Public Educators Squeezing More From Beacon Hill [OPINION]
You knew it was a matter of when, not if, Massachusetts public educators would try to use their heavy sway within the Democratic State Party to change the way education dollars are distributed.
That exact topic will be surely brought up tonight at a meeting at Keith Middle School in New Bedford.
Some things to consider that you may otherwise not hear tonight:
Charter schools have had a bullseye on their backs since the birth of them here. A very left-leaning coalition of educators and supporters are pushing for education funding reform and they are demanding more for the public schools and less for charter schools.
"The Devil doesn't want to give back what he's already claimed" - Author unknown
In what was once a monopoly for all intents and purposes, the public education system in the Bay State has struggled to come up with legal ways to stop the rise of charter schools as they have risen here and continue to surface in the 21st century.
As most urban school systems have failed miserably in properly educating and graduating their high school students, they have no moral ground to stand on when it comes to someone from the outside, with credentials, coming in to try to implement a better way.
The dropout rate, MCAS scores, rates of those who continue to higher education, basic reading, writing, and math skills have all collectively resulted in embarrassing statistics when compared to the suburban comparisons, Catholic schools and in some charter schools.
There is an argument that the comparisons are unfair as cities deal with socioeconomic problems that richer suburbs don't have, or at least not anywhere near the levels confronting city school educators.
While I'm inclined to agree, I do believe they have no right to stop the creation of education "Petri dishes," which simultaneously and autonomously find possibly better ways to educate. This is exactly what charter schools are meant to be.
It's the same principle as the creation of Uber and Lyft. If taxi companies didn't have notoriously rude drivers, dirty cabins and undependable service, Uber and Lyft wouldn't be successful.
The coalition pushing for the reform are basic Democratic political arms and far left ideologues. Of course, they direct their scorn toward Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who has been the truly progressive one on charter schools, ironically. The public educators find themselves in a position that requires an alien conservative viewpoint, offering a fear of changes and a need to stick to the old ways. It's laughable.
Parents in the tens of thousands here will tell you of the easy access their kids have to drugs in schools, and the chaotic and disruptive classroom atmosphere the kids face. Public school teachers are happy to step forward and speak of their neutered authority.
A disrespectful student can swear, disrupt, and agitate other students and be removed from class by the teacher, only to have the principal, vice principal or other behavioral school authority figures walk the belligerent student, with a $%6#-eating grin, right back to the class to avoid negative statistical issues being reported to the state and federal education departments.
While pushing for this, they are also asking for an additional $1 billion dollars from lawmakers on Beacon Hill, for special education that they say is underfunded.
Let me translate: there are so many illegal immigrant children in the Massachusetts public schools who cannot speak English, and the taxpayers need to pony up more from their wallets.
I'm sure we will hear from the typical Whine Brigade accusing this writer of being indifferent to the needs of special education students, invalids, mentally disabled, blind, deaf, autistic, etc. It's just a smoke bomb to distract you. I'm happy we have a fund for these deserving special needs students.
And I'm equally happy to fund educating immigrant children as they transition to speaking English through public education. Hey, it's America. I admittedly point this out because of the national issue we're facing with regards to the partial shutdown of the federal government. The president's wall or border security enhancement, whatever you wish to call it, probably affects local funding in your town.
Massachusetts has an estimated 350,000 illegal immigrants residing here, and the U.S. Census Bureau tells us that one in four are 18 years of age or younger, and so they are in the schools. That figure is at or near 75,000 students. If they don't speak English, they fall into the special education category, and the average special ed student in Massachusetts public schools costs between $18,000-$23,000 each. So with 75,000 IA students at $18,000 each per year, that's a whopping $1.35 billion against the budget annually, and costs are quickly rising.
Tonight's meeting at the Keith New Bedford Middle School is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the discussion is almost certain to be unfavorable to charter schools.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.