Walsh commit to, at the minimum,the following: 
  1. Join in solidarity with Boston’s students, families and community members to aggressively advocate for our Boston Public Schools at state and federal levels;
  2. Through strategic planning and ambitious revitalization, reduce the BPS budget shortfalls of $50 million this year and $140 million over the last three years;
  3. Invest in fully-resourced community public  schools with wraparound services for Boston's children;
  4. Work with the true stakeholders of Boston Public Schools: students, families, educators and community members to fully audit BPS’ budget in order to assess community needs and address inequalities; and,
  5. Collaborating with the true stakeholders, demand democratically controlled public schools through an elected Boston School Committee.


Who are we? We are the true stakeholders of BPS and come from all walks of life to take part in this movement to invest in our students and Boston Public Schools. We are every race, religion, economic and education level; whether we are for or against the Boston Compact, charter or traditional Boston public schools, love or dislike our elected leaders - we are all in agreement and solidarity where it counts the most: "Shortfalls" are still "cuts" at the school level!

Please join us before Mayor Walsh's #SOTC16 for the #SOTCProtest at 4:30 p.m. to demand that Mayor Walsh and our elected officials collaborate aggressively with us: the students, parents, educators and community members fighting to ensure that every single BPS student has the education and schools we deserve! 

It will be cold, so Mary Pierce and I bought quite a few hand warmers!

Please dress warm, grab some caffeine, make a sign - or use one that my daughters and I made - and join me and the awesome students, families, educators and community members! 

And yes, Bospoli, Mapoli - especially our Boston City Councilors, Massachusetts Senate and House of Representatives Boston Delegation members, Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito - we would hope YOU all will stop by to speak with us, otherwise, the next protest may be at your big event!

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Monday, January 18, 2016

1 BOSTON FAMILIES AND STUDENTS TO PROTEST MAYOR WALSH’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

MEDIA ADVISORY FOR: January 19, 2016
BOSTON FAMILIES AND STUDENTS TO PROTEST MAYOR WALSH’S STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Boston, MA—On January 19, 2016, a broad-based coalition of public education stakeholders made up of families, students, educators, community members and groups representing public schools throughout Boston will come together at Mayor Walsh’s 2016 State of the City Address to protest budget shortfalls which negatively impact all of our Boston Public Schools. We are protesting the Walsh administration’s failure to aggressively advocate for adequate funding and to make the investments needed to create success for every single student in all of our Boston Public Schools.
DATE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016
TIME: 4:30pm
LOCATION:  Intersection of Westland Ave and Mass Ave Under BSO sign
We are demanding that Mayor Walsh, at a minimum, do the following:
  1. Join in solidarity with Boston’s students, families and community members to aggressively advocate for our Boston Public Schools at state and federal levels;
  2. Through strategic planning and ambitious revitalization, reduce the BPS budget shortfalls of $50 million this year and $140 million over the last three years;
  3. Invest in fully-resourced community public  schools with wraparound services for Boston's children;
  4. Work with the true stakeholders of Boston Public Schools: students, families, educators and community members to fully audit BPS’ budget in order to assess community needs and address inequalities; and,
  5. Collaborating with the true stakeholders, demand democratically controlled public schools through an elected Boston School Committee.


In Boston, the stakeholders have come together to build a new vision for our public schools and our children—one that champions great public schools as the heart of our neighborhoods and ensures that every student, regardless of zip code, receives the highest quality education available. Our stakeholders have developed a community-driven movement for the benefit of all of our students  and we will hold all of our elected officials accountable to us as their constituents and voters.
To follow this action on social media search #SOTCProtest
Check our our Facebook event page.
Contact:
Karen Kast-McBride Mary Lewis-Pierce
(617) 877-2871 857-891-3271


Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

0 Confessions of a Public School Parent

The Boston Compact, Charter School legislation, possible school closures and the Mayor who left ALL Boston's children behind once he took the oath of office. School, citizen groups, weird City of Boston "partner" events, reaching out to others in places like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York - all places being decimated by education reform, reading articles and digging into data on DESE and other sites. This is what my spare time - time when I could relax or do something totally selfish with - essentially revolves around or something similar for the past 23 years. 

