Monday, June 9, 2014

2 Massachusetts Public Education: Are Students Really Winning?

Right now in Massachusetts the battle over public education, and the tax dollars (and tax credits!) associated with it, is coming to a head in the form of legislation, H4108: And Act Relative to Improving Student Achievement, at the state house which would raise the cap on charter schools. 

Terms like "school choice", "poor and under-privileged students", "failing schools" and more are thrown around to scare the general public into believing that our traditional public schools are failing our children and the only solution is to open more charter schools. Unfortunately, for some reason our local mainstream media outlets continue to perpetuate the misinformation campaigns through multiple articles which utilize data to prove their case, even after that same data and the reports they reference have been proven to utilize faulty data and analyses and show no significant difference in performance by charter school students over traditional public school students. 

If you are a parent, family member, friend, community member, student or concerned citizen here are some things you should be asking regarding the education that your favorite student(s) are receiving right now:

When there is no significant difference in the test scores for charter school students vs. public school students, then why are there so many corporations, political groups, politicians and individuals pushing for more charter schools instead of investing in our traditional public schools? Hint: the public education industry is approximated at $500Billion dollars.

Why are we allowing our tax dollars to become corporate profits for some of the richest companies in the world (who receive tax credits, breaks also) instead of investing them into our traditional public schools? Read: Sacrificing Our Children

When it has been proven that charter schools are not actually educating the students who have significant needs, those who live in poverty and/or with language and disability needs, how can we even compare the two drastically different populations and claim one is doing better than the other? Charter Schools and Students with Disabilities Report, Pgs 26-34

Why are we allowing one type of assessment system that utilizes high-stakes tests to determine our schools and students' success levels which feeds into education policies? For more info regarding high-stakes testing, check out Fairtest.

Why are we allowing politicians, corporations and billionaires with no education background to determine the best methods to educate our children without listening to the stakeholders' voices? Read: All Change is Not Growth

Why are so many sitting silently by and allowing our legislators, and those who finance their campaigns, to push agendas and make decisions that allow our children to be used as guinea pigs? Hint: Most of the educational policies being pushed as "education reform" have never been proven to increase educational outcomes for all students.

Why do we allow our politicians to make decisions that are better for corporations than for the constituents who voted for them, and why do we keep voting them back into office? See the interview with Diane Ravitch and then read her blog! 

Who really wins when we allow public education to become a profit tool and tax credit for the Walton Family Foundation (Walmart), which has specifically targeted Boston Public Schools as one of their "target districts" to start more charter schools, and others like it who won't even pay their own employees a living wage? It is not our students who win, and the winners laugh all the way to the bank.

Think corporations and those who run them care about your children or their education? Think again. Our students education has been co-opted and is now seen as another way for shareholders, companies and foundations to make a profit at the expense of our children's future, especially for those who live in poverty, with language or disability needs, and many of our children of color. 

"College and Career Readiness" is a term that sounds great, but is used primarily to push for more charter schools, high-stakes testing and - the new favorite: school autonomy by those who want families and politicians to buy what they are selling in order to acquire more public funding that will increase their profits. These savvy corporate players know that every parent dreams of their child's future which college and careers are a part of, so it is easy to take advantage of this by corporate education reform backers

But is that really all you want for the children you love? I bet you are saying "No, it isn't." As someone who loves that child, you want the world for them: maybe they will invent the newest "big thing," maybe they will become a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer, city planner, or do something in the public sector where they help our city and country become better - maybe even President. You most likely want your students to be able to make good decisions and choices, be happy, experience love, have a family of their own - whatever that may look like, be involved in their community and engaged as a citizen and live life successfully as a well rounded person. And yes, this includes being ready to access either higher education or careers once they finalize their K-12 experience, but how can students do that if most of what they are taught revolves around the importance of taking tests?  

Additionally, what are the odds that your child will actually attain the goal of "college readiness" by graduating high school at a charter school here in Massachusetts? Not as high as they would be at your good old traditional public schools because charter schools have higher attrition and suspension rates and lower graduation rates than our traditional public schools. Unfortunately, you won't read about or hear these facts through any of our major Boston news sources. 

