MTA points to deep flaws in Pioneer Institute recommendations

MTA points to deep flaws in Pioneer Institute recommendations


Right-wing group's plan would inadequately fund public schools

The following statement was issued today by MTA President Merrie Najimy in response to a Pioneer Institute “study” titled “The Next Chapter of Education Funding in Massachusetts”:

If implemented, the Pioneer Institute’s recommendations would undermine democracy, further reduce teacher autonomy, inadequately fund education for many students of color and those with disabilities, and double down on testing, charter schools and bureaucratic state mandates — all while failing to appropriately fund the schools that serve our lowest-income and most vulnerable students.

The most outrageous new twist demanded by the right-wing, Koch-funded group would give state bureaucrats the power to appoint a majority of the school committee members in any community that receives more than half of its funding from the state. That means voters in low-income communities, often communities of color, would be deprived of their democratic right to elect school committee members who support their values and priorities while the predominantly white residents of wealthier communities would continue to exercise that right.

The most outrageous new twist demanded by the right-wing, Koch-funded group would give state bureaucrats the power to appoint a majority of the school committee members in any community that receives more than half of its funding from the state. That means voters in low-income communities, often communities of color, would be deprived of their democratic right to elect school committee members who support their values and priorities while the predominantly white residents of wealthier communities would continue to exercise that right.

The Pioneer Institute also calls for piling new mandates on top of 25 years of failed mandates already imposed, including increasing state takeovers, increasing state funding for charter schools, imposing new governance structures on districts based mainly on test scores, and adding a new MCAS test on top of the heavy load that already exists.

Clearly the report’s authors have not been listening to educators and administrators, who say they are already drowning in destructive mandates and state-imposed red tape.

The institute’s assertion that the funding for public education only needs to be “tweaked” is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of students and educators trying to learn and teach in badly underfunded schools, as detailed by the nonpartisan Foundation Budget Review Commission four years ago.

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The institute, which has close ties to Governor Charlie Baker and Education Secretary Jim Peyser, backs the governor’s inadequate education funding plan rather than the Promise Act, which would fully implement the recommendations of the FBRC. Baker’s bill falls $1 billion short by failing to allocate the recommended level of funding to educate low-income students. Under his plan, these students would continue to lack equitable access to educational resources and opportunities.

Rather than address that issue, the Pioneer Institute ludicrously veers off on a tangent about the state’s unfunded pension liability — a liability that the report’s authors acknowledge was caused by the state, not by educators. Teachers and administrators fund a large majority of the costs of their own pensions. They and their schools must not be penalized for the state’s past failure to live up to its funding obligations.

The recommendations in this proposal go well beyond being ineffective. They constitute an assault on democracy and the tradition of local control while failing to advocate for the funding needed to give our most impoverished students and students of color a chance to thrive in our public schools.

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