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A growing coalition opposes state receivership of BPS

AFT president, former education commissioner join the fray

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
A growing coalition opposes state receivership of BPS
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten speaks in favor of Mayor Michelle Wu's Green New Deal for school buildings in a press conference at the Horace Mann school in Allston. BANNER PHOTO

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and former Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville joined Boston Public Schools officials on May 19 for a press conference celebrating Mayor Michelle Wu’s Green New Deal building initiative to renovate and rebuild the city’s schools.

The press conference comes just days before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to discuss a review of BPS that is widely seen as a precursor to a state intervention into the district. While Weingarten and the others didn’t directly address the possible state takeover in their prepared remarks, each of them has taken a public stand against such interventions.

Speaking to reporters after the press conference, Weingarten called state interventions a “gimmick” and noted that they have been unsuccessful in cities such as Newark, where schools returned to local control after a 20-year intervention that was widely seen as ineffective. She said the city’s investment in BPS schools is what’s needed to improve the district.

“What you need here is the commitment that you just saw from the mayor,” she said. “You need the commitment that you have from the teachers, from the former commissioner. That kind of commitment is so much more than a state takeover.”

State interventions were made possible by the 2010 Achievement Gap Act, legislation Reville helped author. But in a Boston Globe op-ed published last week, Reville said there is little evidence that state takeovers of local school districts actually work.

In Massachusetts, state takeovers in Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge have not produced long-term gains in test scores or graduation rates. State interventions in two Boston schools — the Holland and Dever schools — have similarly failed to produce tangible progress. Additionally, the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership — a consortium of schools the state removed from district control — has failed to produce tangible progress, with students scoring lower on standardized tests than their peers in district-run schools.

Reville joins a growing coalition of elected officials, teachers and parent activists in opposing a state intervention. Last week, the Boston City Council voted 12-1 on a resolution against state intervention in BPS.

“It’s clear that parents, students, educators and all of those closest to our schools, as well as our elected leaders, oppose state intervention,” Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang told the Banner. “It seems the only people for it are the right-wing-leaning Pioneer Institute and the so-called Democrats for Education Reform, both of whom were for the charter school ballot question in 2016. I think that tells you all you need to know.”

While Wu has pledged $2 billion to construct new school buildings and provide upgrades to existing schools, such as new HVAC systems, outdoor play spaces and repairs to bathrooms and drinking fountains, she said those investments could be put on hold under receivership, as the measure removes local control from local school systems.

Asked whether the investments she has pledged would move forward under a state takeover, Wu said she didn’t know.

“I think that’s an impossible question to answer because in the case of receivership, that wouldn’t be our decision, potentially,” she said.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the findings of a review of BPS the state undertook earlier this year. The board members are likely to make a decision on receivership before the end of June.

Reville called on civic leaders to back the mayor’s plan to rebuild BPS.

“I would urge us all to get four-square behind this and do our utmost to support Mayor Wu in what she’s pledged to do, because it’s a vitally important part of providing an equitable, excellent education for each and every child in the Boston Public Schools,” he said.

boston public schools, Green New Deal, Randi Weingarten, receivership, state intervention