Confession: my youngest is now in high school and I feel like I have failed my children. I failed them by allowing those who won't even put their own children into a public school to determine how my children would be educated. I failed them by not pushing back more against their use as guinea pigs in the edu-experiments that have encompassed the past 20 years of public education in my beloved city. I have failed them by allowing them to be nothing more than data-points to those who swore their focus was the children of Boston and ensuring they would receive the best education. I failed them by not screaming louder or opting them out of the insane MCAS sooner. All of these things are how I also feel I have failed ALL of our Boston students. 

To my children: I'm sorry. I loved school, okay - not the early hours, but when I went to Boston Public Schools, despite what was written about how horrible our education was, I got an amazing education. An education that, contrary to the popular myth pushed by education reformers, actually taught me how to ask questions, research, think critically, write everything from a resume, correspondence, legal documents, this blog and read for knowledge as well as enjoyment. My education gave me the drive to continue as a scholar throughout my life. This is what I want for all of you - the children I gave birth to and those that may not even know me, for school to be a place where you love to learn, even if you don't like the hours. 

Grades are subjective and standardized tests are just standards others have decided on or the "norm", well, my kids are not and never will be the "norm" so their scores on these tests mean almost nothing to me. In my opinion, the true success of a school and district is not how many of the students can pass a single test measure, but how many of the students that they educated not only go on to have successful lives, but continue to spend their life learning and never stop. 

Despite my feeling of failure, or maybe because of it, I will continue to fight against those who see our students as nothing but a data-point or dollar sign. Right now, that includes elected officials like Mayor Marty Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker and many others who seem to be paying off campaign debts by selling off our students' (and the city's) futures. And they are backed by big money and corporations hiding behind the foundations and groups that are purportedly non-profit: Gates, Walton, Broad, Democrats for Education Reform, Families for Excellent Schools, Stand for Children. Gates has already funded the Boston Compact through the Boston Schools Fund and the Boston Compact folks are in talks with the Walton Family Foundation for more funding. All of these organizations have the objective of opening more charter schools as one of their primary missions. And yes, I have been tweeting about all of these concerns and questions to all of them.

There are many concerns surrounding the Boston Compact, not the least of which is the lack of transparency and lack of any of the true stakeholders being part of the group. If you want to learn a bit more you should really read Public School Mama's blog and the links in her posts!

Call me crazy - rightfully so, because who else but a crazy person would believe that one voice or a small group of voices can indeed make a difference? I'll own my craziness because despite everything, I also know I have succeeded in some ways because I see it throughout BPS and my children do have the desire to continue learning. I didn't do it alone, and every day I am thankful to the staff and educators, and yes, BPS district personnel, City Councilors and Mayor Menino, and most of all the awesome students, parents and groups that helped ensure that my children became lifelong learners. 

We still have a lot of work to do, but luckily I know there are many community members, parents, students, families, educators and groups who are also fighting to ensure that every student truly receives the best education we can give them and to light the spark necessary to continue their learning for the rest of their lives. I may also be a dreamer, but I truly believe we can accomplish our goals. So, to the many parents, students, families and community members feeling fatigue or, like myself, feeling like you may have failed your students, I thank you for fighting on despite the constant barrage of education reform initiatives and compacts designed to decimate public school districts. 

If you want to learn more about the current issues many are concerned about such as what the Boston Compact, Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker's education proposals could mean for Boston I hope you will join me tomorrow evening, Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 6:30 p.m. at the District B-2 Police Station 2400 Washington St, Roxbury, MA 02119 (Dudley Square).

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at karen.kastmcbride@gmail.com or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

