Tuesday, March 28, 2017

0 The Trumpcare Battle Was A Win For The People, By the People

Please consider the following your public service announcement if you have never read my blog or met me! Though I am primarily an optimist, because of my years of experience in politics, especially since so much corporate money has been allowed to buy our elections, I am, sadly, somewhat jaded now. I'm also *that lady,* you know, the one who will get in people's faces, mostly figuratively, and will say what no one else dares to say and tells it like it is.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka "Obamacare" absolutely needs fixing, but we also must examine why health insurers and pharmaceutical companies are allowed to continue gouging people without any oversight by our elected officials as part of the review of possible fixes. That said, this is not an article about the ACA or American HealthCare Act (AHCA), please keep that in mind.

No offense to the Democratic leadership, but I have to say the following:

The truth is that Democrats, whether in office or just involved with committees like the DNC, did not lead the fight to save the additional 24 Million people who would have lost health insurance coverage under the Republicans' American HealthCare Act (AHCA) aka "Trumpcare" by keeping their Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka "Obamacare." Many of the Democratic politicians, and the DNC - a few exceptions i.e. Senators Sanders (not a Dem!), Warren, Representatives Schiff, Swalwell, Lieu and a few others, quite honestly had been dragging their feet on everything since the astonishing defeat of Clinton by Trump. What was mostly happening right after the defeat of Hillary was a continuation of the finger-pointing and divisiveness among Democratic (and Dem leaning) voters instead of trying to figure out what really happened. 

While many voters were fighting and snarling, others got to work. The day after Hillary's defeat the real groundswell of activism that has now taken the nation by storm began. On November 9, 2016 the first event page was created for a march on Washington scheduled for the day after Donald Trump's inauguration. By the next morning, November 10th, over 10,000 people had already signed on to take part in the event which coalesced into a nationwide, then worldwide, movement known as the Women's March on Washington

The Women's March was amazing to take part in here in Boston, and from all accounts, everywhere it took place - not just in America, but across the world in what was the largest global protest in history. Additionally, all of the marches were peaceful and there were no arrests. 

The Women's March was phenomenal and allowed everyone with concerns and issues regarding Trump to have a voice and stand together all at once. It should be noted that it was not a Democratic movement - people from every political group took part together peacefully. Amazing political pundits across the nation, Dem politicians suddenly found their voices and quickly jumped onto the bandwagon once they realized how much energy there was behind the movement. That latter point is what has led us to my rant here today.

Since politics is one of my interests, and has been since I was young, I was watching very closely from the first day to see how long it would take for the Democratic party elite, politicians, groups and the usual suspects to jump in and attempt to take the lead in this amazing movement. It didn't take long, especially once celebrities started signing up to speak and perform. 

I want to give major kudos to organizers, especially those in D.C., who were able to retain most of the control at the march and afterward.

From the Women's March through to the present, it has been amazing to watch the amount of civic engagement which has sprung up with and without any planning. From Trump's first week in office, especially starting with the first travel ban, we have seen that the American people are fired up and ready to fight for our beliefs and country, within a moments notice. 

Part of the reason for the energy is, in my opinion, only partially due to Trump's agenda and the horrible things we all learned about him throughout the campaign. It has actually been building for years; Trump was just the final catalyst. 

We the people have been held hostage for years, by the partisan nature of both parties. We have watched as time and time again, those we elect get to the office they are elected to, at local and federal levels, and seem to forget whom they work for, who put them there, and who they will answer to for their choices. And we the people end up screwed in one form or another, all while we watch the same politicians head back to their offices despite their broken promises. 

Don't get me wrong, unlike the man currently inhabiting the White House, we the people also need to admit that our own complacency, lack of interest in anything beyond our small bubble, and yes, laziness, factored into our country's descent to where we are now. We the people failed to bother to learn about the complexities of the laws and regulations, policies and decisions, being made in our name. By doing so we the people allowed our politicians to do what they wanted regardless of the final impact on our neighbors, ourselves and the country. And we the people ourselves seemed to have forgotten that those in public office, whether locally or nationally, really serve at the pleasure of... the people, inclusive of the President.  

