Propaganda and Politics on the First Day of School

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.

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.



What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Propaganda and Politics on the First Day of School

  1. Erika so what happens to the other low income students when X amount of them leave for charter schools with the state tax dollars which previously funded their public school?
    Why should charter teachers not go through same rigorous certification process as public school teachers?
    Why do MA Charters get to not accept special ed kids at the same rate?
    Why do MA charters get to suspend/expel minority kids out of their schools when they do not perform well?

    You say this is about social justice but you are the mouth piece for the Walton foundation and other billionaires who would like to privatize our PUBLIC school system. You should be ashamed you hide behind unproven facts and use “poor kids, mostly of color…” as your shield to frivolously toss ideas concocted by the fabulously rich. You call that social justice. Your argument boils down to charter school + poor and/or minority child = success. show me the proof. Because plenty of academics have studied this and have found no statistical advantage for a charter school over public school no matter the geographic location.

    Your statements make sense if one just assumes your words are gospel and of course that a charter school on it’s own IS the Wonka’s Golden Ticket. One would hope someone who writes a blog would at least take some time to be informed of the issues she publically speak about. but I guess this is the society we live in now. why speak accurately because well it’s the internet so you are only talking to the cyber space vacuum of people who already agree with you.

  2. The level of disregard for other people’s children is truly indefensible.

    Who does the “union” work for? Teachers. Who pays the union dues? Teachers. What is the job of the union (you were a union member) – to protect, advocate for, and negotiate the best deal for its members.

    Looking at pay differentials, the highest pay is in unionized public schools – so why wouldn’t a “union” of teachers fight for that?

    From 2014 BLS study – “The movement toward private schools and charter schools, which do not have the union density of public schools, is also problematic, given the larger pay differentials across types of ownership.” (meaning public sector unionized teachers make the most)

    Now if you want to argue unions should also police themselves (as a profession), well, that’s another story. Good for you if you worked internally to push the union leadership a certain way, but my experience is the most vocal and most recalcitrant teachers became union reps/leaders and the vast majority of teachers, whether in agreement or not with their union leaders and actions, went along with leadership. You had a post about 3 teachers who resigned at BVP recently; i think you would agree if that was at a unionized public school, the union would have fought /filed a grievance and most of the teachers would either have (1) sent in a letter supporting their fellow teachers or (2) remained silent.

    You obviously interact with way more teachers than I would, but my limited experience with teachers is the silent majority are well silent when it comes to running for union leadership or going against (ie. work to rule calls) their union when leadership calls for actions that hurt students.

    Waiting for that big counter rally to the MTA by teachers…

    And let’s be real; you’re a democrat. Teacher’s unions give overwhelmingly to democrats and expect a payoff for that; and elected democrats for the most part take the money and follow; look at Secretary Clinton (usual tap dance on this but apparently not Obama 2.0 when it comes to education; Sen Sanders was confusing, if not clueless, when it came to charters. Arguably President Obama was not as beholden (maybe because the unions came out early for HRC and he was smart enough to know that the teachers union weren’t going to jump to the GOP!). but don’t expect the same from Ms. Clinton.

    and why are you so shocked about progressives, especially from white, upper class areas, being more about talk and imposing their values on the rest of us while they have escape mechanism from the costs they want to impose on the rest of us?

  3. Are you kidding me? Charters spend a fortune every year politicizing their schools and students through aggressive marketing and propaganda. Success Academy CLOSES their schools for a day so they can bring the kids to Albany as political props in their pursuit of state and federal tax dollars.

    Enough with the feigned moral outrage.

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