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News :: Labor
Boston Public Schools - $70 for a new Roxbury building - Private Charter Schools Want It
15 Aug 2014
Modified: 11:38:47 AM
Public money - private profit.
Click on image for a larger version

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BOSTON — Charter school privateers are trying to secure for themselves the new $70 million state funding for a new middle school building in Roxbury. The Dearborn Middle School building is over one hundred years old. The stately facade is an impressive example of a public building using a neo-classical theme with Greek columns. But old buildings are difficult to maintain with retrofitted modern systems snaking through antique walls. The new school in the Roxbury community was going to be built by union labor, and staffed by Boston Public School teachers who are licensed, experienced, and members of a labor union that secures a decent standard of living for teachers. Many Boston Public School teachers are black, Asian, and Latino. They live in the community.

But the Charter School privateers see a chance to grab a new school at public expense and staff the new building with non-union teachers without any license to teach, and often newly graduated white students with no connection to the community. In studies Charter Schools do as well as public schools 40% of the time, better than public schools 20% of the time, and worse than public schools 40% of the time. The Charter School companies are often profit making ventures that seek to increase profits by paying teachers less and making the public pick up the building expenses, lunch expenses, transportation expenses, and even the private employers pension obligations. Everything that can be charged to the public is charged to the public. The Charter School keeps the profits. Some are 'non-profit' and have 'administrators' and other non-teaching staff with large salaries. Sweden has had a two decades experiment with massive privatization of the public schools and the scores of the country have gone down sharply. Unionized Finland next door has the best public schools in the world and the top scores.

So, the Dearborn Middle school is just a local example of the struggle for 'free, quality, public education' with unionized teachers with a decent standard of living.

The idea that the many problems that affect the population served by the Dearborn are the result of the teaching staff having a labor union contract that gives them decent pay and some protection against arbitrary management is the 'main stream media' way of trying to paint 'anti-union' as 'pro-Civil Rights' for black and poor people in Boston.

The un-elected school committee has appointed an anti-union campaigner superintendent who wants to turn the new publicly built and financed school to a private Charter School. The new building was going to be a STEM - science and technology school staffed by experienced unionized teachers from Boston's large pool of teachers.

A black teachers labor union group member, Barbara Fields, said: “We have a community that fought and put their hearts, their souls, their everything, into securing a building, a state-of-the-art building for a STEM program, and then, without anyone seeming to know it, it can be snatched from under them.” She is a Black Educators Alliance of Massachusetts member.

Interim School Superintendent John McDonough seems to want to close the anti-union deal before the new mayor, Marty Walsh, can appoint new school committee members who might be more favorable to the Boston Teachers Union members who will lose their jobs. McDonough claims the state 'might' take over the Dearborn because of low test scores, so he might as well hand the school over to a Charter School he has already help set up.

“My strongest concern regarding the Dearborn was that we have a Level 4 school, a turnaround school, that the state has deemed as, prior to this year, making progress but not sufficient progress to move out of Level 4 turnaround status,” McDonough said. He repeats talking points handed to him by the Charter School advocates. Two Boston Public Schools were taken over by the state because the students did not do well on tests.

“Both the mayor and I have committed that there will never, ever be another Boston public school that is designated as Level 5 and placed in receivership by the state,” McDonough said. He claims making the Dearborn an in-district charter school would prevent that. McDonough is expected to become a Charter School advocate and anti-union campaigner when he leaves his temporary assignment as superintendent.

City Councilor Tito Jackson was sad to have the public school that everyone has a right to attend taken away from his district. Charter Schools are notorious for 'cherry picking' their students to try to get better test scores. While they claim to be a lottery, they get to run the system themselves. Disabled children are excluded. Single mothers are discouraged from enrolling their children. Most Charter Schools are racially segregated to a greater degree than nearby public schools.

“The issue for me is when you build a new school, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal for a community. And I don’t see any other place where we’re building a new school and turning it over to a charter. We don’t do that,” Jackson said.

The un-elected Boston School Committee felt compelled to hold a public meeting at some time before the final vote is taken. Many community activists oppose the hand of the new building over to a Charter School after the public has paid to build them

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