0 How I Really Feel - Testimony Before Joint Ed Committee Regarding Charter Schools

My own testimony before the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Education Committee at the hearing regarding lifting the cap on charter schools on October 13, 2015. I hope all of our legislators read this, and more importantly, read and watch Tabitha's testimony at the same hearing as she is a BPS student and students are the true consumers of our education system.
Dear Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Peisch and Joint Education Committee Members:
My name is Karen Kast-McBride and I am a proud Boston Public School parent, advocate and Citizens for Public Schools Board member. I want all parents to have choices in where they educate their children, but is it true choice if the choice is only for a select few - students who will most likely succeed no matter which school they attend? Is it really school choice if it is only open to those who do well on tests, sit still, behave and do not have language or ability barriers? Is it true choice when children with language or special needs are punished for their inability to conform? It is not choice, it is segregation.
Both of my daughters go to Boston Public Schools which have seen budget cuts of $300-500,000.00 per year for the past ten years. Over six years the Irving Middle School received over $3,000,000.00 in cuts while the Irving populations of SWD (37%), ELL (17.2%) and High Needs (75.1%) increased – quite a few of whom were pushed out of charter schools. The Irving has the highest number of Emotionally Impaired SWD outside of a special education school - students who have been traumatized or have severe emotional and psychiatric needs, and has the highest number of students in foster care in Boston (possibly the state), which generates a slew of new issues to address. Despite all of these factors, the Irving has become the most highly chosen stand-alone middle school in Boston and increased students’ success rates on mandated testing, and more importantly, their overall success in school and life.
Unfortunately, our true public schools are bleeding - due to budget cuts which consistently increase as federal and state education funding dwindles and charter schools take larger portions of our BPS budget which is not fully reimbursed as many charter proponents claim. By the way, charter schools are allocated 3-4 times the amount my daughters' schools receive per-pupil. I would be happy to explain the difference in per-pupil dollars allocated to a BPS school vs. the amount allocated to charter schools for the same type of students, just ask me.
The decisions you make regarding education drastically impact the thousands of students I represent along with their public schools. Both of my daughters are students with special needs, both have IEPs, and both have IQs in the 98th percentile - so like many of our special needs students, the schools are challenged to address both their gifted and special needs. All of these students are amazingly smart and will go far, but need some help which their public schools give them. I have watched many of these students not just get through and pass an arbitrary test, but truly flourish and become lifelong learners with strong voices who are now becoming the leaders in their communities.
Are you willing to make a decision that could lead to these students being unable to progress and flourish as they already have because their schools can no longer sustain quality educational programs? Are you willing to allow charter schools to continue their practice of not accepting or pushing out students with disabilities or language needs? I would be happy to educate you on why any vote to lift the cap on charter schools may actually be in direct violation of the special education laws which guarantee students with disabilities access to the same quality educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers, just ask me.  
The conversation regarding lifting the charter cap is premature until we truly invest in our traditional public schools instead of draining funds out of them and into charter schools which: 
  • practice selective enrollment as well as pushing out students who don't test well;
  • claim 100% of their graduates go on to college without clarifying that of the many 9th graders who start at their schools few are left to graduate (a traditional public school would be closed due to those results), and most who do graduate are white, contrary to the marketing done which claims charter schools are successful for students of color; and,
  • let’s not forget, there is no transparency regarding the money charter schools take in - whether public or private – as they refuse to open their books to auditors of all levels. 

The valiant steps your colleagues have taken since last year, such as review of the foundation budget, attrition, graduation and suspension rates in charter schools, and much more still need to be done prior to any legislation going forward on lifting the cap.
I am not asking you to eliminate the charter schools which already exist, I ask that we address the issues we are all aware of with this education model prior to even discussing allowing more to open. Last year, after meeting with concerned students, families and educators, many of your colleagues made a promise to concerned students, families and educators to review all of the issues prior to considering lifting the cap on charter schools again. I ask that that promise be kept and that you focus your energies on doing more to ensure the success of our traditional public schools which should be your first priority.
I ask that you vote NOT to pass the Governor’s proposal (HD 4191) and any other legislation which would lift the cap and H385, until all of the issues above are addressed. I also ask that you vote NOT to pass H444/S327.
I also ask that you vote to PASS Bills S326, H485, H490, S295, H380, S321 and H467.
Please stand up for students like my daughters, stand for the students whose parents can't even take a minute to call or email you, stand against the pro-charter school lobbyists, corporations and those who would use tax dollars to further their own wealth without any true concern for these children who cannot stand up for themselves. 

Respectfully,


Karen Kast-McBride


To get involved with the fight for our students and public education, please:

Call, email, write and visit your state Senator and Representative;
Join myself and others throughout Massachusetts by:
Contacting me via email or Twitter @bpsnightmare 
and if you use social media, be sure to check out and "Like" the Facebook page for "Keep The Cap on Charter Schools Massachusetts" and follow @KeepTheCapMass on Twitter.

0 Impact of Charter Schools on Public Schools - Testimony of a BPS Student

Shared with permission, below is the text of Tabitha Kast-McBride's testimony regarding the impact of charter schools on her education as a Boston Public School student. She gave this testimony to the members of the Joint Education Committee at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - after waiting more than eight hours to testify. You can also view the video of Tabitha's testimony here.