We the people are not customers or clients of this country or politicians; you do not get to decide what we want without our input; and you do not get to ignore our demands. We the people are the employers, and this is a wake-up call for all of you in political office: you all serve at the pleasure of us, the people of America - and yes, that includes Donald Trump.

As evidenced by recent actions across the nation, we the people have remembered the above and everything is changing. The Republicans pulling Trumpcare on Friday before it could go to a floor vote in the House is the latest win for the resistance. Contrary to the messaging I am hearing from the majority of the media and politicians, the resistance's Trumpcare win was not our first win. It was the first legislative win, yes, but it was only the latest win with regard to Trump and GOP agendas. Casually dismissing the earlier wins and ongoing battle are condescending and dangerous for those who continue to do so. 

Most of the winning, along with the continuing battles and those to come, are happening due to the intense activism of the "regular" people. People from every race, culture, background and level, who have dropped everything to rush to airports to protest illegal immigration bans, come together to fight for the protection of every person, whether you are a refugee, immigrant, LGBTQIA, child, adult, senior or however you self identify. We are even fighting over the right for Transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as, for fucks sake - something which was settled until Trump ordered the withdrawal of the previous guidance on same.  

This activism by the resistance has kicked our politicians into gear, the GOP quite reluctantly. Though when the time came with Trumpcare, the Democrats and some Republicans finally seemed to get it that we the people are serious and would support actions opposing it - just as we will with regard to the SCOTUS issue. So it would be nice if all of our politicians would be honest in giving credit where credit is due and not tout the win as a Democratic party win. 

This was a win by the people, for the people. 

Taking backhanded credit for it, attempting to raise funds for your personal campaigns, gloating about the "Democratic" win, are not acceptable. We the people had to push all of our politicians to either stand with us and do what we the people want done, or realize that we are not going away and will remember your decisions at the next election. 

And to the Republicans who control the House and Senate, let's be clear: your continued obstruction of an independent investigation into Russia's attack on our democracy and possible Trump team collaboration, and your insistence on jamming through all of the GOP agenda items and Trump's nominees will be the "death spiral" of your career as politicians. Accessories after the fact may be only the beginning of the charges once we the people have our voices fully heard.   

There are many battles still ahead of us in this war to save the American democracy. I urge everyone to continue to resist, stand up and fight back, especially those in Republican states. I honestly don't care what your political affiliation is, if you really love America, then it is time to stand together for the fundamental values, beliefs and rights that have made USA the world leader when it comes to democracy.

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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

0 It's Not About Bathrooms or Terrorists: It's About Distraction

It's not about bathrooms for Transgender people. It's not about the likelihood (or lack thereof) that people from certain nations may be terrorists. Also, it's not about how many "bad dudes" may be in our country from Mexico or other countries. (I would argue that the baddest dudes I've seen recently are actually from the USA.)

All of the above, every last one of them, are important in and of themselves and we should not ignore addressing these issues by pushing back on Trump's decisions. However, what all of these issues have in common is that they play to fear, ignorance and prejudice and for Donald Trump, that is his base. They also lead to most decent people doing all they can to protect those being discriminated against which keeps us busy - and distracted.

These are purposely set fires meant to inflame the "opposition," aka residents who did not vote for Trump. This concerted effort by the administration of our country has several goals. A few of those goals are:

  • To fulfill Trump's promises made on the campaign trail;
  • To help Republicans to achieve things they have tried to do for years with no success;
  • To push the white nationalist agenda while enriching corporations/wealthy over middle-class and low-income people.
However, the most important goal that all of these actions have is to distract us from the fact that our elections were tampered with by a foreign government, Russia. 

As if that isn't bad enough by itself, the Trump administration especially does not want us focusing on the possibility that they were in contact with Russia while it was happening and did nothing to stop it. This is not the behavior of a president or a patriot, it is the behavior of traitors.

None of these actions is acceptable and the fact that the Republicans did not stand up immediately and call for an independent investigation should make them accessories after the fact.
  We must not let Trump's theatrics distract us from the Trump Russian election issue. We must continue to push for an independent investigation with a special prosecutor. Even a joint Senate and House intelligence committee investigation is not acceptable as it has already been proven that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)the chairmen of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, have been working with the Trump administration to try to quash "Russiagate".

