What kills me about the MTA’s bankrolling of Patrick’s campaign is that we have 3,200 fewer teachers today than we did four years ago— so not only is Patrick bad for students and families who stand to benefit from true education reforms (as this article shows), but DEVAL HAS ALSO BEEN BAD FOR TEACHERS – they do NOT benefit from his policies, which prioritize adding layers of bureaucracy to the already bloated state education system we have, at the expense of 3,200 actual teaching staff.
By Charles Chieppo
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Paul Toner has been making the rounds of education forums, most recently at The Boston Foundation, calling for an end to attacks on his union in columns and editorials. His plea is undoubtedly sincere, but recent MTA actions don’t exactly reflect a can’t-we-all-get-along approach.
First, they helped fund an ad having little to do with education that claimed Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker would ship jobs overseas. Only later did we learn that the MTA was behind it, since they joined with other organizations to form Bay State Future, the ad’s sponsor.
Now the MTA has bought $1 million in ads over the last three weeks to back Gov. Deval Patrick’s re-election bid. In 2006, they spent $3 million to elect Patrick. It’s a national trend; The Wall Street Journal recently reported that another public employee union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME), is the single biggest donor of the current campaign season.
AFSCME can only dream of the kind of return on investment the MTA has enjoyed. State and local taxpayers pay about $9 billion annually for K-12 public education, but Patrick eliminated the independent agency that provided some accountability for that spending by auditing school districts. The MTA, of course, is on the board of a toothless successor agency.
The MTA was also troubled by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education’s independence, which insulated the board from MTA political firepower and led to reforms like charter schools, MCAS and — worst of all — real teacher testing.
In 2008, Patrick eliminated the board’s independence and packed it with his own appointees. The immediate impact of the change was to inject politics into a charter school selection process that has since been tarnished by late-night e-mails asking the commissioner of education to act based on politics rather than the merit of charter proposals. The state inspector general and a Superior Court judge found that the evidence suggests the commissioner likely lied about the matter in an affidavit.
The MTA is also thrilled about Patrick administration efforts to replace academics in the commonwealth’s K-12 curriculum with soft skills like global awareness and cultural competence that can’t be objectively measured.
The list goes on, with postponement of a plan to make passage of a U.S. history MCAS exam a graduation requirement. The postponement was originally blamed on money, but even after a $168 million infusion of federal stimulus money and $250 million in federal grant money, there is no sign that the requirement will be reinstated.
The MTA’s biggest victory came this summer, when the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education jettisoned Massachusetts’ best-in-the-nation academic standards for weaker national standards. New standards require new assessments and that will spell the end of MCAS.
If Patrick is re-elected, look for Massachusetts to replace its teacher test, known as MTEL, with the MTA-backed PRAXIS, a far less rigorous assessment.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association is king of the political hill in the commonwealth. That enables them to call for a kinder, gentler approach from their opponents, even as they bankroll massive attack ad buys. It’s good to be the king.
Charles Chieppo is the principal of Chieppo Strategies, LLC, a public policy writing and advocacy firm.
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