Perhaps in a perfect world, the very popular concept of local control and state’s rights could be as idyllic as so many make it out to be. But the ideal of local control and the reality of local control are two very different things and never have I been more keenly aware of it than this past weekend in America’s smallest state.
The Providence Journal (and kudos to them) has been knee deep in issues of race with the roll-out of their Race in RI series. Things took a very ugly turn for Rhode Islanders this weekend when they heard from their Speaker of the House, Nicholas Mattiello. (Article and video here. )
I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of the phrase ‘white privilege.’ I don’t think there is a white privilege,” House speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello told The Providence Journal as he questioned how much racism exists in modern-day Rhode Island.
Mattiello is arguably the most powerful man in the state and the truth is, he just doesn’t get it. Perhaps even more disheartening is that he shows no curiosity or desire to understand the “privilege” he has enjoyed for a lifetime or the the struggles of the people he was elected to serve.
One of the bright spots where we are seeing disparities shrink in unprecedented ways is our charter school sector. We’ve been ranked #1 (a rare feat in RI) not only for our charter school performance but also for its impact on our district schools. It seems only logical that the Speaker of the house would use his bully pulpit to support and even expand what’s working for the children and families in his state.
Instead, he wants to shut it down. Mattiello does not support charter schools. Period.
Despite remarkable results, Mayoral support, and exciting collaboration with districts, the Speaker of the House wants to put the brakes on successful schools that overwhelmingly support low income children of color.
So, sure. In a perfect world, local folks could design learning standards, assessments, and systems of accountability. They could decide what schools should and should not exist in their communities and decide how best to tackle problems of inequality, learning gaps, and poor performance.
But in the real world where we actually reside, unmitigated deference to local and sometimes provincial whims would be an ugly and unjust place that cannot be allowed to exist in 2015.
Mr. Speaker. We need you to be better. Now.