I am not going to ask folks to set aside work on other issues, because I have faith that most of us can fight for more than one thing at a time. I AM going to request that no matter what else you do, that every day you find a way to advocate for an independent investigation and special prosecutor to look into the Trump Russia connections and that you ask your family, friends and networks across the country to do the same. It will take all of us, working together, to counteract the purposeful distractions and resolve the Trump-Russia questions once and for all.

I am planning on making it a priority to push anyone I need to in anyway I can for an independent investigation into Trump-Russia daily. However, I will also be fighting against the attacks on transgender and immigrant/refugee people, our education system, healthcare, environment, a free press and so much more. I hope everyone I know, regardless of your political stance, will stand with me against hate, prejudice and for all that we the people believe our country should be.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1 #Resist, Rest, Repeat: Viva la Resistance America

Trump Presidency Day 6

Note: This was originally posted in a political action group per a request that I elaborate on a reply to someone feeling overwhelmed and drained. Now I am sharing this in the hope of helping everyone - especially those who are newer to political action- combat the inevitable feelings you may be experiencing due to the past few days onslaught of Trump's executive orders and alternate perceptions (as they are NOT facts.) 

After such an amazingly uplifting experience at the Women's Marches, we must not become so disheartened that we give up.

I hope others who have been doing this for awhile will share their advice via the comments (if you give permission I will then add it with credit to you) so that we can share and utilize the experience and knowledge we have acquired. This is important to ensure that we do not lose folks due to feelings of despair, pointlessness or, especially, burn-out!

First: we CAN win, but it is going to take time. It's a marathon not a sprint. However, together we can make it a relay marathon because sometimes you need to fight for something else (or work, take care of family or you know, sleep!) and need someone else to grab that torch. 

Also you need to recognize that losing one battle doesn't mean you have lost the war. The most important tool in this oncoming war will be keeping people involved whether they have an hour a week or are available every day. 

Boston Common from Beacon Street
Boston Women's March January 21, 2017
Without the people we lose.

If we do not work together and strengthen our collaborations: we will have minor wins but will possibly lose the overall fight. 

We cannot afford to lose. Period.

There will be days that we may not seem to be making much headway or that you feel hopeless or like "why bother no one cares." Been there done that. I am here to tell you, people care. We are right here. Even if you are the only one fighting for your cause in a room stacked against you, you can win, but only if you take care of YOU too.

From my original post on that thread:

I've been an activist since I was 15 but more so as a mom because my kids have special needs. I actually spent 11 years Chairing Boston's SNPAC (Special Needs Parent Advisory Council, the 1st of its kind but now required under special ed laws and often called "SEPACs") 100 hours per week (it was insane) under an adversarial administration. 

I have been a social justice, public & special education advocate for 24 years and politically involved since that first foray into the realm when I was 15 (Goddess this makes me seem ANCIENT! I'm not! 😀)

Here is my advice:

1) As galvanized and energized as you feel, do NOT spend every spare minute on this or even reading/watching the news. It will drain you faster than a 2 year old with ADHD who doesn't sleep (I have 3 kids with ADHD whom I love so trust me, it doesn't take long and I barely sleep even now that they are older.)

2) Find something you like to do that relaxes you (preferably with no chance of seeing the horrors we are now witnessing): reading, dancing, photography, exercise, favorite shows, writing* or whatever.

I enjoy photography so this is one of my escapes!
Take some time each day to do whatever it is.

Folks with kids: for YOU not for the kids- seriously.


3) We tend to spend more time with like-minded folks, so if you don't already have someone you can just rant or vent to: find someone! I am thankful I have a few people I can call up and start venting who just listen or vent with me often without even asking "what happened?" as usually they know exactly what I am off about which means not having to explain.

4) If you are really new, please reach out to people who have been doing this for awhile. Don't be shy, most are happy to help others learn not only how to resist, fight and organize, but also how to cope with everything and breathe (super important!!!)

5) Verify whatever you see or hear if it is not from a source you trust completely. Research it, read up on it, and especially with all the fake crud flying use fact checking sites like factcheck.org or politifact.com

Why is this important? Lots of actual #fakenews out there and with the internet and social media I've seen people freak out completely and wear themselves down only to find out that the info was incorrect, was just someone's perception instead of an actual fact or someone's idea of a joke (trolls) - which can then totally piss you off (also tiring.)