Luckily, we have alternatives for news like Edushyster whose article "Charter Cap 'n Gown" highlights the issue of graduation rates in Boston charter schools. Facts to think about: here in Boston, Codman Academy Charter School had only 6 boys graduate out of the 19 students who graduated in 2013 (9th grade incoming class of 53 students); City On A Hill had only 4 boys graduate of the 31 students who graduated (9th grade incoming class of 130 students); and Match Charter School also had only 6 boys graduate out of the 23 students who graduated (9th grade incoming class of 72 students.) More data to come on this VERY soon!

Corporate education reform is brought to you by those who helped bring about our latest recession: the hedge fund managers, investment brokers, corporations and the big banks involved with them. What "readiness" seems to mean for the corporations is ensuring that they have someone ready in the future to work for them and increase their profits. While they are pouring money into education reform, political and media campaigns designed to make you believe their front-men are looking out for your children's best interest (Stand for Children is a good example of this), they refuse to pay their own employees a living wage, yet continue to reap the profits associated with loans, tax credits and helping to sell products needed for MCAS or PARCC, and by the way, very few of their own children are affected by any of it as they attend private schools. 

Education in the US has historically been about educating the citizenry and ensuring democracy along with giving every child the ability to live the "American Dream." Unfortunately, for those of us immersed in education policy, what we have seen, over the past 10 years especially, is that what backers of corporate education reform and bills like H4108 really want to ensure is their own bottom line by "educating" our children to conform, be complacent and make these foundations and shareholders richer.

All of the above was only further solidified a week ago, when despite my attempt to get away from the entire education debate by relaxing a bit, that hope was dashed while watching NECN Business on Sunday. Paul Guzzi, President of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, and Peter Howe, NECN Business Editor, insisted that the Massachusetts House of Representatives passage of H4091 which would allow the proliferation of charter schools to continue with no increase in true accountability and oversight is the best answer for students in "horrible situations" who attend "terrible school districts" - primarily meaning Boston. Both Mr. Guzzi and Mr. Howe urged the Senators, who now have the bill in their hands as H4108, to also vote to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts. If you are like me, you are asking yourself: why are the business leaders of Boston pushing for more charter schools?  I bet you know the answer!

The education of our students is the biggest responsibility we as parents, family, community members, and citizens have, yet we are failing our students every day that we remain silent and allow their education to be co-opted by businesses, corporations, organizations and billionaires who only see the profit they can make using our children now and in the future. We are failing our students by continuing to allow politicians to make choices based on campaign dollars instead of the welfare and future of our students, families, cities, states and the nation. We cannot afford to fail our students any longer.

Students, parents, families, educators, city and school leaders, politicians and citizens across the state and the country are coming together to insist that all of our students receive the quality education they deserve by investing in all of our students and schools equitably and fairly. Many of us in Massachusetts are emailing, calling, meeting with and visiting our state legislators to ask that they vote NO on H4108 and work with us to ensure more equitable funding formulas for all of our public schools, better oversight of charter schools to address all areas of concern, and to stop the over-testing of our children. 

Each of us alone has power when we raise our voice, collectively we can be truly unstoppable and the time to raise your voice, as a parent, as a family member, as a student, community member, politician or educator to ensure the educational rights of all of our students is NOW. This is not something you can put off if you want to ensure that your children, and all of our students, do not pay the ultimate price while those pushing the corporate agenda of corporate education reform turn our tax dollars into private profits.

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, Mary Lewis-Pierce via email or Twitter @Googiebaba, and/or Kristin Johnson via email or Twitter @KrissyCabbage!

Also, 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.


  1. Superb! Every important point is covered, with citations and evidence. I am moved by the video of demonstrations all over the country in defense of public schools! This article should go viral, and be brought to the attention of all parents, all voters, all taxpayers, all citizens, and all public officials. The monetary prize for privatizing and corporatizing the public education budget has created a formidable force against us. But I have no doubt that if we unite, we can win. The future of our children, our nation, our democracy, is at stake.

    1. Thank you for your comment and belief, like mine, that if we unite we CAN win. I look forward to working with you to protect our public schools and educate all citizens on the issues surrounding privatization of public schools!



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