Dear Senators and Representatives of the Joint Education Committee:

Hello! My name is Tabitha Kast-McBride. I am 17 years old and currently a student at Tech Boston Academy – a Boston Public School. I would like to speak about the impact charter schools have had on my education in a real public school as a student with special needs.

When you hear about learning disabilities or mental health, often, the symptoms go unrecognized, sometimes until it’s too late. Some people don’t find out their kid has a learning disability or a mental illness until years have passed. Public schools offer testing, guidance, and more for students like me. Most students with special needs have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) that gives them access to the help they need. Currently I go to a school that has a program that helps students who are emotionally fragile, many who have the same issues like I do with anxiety and depression. Our school has a small class for us, counselors, psychologists, specially trained staff and a special area we can go to get extra help or take a time out if needed. We are not dumb either, many of us have high intelligence and the ability to not only learn but excel, but our brains just don’t work like most peoples do.

I have many friends who have come from charter schools to BPS, and they tell me that they don’t bother to help students like me and definitely do not have these types of programs for students with special needs. The charter schools ignore the problems, which is NOT okay. Worse they often eliminate students IEPs or won’t write one, but then punish students for things that are due to their disabilities, which is not allowed in REAL public schools because of the rules they have to follow. Ignoring any type of disability whether a mental illness or a learning disability, will not make it better or go away. Because the charter schools ignore students’ problems, punish them for the things they can’t help then eventually tell them they can’t go there anymore, many of these students end up even worse. And no one punishes the charter schools for all the damage they do to these students which I think is really wrong.

More charter schools will mean more students that don’t have access to the help they need and more students taught to have a fixed mindset instead of a growth mindset. A fixed mindset is basically when you think your intelligence stays the same throughout your life. A growth mindset is when your intelligence grows. In charter schools they teach you what you need to pass the tests, if you don’t do well on the tests they tell you to go to a BPS school and they give you work upon work and don’t bother to help you if you are struggling. If you struggle you fall behind. When you fall behind you start to think negatively and might even give up completely.

I was really upset to hear that the Governor wants to pass a law to open more charter schools and I am really against it! I have always gotten a good education at my BPS schools, even though we keep having things like music, art, even my favorite class Applied Science, cut out because BPS can’t afford them due to charter schools taking so much of our money even though they don’t have to follow the laws my schools do. I am asking you to KEEP THE CAP on charter schools, help fix our REAL public schools and make it more fair- If my school needs to follow the laws and only gets a certain amount of money per student, the charters should have to follow the same laws AND only get the same amount my school would for their students.


Please vote to pass Bills S326, H485, H490, S295, H380, S321 and H467. 

Sincerely,

Tabitha Kast-McBride


To get involved with the fight for our students and public education, please:

Call, email, write and visit your state Senator and Representative;
Join myself and others throughout Massachusetts by:
Contacting me via email or Twitter @bpsnightmare 
and if you use social media, be sure to check out and "Like" the Facebook page for "Keep The Cap on Charter Schools Massachusetts" and follow @KeepTheCapMass on Twitter.

Monday, July 27, 2015

1 David vs. Goiliath: How Big Money Is Being Defeated by Unfunded Citizen Activists in Boston

Boston, MA July 2014: For months, years really, the public was fed misinformation.  There were campaigns, and millions of dollars were poured into countless political coffers. There were non-profit organizations, (Stand for Children, Families for Excellent Schools and others) whose purposes were supposedly to help income-challenged families and students advocate for their schools, but were really fronts for those trying to destroy those schools and profit off of public funds.  Then there were millions more spent on flashy campaigns crafted to make the public believe that only education reformers and charter schools would solve the public education "crisis" we supposedly face in America. This was our Goliath (aka Democrats for Education Reform, Massachusetts Charter Public School Association et al.) Unfortunately for Goliath, David gave him a beating he didn't see coming. 

This was accomplished in much the same way the colonists of Boston achieved their goal of freedom from England: by organizing, coordinating, planning and never backing down. 

