STUDENT WALKOUTS AND POLITICAL WAR

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^ 2000 Boston public school students fight for the continuation of a misrepresented yesterday

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You may have seen or even taken part in the recent “walkout” by about 2500 Boston Public School (BPS) students and their producers. Certainly they wanted you to see them. They succeeded.

The question I ask is, why this job action ? The stated purpose was to protest “$ 50 million in school budget cuts.” This was a falsehood. The 2017 Boston Public School budget has NOT been cut. It has been RAISED, by about 1.7 percent. BPS is the ONLY Boston city department receiving an budget increase.

What the much decried $ 50 million is, is a shortfall. Boston’s 2017 schools budget falls short, by that amount, of full funding current expenses.

You can link to the Superintendent’s January budget memorandum here : http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/cms/lib07/MA01906464/Centricity/Domain/4/Familybudgetletter.pdf

It is not surprising that the BPS establishment does not liked receiving 50 million fewer dollars than it deems necessary. It is probably not surprising that, by way of complaining against the shortfall, said establishment would shout a falsehood.

Falsehood has become the M/O of establishments defending indefensible vested interests.

IF you recall a few years ago, Democrats in Congress responded to a decrease in the GROWTH of entitlement budgets by calling that decrease in growth rate a “cut.” It was, of course, no such thing : but the Democrats had no scruples about misleading voters in  search of their agenda. Similarly, in 2014’s 6th District Congressional election, a group supporting Seth Moulton accused his opponent of “voting against veterans”: because said person voted against an entire budget proposal that happened to contain one item about veterans.

Given this history of politics by falsity, it was probably to be expected that the BPS establishment should turn to falsehood — knowing falsehood — and the intentional misleading of students and parents, in hopes of bogarding the 50 million dollars it asserts is needed to balance the 2017 BPS budget.

Well, then, three questions arise :

1.IS the 50 million actually needed ?

2.If it is needed, why did Mayor Walsh decide not to allocate it, knowing that a feral opposition would arise, as it did to his plan to bring the 2024 Olympics Games to Boston ?

3.If Walsh knew the outcome of his shortfall allocation, why did he do it anyway, given that next year is his re-election year?

I have written about this topic already. You may want to revisit that article : https://hereandsphere.com/2016/01/16/boston-school-budget-2017-unanswered-questions/

There, I asked why the Mayor decided to not allocate 50 million dollars given that city revenue is growing faster than the schools budget. I opined that his decision was part of a long term plan to remake Boston’s schools by forcing school administrators to make tough decisions : consolidation of under-utilized facilities; eliminating wasteful anomalies in the teacher’s union contract; outsourcing much school management to corporate partners. In that same article, I supported all such purposes, but I decried that the Mayor did not make his intentions known to Boston voters

Much of last week’s “walkout” drama could have been avoided had the Mayor taken the gamble of letting his long game be known. But politicians rarely do that. Making your long game known allows the opposition to organize against it at length. So it becomes a question of, how can I, the Mayor, get to where i am going with the less political damage ? By disclosing my full game or by taking it one step at a time ?

So much for Question 3. What about Question 1 : is the 50 million “shortfall” actually needed ? Answer : it is needed, if you do not change the way BPS is administered and staffed. ( 1 ) Under-utilized buildings require maintenance — the custodians’ union is just as powerful as the Teacher’s union — and utilities. It is inexcusable to expend BPS money on inefficiency and things unnecessary, when classroom equipment, books, laptops, and librarians can’t be paid for ( 2 ) paying about 300 teachers who do not teach because no school principal will accept them costs about $ 24 million of the 50 million “shortfall.” Why are they not laid off ? ( 3 ) there is duplication in BPS management. We have a Superintendent and his staff, and we have, at City hall, an Education Chief and his staff, a chief who seems equally responsible for the direction of BPS if not more so than the actual Superintendent. Why do we have such duplication ? (It does not help matters that said Education Chief is also a partisan political activist, a member of the Ward 18 Democratic Committee. Why is an administrative official permitted to engage in partisan politics ?

In short, my answer to Question 1 is that the 50 million dollars being argued about are not needed except because of situations no one has the guts to reform. In this regard, it doesn’t help that BPS has a new Superintendent, Tommy Chang : a well-meaning and personable man with zero constituency of his own and zero abiility to marshal one. How missed is John McDonough ! “Big Jawn,’ as a lifetime BPS employee and Boston native, had an enormous constituency and was reforming every part of school management, inexorably and doggedly and was bale to do so without arousing “walkouts” and self-serving drama. Chang has none of McDonough’s power, nor has he shown McDonough’s shrewdness. He looks like a PR hire and has been rendered barely tourist status by Mayor Walsh appointing an Education Chief — Rahn Dorsey –who has the clout that Chang does not have and will likely never be accorded.

So much for Questions 2 and 3. What now will happen with BPS budgeting ? My guess is that the Mayor is setting the table both for his re-election and the next teachers’ union negotiation.His school budget opponents have actually aided his plan, by assuring that school budget matters will be front and center in the 2017 Mayor campaign. Here all advantage will lie with the Mayor, because most voters are taxpayers, and most taxpayers do not want to pay for inefficiency and anomaly; nor do they care much for outmoded school facilities and an in explicable charter school reimbursement formula. The Mayor actually set forth his campaign argument, as reported in the following article published yesterday : https://news.wgbh.org/2016/03/08/politics-government/walsh-bigwigs-dont-believe-negative-boston-public-schools-hype

If Mayor Walsh intends to make his re-election a referendum on education reform in the City, he puts himself on the same path as Governor Baker, whose entire identity is reform of government services, their administration and their finance. That, to me, is a very good path for Walsh to walk. But to walk it to victory, he will need to convince voters that he is a master administrator with a clear standard for assessing administrative success. Governor baker has done so for almost two years now. It’s his identity. Walsh had better start working on his reformer persona right now — the internal, City hall reforms are already well in place, by the way — if he hopes to conquer the many beasts of fact or logic that tangle the city’s biggest public service problem.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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