Friday, August 29, 2014

Everybody loves education

...during an election.
Take a look at the candidate profiles in Worcester Magazine this week, and nearly every single one cites education, schools, funding for education, or the like as a top priority.
Don't get me wrong--this is great. I would urge those who are voting in those races,thought, to do more than take that at face value. Some of those who are citing those as priorities have an actual record on that as an issue. Does what they have done match what they are saying? Have they advocated and voted for more funding, better facilities, appropriate support for public education?
Some have, and some have not. If they haven't done it yet, putting them in a new position--or continuing them in the one they have--isn't going to fix that.

It's also important to know what you can and can't do in the position for which you're running. The above profiles have at least one candidate for state rep saying he'd fight for a Worcester Public Schools budget that "exceeds the minimum foundation budget." That would be great, but that can only be done at the Worcester City Council. 

...a City Council, just as a reminder, that hasn't done that in years. 

I was more disturbed, though, to come home today to a postcard in my mailbox for the First Worcester District Senate race that said this:

First of all, we do have a school replacement going on in the First Worcester District: Nelson Place School, which has been slated for replacement for quite a number of years, was voted into the MSBA process during the past two years, and is moving along nicely. Assigning credit for such things is always slightly ridiculous, but we certainly have had the support and attention of both Senator Chandler and Representative Mahoney for Nelson Place.
The rest of this is just scurrilous, but not really about the Senator: about the Worcester Public Schools. 
"School buildings with no heat"? News to me. We've had some rooms that have had heating issues (including what I suspect is the target here, at Doherty), but they're worked on and they're dealt with as they happen. We've also been replacing boilers at an impressive clip through the Mass School Building Authority these past years, so we're in better shape on heating than we've been, possibly ever.
"Rodent Infested School Buildings"? Really? Where? That's a health and code issue as well as a custodial issue, and this would be the first I've heard of it. The custodial staff--whose reputation here is being impugned, I'd point out--does not let any sign of any kind of infestation go by them, and they're not the only eyes on the building. As far as I know, this is just made up. If anyone else knows otherwise, they aren't reporting it to the people who can fix it. 

My assumption, 'though this went out to more than just the Worcester section of the First Worcester District, is that this is supposed to be a "you don't have a new Doherty yet" dog whistle. 
So let me--at the ongoing risk of being honest rather than politic--be blunt: we're not going to have a new Doherty for quite some time.
South--which has both open classrooms and an electrical plant under the swimming pool--is our number one priority, and rightfully so. Burncoat High and Middle is in tougher shape than Doherty (not just me saying that). That doesn't even get into the elementary schools that may need replacing during this next few years (which is why we need a facilities master plan). 
We are a single system city: we have a brand-new high school. We've had two new high schools in the past twenty years. Has it been going as fast as it could be? I'd say no. Are we moving along pretty well now? Yes, we are. We can't jump around in our building priorities, though, and not just because it isn't right. We can't because the state knows very well that our highest priority isn't actually Doherty, because it isn't our greatest need. And they pick up 80% of the bill. 
In fact, the fastest way to get a new Doherty is all push together to get the higher priority schools into the MSBA pipeline, and keep them moving. If anyone wants to start working on that, count me in.

Meanwhile, by all means talk about education, better yet, DO things about education, but don't make things up about the Worcester Public Schools. 

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