How to Quell a Rebellion

I’ve had a child in Boston Public Schools for 5 years now. And every year, the budget that is allotted to the school system is less than the rising costs. This results in painful cuts at the schools.

Parents are becoming a little bit more vocal about the situation.

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So I’ve been taking note of the myriad of ways that the establishment has used to discredit us.

Deny that it is happening

At the State of the City Address in January of 2016, this is what Mayor Walsh had to say about education:

I know we share this priority. Now let’s fund it. Let’s work through the state budget process this year to make it a full investment in our children, our families, and our Commonwealth’s future. Let’s live up to our reputation as the world leader in learning.

Outside of the very hall where he was giving this speech, 150 or so people were marching in 2 degree weather protesting the fact that he wasn’t funding it.

The mayor has repeatedly denied that there are budget cuts at the school level even though teachers have been signing the work release letters throughout the winter. This was further reinforced by the Herald editorial on February 22, 2016 that stated, mysteriously, that the “budget cuts are off the table.”

On February 26, 2016, I called into speak with Mayor Walsh on Boston Public Radio’s monthly Ask the Mayor segment. I was on the phone with him telling him that my daughter’s school is losing 2 teachers. He kept denying that teachers were being laid off, and simply said they are looking at “efficiencies.”

This is a very simple maneuver and boy it works. I’ve had friends get mad at me for calling the mayor a liar but there is really no other way to put it. The mayor isn’t telling the truth, and he is doing it to deliberately confuse the public about what is happening in BPS. Furthermore, the press never calls him out on this and in fact, parrots his lies.

Bore them into compliance

Now, you actually have to interact with the school department to see how this one works. But if you go to any of the budget hearings, you will be subjected to an hour-long presentation about HOW the budget is being cut. Now, it doesn’t take too much emotional intelligence to understand that what parents want know is WHY the budget is being cut but that question never gets answered.

I’ve also seen this dynamic with Supt. Chang (a man’s whose job I do not envy.) When asked a question about why this is happening or even how can you let this happen, he will launch into a long recitation of the mechanics of taking dollars and cents away from the high schools and special needs programs.

You know your question isn’t really being answered but you’ve fallen asleep by the time he’s gotten to the end of it.

Divide and Conquer

On February 25, 2016, Farah Stockman threw down the “Blame the Teachers” narrative. Boston’s has the largest income inequality of any big city in America. So this is an easy and classic way to stir up resentment. People are genuinely suffering in Boston so it’s easy to shame people who are making a living wage.

BTW – the Director of Families for Excellent Schools in Massachusetts enthusiastically cheered this column on.

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Families for Excellent Schools is the group promoting more charter schools in Massachusetts. This is also the group that has ties to Eva Moskowitz in New York. Does that name sound familiar to you? Her Success Academy Charter Schools have been in the NY Times recently for their abuse of kids.

As an interesting side note, Farah Stockman is leaving the Boston Globe to go work for the New York Times.

Ignore Us

This is the governor’s tactic. He just doesn’t say anything about the school districts’ budgets – ever. It’s pretty darn effective to tell you the honest truth. I guess that’s why he’s Mr. Popularity.

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Hyperbole and Misinformation

Before I start in, I want to say that I’ve had a lot of interactions with a lot of reporters in this city, and the vast majority of the interactions have been good. This includes several staff reporters from the Boston Globe.

But when it comes to the editorial departments, let’s say I have some concerns.

Because the mayor has chosen to not fully fund BPS at a level that accounts for rising costs, the schools are experiencing devastating cuts. $50 million dollars in cuts to be exact.

So how do the editorial pages of the Athens of America respond?

First up, we have the Boston Herald on Monday editorializing that the “cuts are off the table.”

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Now this is simply mystifying to me. A very simple google search would inform the editors of the Herald that the cuts are not off the table. Alternatively, they could have picked up the phone and called BPS to find out that the cuts are still very much on the table. But apparently fact checking is not within the purview of the editorial board.

Now today, we get something interesting from the Globe’s Farah Stockman. The cuts are happening – but they’re the teachers’ fault! And then she accused me of hyperbole and misinformation on Twitter.

Now, that was an interesting to say to me. Because honestly, I can’t once remember seeing Ms. Stockman at a Budget Hearing, School Committee Meeting or Town Hall. Not once. Now if she had gone to Monday night’s Town Hall Meeting, she would have heard a few things. Such as:

The O’Bryant, the city’s STEM school, has a $340,000 cut. They are losing their computer science program.

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Our Town Hall meeting at BLS

The Jeremiah Burke has a $300,000 cut and will lose their Spanish teacher. The school will have no foreign language instructions.

A librarian who serves as the only librarian for four schools has lost her job.

Boston Latin School is losing 7 teachers.

My daughter’s tiny school, the BTU k-8, is losing $250,000 which results in the loss of 2 teachers. In last year’s budget cuts, we lost our Spanish teacher.

And on and on. There isn’t a single high school that hasn’t been affected. Very few schools have not been affected by this round of budget cuts.

