When I think of being ready for day one of a school year, tables of political buttons and campaign propaganda isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But in Newton, Massachusetts this year, that’s what returning teachers found in their midst as they reunited after the summer. And there is something very wrong with that.
Newton has high quality schools. Many children living just miles away can’t say the same. Newton recently built a $197.5 million high school. No one else in the state can say the same. And yet, despite the absolute privilege that exists in Newton where the average home price is $910,000, the powers that be (at least the union ones), think getting pumped up to block poor kids from accessing quality schools is a noble way to spend their first day back at school.
And according to their Twitter page, the Save Our Public Schools folks think this is just great. Something to show off with pride.
— SaveOurPublicSchools (@SOPublicSchools) August 31, 2016
It made me want to throw up.
But Newton isn’t alone. In Walpole, teachers were forced to spend a half hour of their first day back listening to union reps talk about how important a No vote is on Question 2 (and it’s likely this happened in districts all across the Baystate.) Walpole is also an expensive town that is unlikely to ever be impacted by Question 2 because they, like Newton, are nowhere near reaching the cap. The vast majority of children and families directly impacted by the charter cap could never afford to buy a house in Walpole. Or in Newton.
The level of disregard for other people’s children is truly indefensible. It’s as though the guarantee of safe quality schools that teachers and families in these towns already enjoy isn’t enough. Now they are expected (and in some cases eager) to turn their attention and energy to fighting against poor kids getting an education that’s comparable to what their own children and students already take for granted.
Oh and did I mention that these communities are not in compliance with affordable housing mandates either? Perhaps they would be but as is always the case, the residents don’t want affordable housing to come to their community and so they fight it at ever turn. Boston Magazine described it this way in Newton:
Well-heeled progressives champion liberal ideals, including housing the homeless. Just don’t try it in their neighborhood.
So if the union leaders and reps have their way, low income children won’t be able to attend quality schools anywhere. Turns out that any reputation these premier zip codes, especially Newton, have for being “enclaves of progressivism” is more about what they say than what they do.
I get that the collective bargaining agreement guarantees the union a half hour to meet with their members. But that doesn’t erase the absolute ‘ick factor’ of teachers spending their first day back in a school building focused on how to keep poor kids, mostly of color, out of high performing schools.
During my teaching days, I expressed displeasure with the union from time to time over seniority based layoffs and work rules that were bad for kids. But this? This would have had me apoplectic. It’s already bad enough that the fate of children in Dorchester, Mattapan, Lawrence, and Holyoke will come down to whether or not white suburbanites check yes or no on their ballot in November. But to know that information – well, misinformation actually – is being disseminated during the work day on school property is really just too much to take.