Strange and wondrous happenings…

Several times over the past few weeks I have read the morning papers with a deep sense of unreality.  There is something (some things, really) happening in Massachusetts state government – suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere – that few Republicans expected to see any time soon. 

First and most obvious, there is the throw-down currently raging between House Democratic leadership and the public sector union bosses.  Show me someone who even a month ago would have predicted that union bigs Robert Haynes and Ed Kelly would be at Speaker DeLeo’s throat over the latter’s effort to curtail collective bargaining and I’ll pay big bucks for that person’s crystal ball.

But there are other, less explosive things going on too.  On MCAS – an issue that I for one expected to be lost to conservatives with Governor Patrick’s victory last November – it appears that some in the Governor’s education policy hierarchy might just have their heads screwed on straight.  Look at this in today’s Globe:

State education officials made a forceful case yesterday for tying teacher evaluations to students’ MCAS scores and other performance measures, contending it would root out subpar teachers and lead to better schools.

“We can’t condemn successive cohorts of students to ineffective teaching,” said Mitchell Chester, the state’s education commissioner, who said rigorous teacher evaluations are infrequent.

In two-thirds of urban public school districts in Massachusetts, administrators are not allowed to consider student performance in assessing teachers, Chester said. Many teachers go several years without being evaluated.

At a meeting yesterday of the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the first official discussion of the plan since it was proposed earlier this month, Chester and other supporters called stricter oversight of teacher performance an overdue component of school reform.

“This is really a culture change,” Chester said. “For students who are behind, not having an effective teacher is going to keep them behind.”

 It still is not at all clear to me that Chester has his boss’s backing, but the more he gets out there with rhetoric like this, the more I wonder if perhaps things on the education front are not so bleak as I’d thought

And then there is this from today’s Herald:

Senate President Therese Murray, breaking ranks with Gov. Deval Patrick, is pledging to personally eradicate hack-packed, do-nothing state agencies and taxpayer-cash-blowing government programs by requiring all public entities to undergo regular performance reviews for the first time.

“We want to look at, are they viable? Do we need them?” Murray told the Herald in an exclusive sit-down yesterday. “Has their mission changed, and how much do they cost? Also, is there another agency doing similar things?”

The all-encompassing financial reform package being filed by Murray today is aimed at improving “transparency” in state government, eliminating waste, improving efficiency and wiping out antiquated laws. The key component of the proposal would be to require regular “performance management reviews” of all 200-plus state-funded agencies every five or 10 years.

What next?

Here again we have a Beacon Hill Democrat initiating a policy push that – from initial appearances, at least – is carved directly from bedrock fiscal conservative principles… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS

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