I storified the entire town hall meeting in case you are interested. It chronicles the severity of what BPS is experiencing.

I have not once seen a Boston Globe columnist question why the city can’t fulfill the teacher contracts that it has agreed to. I have not once seen an editorial questioning why the city cannot fully fund the public schools. I have seen plenty of columnist and editorials promoting the need for more charter schools. But not a single one questioning the state on why it has not taken the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The FBRC is the state’s own report that it is underfunding public education by billions of dollars. My guess would be no one on the editorial staff of either paper even knows what the FBRC even is.

We deserve better than this Boston. We are taxpayers and we spend money on the newspapers. We deserve fully funded schools for all of the kids not just a select few. And we deserve newspapers that know something about the educational environment before their Opinion pages spout off nonsense.

Actions speak louder than words

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Students, teachers and parents stormed City Hall today, a surprisingly exhilarating activity I highly recommend.

We wanted to talk to the Mayor about the 50 million dollar budget cut to Boston Public Schools, but it seems, our mayor did not want to talk to us. We were knocking on his door but he did not even poke his head outside.

He did, however, have his spokesperson issue a statement to press.

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This was from the Bay State Banner’s excellent article on the Walk In today.

I want you sit back and think about how amazing this statement really is. We DO NOT have a budget deficit because of new efficiencies.

What new efficiencies are there? THEY MADE BUDGET CUTS TO ALL OF THE SCHOOLS.

They are firing teachers! And pillaging school resources. The very reason why we are protesting here in the first place!

This sort of Marty logic makes me lose my cool and GET ALL CAPSIE ON THE INTERWEBS.

I would be shocked by this stunning display of intellectual dishonesty if I didn’t already expect it from our mayor. His mind is almost elegant in its capacity for gobbly gook.

There is no reason for him to address us ->  because there is no problem here -> because there is no budget deficit -> so there is no problem.

CbbceAbXEAERgHlWe can all go home.

And somehow, the fired teachers and the cancelled programs and the run down buildings just aren’t there in the equation. They are nothing. They are will-o-wisps that just float away and dissipate until you question whether they were ever really there in the first place. Maybe that Spanish teacher that used to teach my daughter on Thursday was only a dream. A dream that could have better prepared her for a multi-cultural 21st century.

 

The mayor’s mind is diabolical, actually. It’s also a few clowns short of a circus.

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February Actions for Fighting the Budget Cuts

There is a lot going in Boston right now to fight the budget cuts to BPS. I hope you join us at one of these events.

The Citywide Parent Council has also created a great action tool kit that you can download.

February 17, 10 am to noon
Walk In and Rally for Public Ed
Starts at City All
Ends at State House

https://www.facebook.com/events/1769972156564020/

February 22 at 6:30 PM
Town Hall Meeting: BPS High Schools
w/ City Councilors Tito Jackson and Annissa Essaibi George
organized by Boston Latin School
meeting at BLS 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur

February 24 at 6:00 PM
Boston School Committee Meeting
Boiling Building
2300 Washington Street, Roxbury

February 29 at 6:30 PM
Meeting with City Councilor Matt O’Malley
BPS Budget Cuts and Unified Enrollment
Doyle’s Café
3484 Washington Street, Jamaica Plain

For more information contact me at lewispierce@gmail.com or go to our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/StopTheCompact/

https://www.facebook.com/StopTheBostonCompact/

The Citywide Parent Council has created an excellent tool kit for fighting these budget cuts. You can download here! 2016_BudgetPlan_rev021116

 

Let it be done in love

When I was 8 years old, I witnessed my teacher making another student cry. I can’t remember his offense, but I do remember that she made him stand in front of the classroom and hold out a dictionary until he broke down crying. This wasn’t an isolated incident. It was part of my teacher’s classroom management.

Quiet, obedient and nervous about the world, I was never the child who got into trouble. I was still traumatized watching the teacher victimize other children.

My parents were deeply religious people and chose to send me to a catholic school because they wanted me to learn my catechism. The fact that they chose this school for me did not negate the damage. Though I’ve always performed well academically, I’ve had a persistent fear of people and a general anxiety that has plagued me throughout my life. Watching other children humiliated did not serve me well.

I’m told by younger friends who also attended catholic school that they can’t imagine their teachers acting like this and that the experience is much more positive now. But I bring this up because of the video out of Success Academies showing a teacher berating her student for not knowing a math answer.

I know I’m seen as a little bit obsessive on the charter issue but I have some sense of what those children in No Excuses classrooms are experiencing. The fact thacf15f2e7f34ec74f5e7d81477105ffdft parents are choosing to subject their children to this does not erase the damage that these children are experiencing.

Children do not need to be abused to learn. Black and brown children deserve to be in education environments where they are treated like children and not prisoners. These No Excuse charter schools have proliferated across the country, and we’ve allowed it. We are allowing the abuse of children in the name of test scores. It’s a shame on us all.