Even if from a source you trust, recognize that behind everything is a human, we are fallible and therefore can inadvertently make a mistake and pass on incorrect info. The good guys will generally admit it was a mistake and correct it.

As a former paralegal and having played too long in these waters, sans the immediate ability to fact-check we now have, I tend to dig a bit before jumping no matter who it is from. I also have political and education institutional knowledge so can sometimes just help question things or give irrefutable facts to disprove apparent misinformation. 

6) Don't be taken advantage of please! During a recent major campaign there was a deputy director who told people that if they didn't go door knocking or help in some way with the campaign then they couldn't have a lawn sign. Not acceptable. He was reported by several people. Why did he do that? Having a lawn sign helps the campaign (whether for a person or position) more than door knocking sometimes. 

Most pros will never do something this dumb, but it's a clear example which I can give you, not to scare you - just so you understand that though you may be 1000% behind a cause, if you are a volunteer - which most of us are - you should never feel bullied or that because you are new you shouldn't question things.

Most causes have paid organizers whose job is measured by how many engagements they can gain for the group (online, phone, in person etc) so occasionally you may cross paths with someone like I mention above. Even those who are just doing their jobs well can turn people off from a group or cause by being too pushy. 

Right now a lot of organizations and groups are jumping to get everyone signed on to something because most haven't seen this level of national outrage and the willingness to fight, well, ever.

Look into the group and even if it's a cause you care about, if for some reason (again we are all human) you don't feel you fit with a specific group please don't give up. Find another one or start your own volunteer group.

One side of the sign I carried.
7) Right now especially we are all in a heightened state of re-activism *guilty myself*. This can lead to you getting extremely frustrated with others who seem to not care or not to be as involved as you are. This is normal, but it also drains you.

If you are at all like me you will feel like screaming at the top of your lungs "what the hell is WRONG with you people!? Can't you see our country is UNDER ATTACK by the PRESIDENT and our elected officials ARE NOT STANDING WITH US?" *ahem* or something similar. 

Do what you can to try to educate and activate people who may have time to give. Some folks honestly are overwhelmed with their own stuff and we need to respect that. If others are open to it, asking them questions to find out if you can help them in any way with why they may not be involved.

Again, people are the most important resource we will have in the resistance, but we must recognize that not all will join us and some are against us. 

IGNORE TROLLS - just don't even engage - their main goal is to get you fighting with them to distract you from the real fight! In person: walk away; via social media: mute, block, report via the platform's tools.

However, if after you have exhausted all of your best efforts, and hopefully before you scream something like the above, they are still sucking your soul out of you: move on. There are more people to educate and activate who will join us, which is a much more positive use of your time. (Also, utilize #3 - it can help really!) 

The greatest lesson I have learned is to not only know when you must stand for what you believe, but more important is knowing when there is no point to a skirmish which will not have a major impact on the war.

For your information:
I have found that many do not understand why we marched because to them it didn't accomplish anything. (It did - but that's a whole other post!)

Or they do not believe that the rights of people in the United States of America can really be taken away (yet another post!) and still don't believe it, on day 6. 

The saddest of all (to me), is because they:
  • supported Trump - and will hold to that forever (or until Trump does something that impacts them which they cannot deny);
  • believe it will not impact them
  • believe misinformation or lies previously relayed to them through whatever source;
  • like some of Trump's ideas;
  • are against a group(s) because of their own biases, beliefs or misinformation relayed to them; 
  • think the marches were stupid; or, 
  • quite frankly, they really don't care about helping others. 
The last one may sound harsh, but some people only care about themselves. It takes all kinds to fill this world, right? Live and let live but move on from them!

I share these tips with the hope that they can help you because if you don't take care of you and your family first you may end up feeling defeated & hopeless. This is not what you want to happen. 

The actions taken by Trump and even the reaction to his agenda is beyond anything I've ever seen & it will take ALL of us to ensure that Trump does not destroy the United States via Executive Orders in the shortest time possible.

In Solidarity Always,

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

0 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! 

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.


Your Name
(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


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