E nshrined in the Massachusetts Constitution is the following command:
“Wisdom and knowledge ... diffused generally
among the body of the people, being necessary for
the preservation of their rights and liberties ... it
shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in
all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish
the interests of literature and the sciences …”
In other words, the Massachusetts Constitution
states that the purpose of education is to preserve
democracy. Therefore, education must be spread
widely and treasured by the government.
That is a radical idea!
In 1993, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial
Court ruled that to “cherish” education, the state has
a constitutional responsibility to fund it.
The SJC also affirmed another democratic ideal:
that of the fully educated student who possesses a
number of “capabilities”
and is able to function as a
citizen of our democracy.
skills “to function in a
complex and rapidly
sufficient knowledge to
make informed choices;
an “understanding of
in order to understand
issues at the local, state,
and national levels; self-knowledge of one’s own
mental and physical wellness; a grounding in the arts
sufficient to appreciate one’s cultural and historical
heritage; the capacity to “choose and pursue life
work intelligently”; and the skills needed to compete
favorably in an academic field or the job market.
These capabilities represent the “wisdom and
knowledge” necessary to preserve democracy.
Public education is under attack
These profound ideas have been under attack
for decades by the “education reform” movement.
The movement is composed of and funded by people
who for ideological reasons do not believe in public
schools or unions and want to privatize education in
order to profit from it. Their weapons are austerity
Central to the educator uprisings nationwide is
the fight against these measures and for reclaiming
public education. When we understand what and
whom we are up against, we know how to fight back
Austerity and accountability measures work
hand in glove. Austerity budgets are imposed to
intentionally starve public schools and colleges of
necessary resources. Educators are forced to do
more with less, work longer, and achieve results
that are measured by damaging metrics. With fewer
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The purpose of public education
full-time faculty members in our public higher
education system, more adjunct professors are hired
and exploited. And still, students are shouldering the
burden of tuition and fee hikes.
Accountability measures in the form of high-stakes testing, school leveling and punitive educator
evaluation systems are used to blame educators
and school districts for their so-called “failure.”
They serve as the justification to rob educators of
autonomy and outsource public schools to private
receivers, charter operators and empowerment zones
that profit from public dollars.
Our schools are not failing. They have been
failed — on purpose. And numerous groups are
now calling for money to fix them.
Beware! Our opponents will say they are for
more funding, but only if it is for more privatization
carve-outs. They have not changed their tune.
Who’s who in the funding campaigns?
Like the Hydra, the many-headed groups that —
with dark money flowing in the background — pulled
out all the stops to raise the charter cap in 2016 are
back together, working through an entity called the
Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership.
MEEP members include Stand for Children;
former leaders of Families for Excellent Schools, now
with Massachusetts Parents United; and Educators
for Excellence, which grew out of Democrats for
Education Reform. They are working in concert with
Governor Charlie Baker, former Education Secretary
Paul Reville, the Pioneer Institute, and Education
Secretary Jim Peyser, among others.
They are clamoring for new “accountability.”
That’s their code word for weaker collective
bargaining rights, less academic freedom for
educators, and reduced local autonomy for school
districts. The Board of Elementary and Secondary
Education has called for “targeted assistance ...
where investment can be leveraged with local and
third-party resources to close achievement gaps.”
Peyser and others believe, as he says, that “how
We crushed the privatizers in the fight over
Question 2. But they have learned something from
our landslide victory: They understand better now
that they lack the authentic voice and relationships
with families that educators possess. They have
adapted and emerged with a new plan.