Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What happened last night in education?

What an election night, huh?

So what happened in education?
  • Close to home, of course, the Worcester School Committee drops Colorio (by 291 over Biancheria) and adds Comparetto. A few things to keep in mind on that: Colorio's two big issues were Common Core--gone because of the standards redrafting and ESSA==and overtesting--which appears to be less of a concern in a state in which the state test is regularly racking up rates of 99%--so she didn't have as much to run on this year. Comparetto, of course, ran as a progressive, though the big issues around education--race, school-by-school inequity, police in school--were never brought up by him or anyone else. I'm dubious about how much of a victory it is for "us" when a newcomer wins a seat by spending (what I believe to be an unprecedented) over $45,000 to win a school committee race. At a time when we're seeing school board seats be bought for big money (don't forget LA), I'm going to say bluntly that if we care about representative democracy locally, this isn't something we'll find encouraging. Note also that McCullough moved up the ranking while Biancheria moved down (in fact, for awhile it looked as though she might be bumped instead). 
  • On the Worcester City Council, Gaffney is out and Rosen replaces him at large. The two newcomers, representing districts 1 and 5 respectively, are Sean Rose and Matt Wally. Rose has kids in the schools, and Wally has parents who were WPS teachers, so at least initially, that looks like possible education support. Aside from general supportive messages for schools, and Wally specifically talking about getting South and Doherty done, we haven't heard a lot on that. Also, someone should ask Rose about a new Burncoat.
  • Farther afield, the big news is from Lowell, where the non-binding question on putting a new high school downtown won by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, and the City Council race went to those who supported that location as well. For those who haven't been following this issue: Lowell's only high school is right downtown, and many students walk to and from school. The district runs a good number of programs that keep kids in and around the building during and after school; it's widely seen as one of the strengths of the district. The school committee has wanted to keep a new high school in that location, in order to keep those programs and that access in place for students; the City Council instead wanted to move the high school out to a more suburban location. In Massachusetts municipal districts, the city (not the district) builds schools, so when the City Council voted to put the high school in the more suburban location, the School Committee balked, and then sued, and then lost. Meanwhile, a group of citizens who wanted to keep the high school downtown had collected enough signatures to put the a non-binding measure on the ballot. It has by far dominated the municipal election, and, last night, the downtown supporters won big. All of which demonstrates that the MSBA was wise to postpone dealing with Lowell until after their election. Also, pro-tip? A major concern of MSBA is the academic program and how the building supports that. Lowell's suburban site was not making good arguments for that.
  • We can't talk about last night and education without recognizing two mayoral races that bring new mayors in from the State House coming out of races that spoke about school funding: Representative Paul Heroux was elected last night in Attleboro, defeating seven term incumbent Kevin Dumas. Note that Heroux himself cites school funding as one of the factors of his win; Attleboro regularly dances on the edge of barely making minimum net school spending. In Lynn, Senator Tom McGee beat incumbent mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy by a 64/35 margin. Lynn, of course, has been the city that has been so far under net school spending for years that the state has had a few rounds of renegotiating how they're ever going to make up ground on it. The outgoing mayor had variously referred to minimum spending as "a thorn in our side" and had spoken of the school budget "swallow(ing) the city budget". Those are weak arguments in a city in which the school budget is funded a full 75% by the state.
  • Framingham elected their first city school committee, choosing a mix of incumbents and newcomers. 
  • In New Bedford (h/t Kat McKiernan), incumbent Josh Amaral (disclosure: Josh is a friend) won re-election, and and the city elected two new members, one of whom, Colleen Dawicki, is an interesting city policy wonk type and becomes the only woman on an all-male board.  
  • In Malden, where a ward school committee candidate had attracted an enormous (for school committees) amount of dark money, the non-dark money candidate Jennifer Spadafora won, and by a fairly significant margin.
  • I put together a bit of a thread last night about school committee races across the state (which does not claim to be everything; let me know if you have additions). 
To peek nationally a bit:
I'll add more to this over the course of the day...

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