Sunday, October 3, 2021

A real 'great divide'

 It's odd to me that a newspaper that has an education section termed "the Great Divide" would write about the Republican governor being led by particular groups of parents on his decisions around masking in schools without addressing who those parents are. 

In a Boston Globe public records request found the following exchange:

“There has been considerable pushback from parents groups that feel that masks interfere with social interactions and speech and language development,” wrote Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director for the state health department’s Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences, in a July 30 e-mail to Dr. Regina LaRocque, his former student at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

For any of us who watch Board of Ed meetings, though, it has been clear who that "considerable pushback" is coming from. Note this from Forbes early last month: 

 The poll, conducted August 16-25 among 10,168 parents, found the biggest predictor of school mask mandate opposition was a parent’s political party, with 56% of Republican parents opposed to school mask mandates versus 24% of Independents and 4% of Democrats.

White parents are also far more likely to oppose school mask mandates, with 42% opposed versus 6% of Black parents, 15% of Hispanics and 25% of those of other races.

Parents’ opposition to mask mandates increases as their income goes up: only 19% of parents earning less than $50,000 per year oppose the mask requirements, versus 36% of those earning between $50,000 and $99,999 and 40% of those making more than $100,000 annually.

There is, very clearly, throughout the pandemic, a "great divide" in how we handle education. This has continued around masking mandates. Having a Republican governor from suburban Boston, whose record on racial equity is...not much hasn't helped.

Note further that, while the Globe elides this, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education is not directly answerable to the Governor. As I have noted in the past, Commissioner Riley works for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Board deliberately is constructed such that the Governor cannot control their decision making: only the Secretary and the Chair serve at his pleasure. Other members have terms that, again, deliberately are not co-terminus with his.

It thus matters that the Board, again has been noted before, is made up of members from: 

Boston (again)
Holyoke (Moriarty)
Brookline (again)
Newton (again)

The overrepresentation of white suburban wealthy metro-Boston should shock us. It is also where much of the masking push back is based, at least from what can be derived from public testimony. 

Looking for a "great divide"? It's staring us in the face if we're willing to see it. 

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