By Gordon Davis
There was an organizational first meeting for the Worcester Chapter of Save Our Public Schools (SOS) June 1. There was a coalition of people who came together because of their concerns for the Worcester Public Schools.
Although not immediately obvious, the SOS organization was set up to defeat the Ballot Initiative of raising the cap on Charter Schools in the State of Massachusetts. There will be door to door canvassing this Saturday, June 4.
The organization Jobs with Justice and the Education Association of Worcester are also supporting the defeat of the raising of the charter school cap. Members of the Msss. Human Rights, Progressive Labor Party, and Socialist Alternative also attended the meeting.
One of the officials from the EAW pointed out that this meeting of the SOS was a one-issue meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to defeat the increase in Charter Schools. She did not feel that the discussion of race or the racist school to jail pipeline was appropriate. Her comments were in response to the back and forth between several Black and Hispanic people and some people who called themselves teachers. Michael Jerry a local activist who hosts the Voice of the Voiceless radio show felt that the Public Schools were failing Black, Hispanic and poor students. Others in the audience mentioned the so called school to jail pipeline.
Ruth Rodriguez pointed out what she considered the racist draining of money from the public schools which caused the State to put into receivership three mostly Hispanic school districts: Lawrence, Holyoke and Southbridge.
Michael Lyons who said he was a teacher for 12 years in Worcester denied that there was a racism problem. He said all the students were treated the same. Many in the audience disagreed and a shouting match ensued.
Another person who claimed to be a teacher said the real issue was that the disciplinary measures taken against students were not harsh enough. He blamed parents. Again, like with Mr. Lyons, this man was shouted down.
It became clear the organizers and sponsor did not want to lose the teachers who seemed to be, at least in the eyes of the Black and Latino people in the room, anti-students and racist.
Councillor Khrystian King supports the cap on charter schools.
Brian Allen, Chief Financial Officer of the Worcester Public Schools, gave an all too short but very informative talk. He described the ballot initiative and the funding of Public Schools in Bill 2220. He said Worcester Public Schools will be underfunded by $60 million, compared to the recommendations determined by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. About $30 million of the shortfall is for special needs students.
A parent from the audience pointed out that when she wanted her special needs daughter to go a charter school, the charter refused to accept her. The parent said that the treatment of her daughter was discrimination.
A gentleman pointed out that Charter Schools in Massachusetts have their origins in the 1974 desegregation of Boston Schools. Because of desegregation, many White parents in Boston set up private schools. Kevin Bulger, brother of Whitey Bulger, pulled some legislative trickery to allow charter schools in Boston and Worcester. This was done in the middle of the night and no one from Worcester knew about the maneuver.
I am in favor of the cap on charter schools because those schools are separate and unequal.
Charter Schools have not shown that academically they are better than Worcester Public Schools. The charter schools have certainly drained significant resources from the Worcester Public Schools District at a time Worcester’s so called minority population of students is increasing.