First it was just a few "naysayers" at meetings and on the social media fronts - easily and clearly dismissed by the paid lobbyists and those funding them. Very soon though those few became many, students, parents, educators and concerned residents, who worked together, each contributing selflessly to the cause. Utilizing raw data, pure and provable facts, and their many talents, these activists held meetings and attended the meetings of those who wished to acquire public funds to bolster private treasure chests. They researched, blogged and utilized social media - especially Twitter. They rallied, knocked on doors, coordinated meetings with legislators and leaders, and worked with real public education groups to inform, educate and activate others across the state. All of this was done without one single cent. 

On July 16, 2014, much to the dismay of the education reform groups heavily invested in the campaign to lift the cap on charter schools, the Massachusetts Senate voted against the Bills before it which would have decimated our public education system. Score 1 for David.

Boston, MA: Again, for over a year residents were fed misinformation. There were secret documents, citing "confidentiality," which residents were not allowed to see, millions of dollars spent to be chosen as the USOC's city of choice for the 2024 Olympic bid and to market it to the citizens. There were lightly veiled threats that without the Olympics our public transit, highways, infrastructure and other public needs would not receive the upgrades necessary. This was all being done by politicians and Boston2024, a group that made the decision to push for the Olympics bid without ever having asked the residents of Boston beforehand if they wanted the Olympics in Boston. The fact that Boston2024 had several incestuous relationships with the political leaders of Boston and Massachusetts certainly did nothing to assure residents that anyone was truly watching out for the needs of the city or its citizens.

As soon as the push to bring the 2024 Olympic Summer Games to Boston was out in the open, citizens across the state started raising questions about the lack of public input and dialogue. They asked about the money needed to get the state prepared to host such a large scale, albeit short time-frame, event and the impact which the event would have on residents livelihood and neighborhoods, etc. Groups formed: No Boston 2024 and No Boston Olympics became the "face" of the skeptical residents who demanded answers. Soon Boston politicians joined in on questioning Boston2024's lack of transparency, refusal to listen to the concerns of so many, and they too pushed for answers and the truth.

Boston 2024 and the politicians who were part of the plans from the beginning, felt the heat of the uprising that grew. Then there were the polls which continuously showed that the people of Boston and the entire state, did not support the bid for the 2024 Olympics. Despite the revamping of Boston 2024, and the release of the original bid documents submitted to the USOC, the poll numbers never moved. Yet still, those hyperbolic and clearly malcontent naysayers not only continued to object, but also expanded their ranks.

On July 27, 2015, the USOC made the decision to pull the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston. Much to the dismay of Goliath, he was again beaten by David. David 2, Goliath 0.

Some would argue that a first of its kind Olympics debate on TV, the failure of Governor Baker to signal his support, and then a traitorous statement by Boston's Mayor Walsh refusing to sign a contract which would put taxpayers on the hook for the expected overruns the Olympics historically have, is what led to the Bid’s withdrawal. Surely, this did play a small part in the USOC’s decision. 

However, anyone who believes that the above are the only reasons for the downfall of Boston2024's bid, is sure to continue the trend we see across the country. That where political leaders, corporate sponsors and those wearing the guise of "community groups" discount the clear voice of the people who elected those political leaders, the workers who assist the corporations in acquiring their billions, the families and "little people" who live in this country, who are clearly fed up with what is going on, is sure to be part of their downfall.

These are only two examples of how citizen activists are working to protect their beloved schools, cities, public services (transportation, infrastructure etc) and their rights and freedom from those in power. Those in power seem to have forgotten who they are truly answerable to, not those who strive to line their own pockets with the money of the hardworking majority. And despite Mayor Walsh's claim that “The opposition for the most part is about #10peopleonTwitter and a couple people out there beating the drum beat.” clearly the multiple polls show that to be false.

Maybe it is time that some of our politicians - here and in D.C. - wake up and start working for those who elected them. Much like the small actions that took place before the "shot heard 'round the world" and the defeat of tyranny from England, I believe these latest defeats to those with deep pockets are just the small skirmishes leading to something much bigger. 

I will always put my money on the "Davids" of the world, especially the residents of Boston and Massachusetts, because we are educated, informed, outspoken, demanding and willing to put our talents, sweat and yes, if necessary, money, into protecting our people and our cities. Of course, as has been shown many times over, Massachusetts residents, and especially those of us lucky enough to live in Boston proper, also tend to be a bit of a rebellious bunch too!

I look forward to continuing to advocate, collaborate and educate with all the great residents of Massachusetts. For though this battle is over, the war is not yet won!

 

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