Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Walton and Wall Street Cash Flooding into the Boston Mayor's Race for City Councillor John Connelly

NYC isn't the only major Northeastern city whose long-serving mayor will be retiring next year: Boston's Tom Menino will be ending his twenty-year reign. His retirement, unlike Bloomie's, is voluntary. I'm sure Bloomberg would have run again if he could steamroll the City Council--or cajole Christine Quinn--into letting him.

With a lot of pent-up ambition in Boston (especially among Democrats), we have a kitchen sink primary coming up next month. There are 12 candidates, 11 Democrats and 1 Republican, even though only nine of them are seen as having a chance to make it to the runoff.

John Connelly, an At-Large Boston City Councillor, was the first to declare his candidacy. He did so on February 26, a month before Mayor Menino announced his retirement. Since the start, Connelly has been trying to bill himself as the "education mayor." But whose idea of education?

If it hasn't been clear yet in the race so far, it is now--Connelly's idea of education is that of Wall Street, the Walton Family, and Bain Capital.

Corporate reform group Stand for Children has pledged to throw over $500,000 behind a "full-frontal assault" on Connolly's behalf---advertising on broadcast and cable TV, direct mail, phone banking, and door-to-door canvassing.

The Boston Globe noted some of Stand for Children's past advocacy work in Massachusetts:

Last year, Stand for Children’s ballot committee spent $400,000 pushing for a statewide ballot measure that would have emphasized classroom performance in school decisions about teacher retention.

Opposed by labor unions, that ballot initiative was withdrawn after Stand for Children and the Massachusetts Teachers Association negotiated a compromise prioritizing teacher evaluations over teacher seniority in staffing decisions.

In 2010, the group helped advocate for a law that lifted the moratorium on charter schools in Massachusetts’ urban districts.

Stand for Children is no local Massachusetts-based nonprofit. It finds its home in Oregon, where it evolved from a civil rights group to a darling of the hedge fund managers. Education historian and prominent advocate for public education Diane Ravitch explained the past and present of Stand for Children on her blog earlier today:

Stand began its life in Oregon as a civil rights group, but then discovered that there was a brighter future representing the interests of equity investors and Wall Street.

Subsequently, many of its original members left, but the budget greatly expanded, allowing them to be a major presence in states like Illinois and Massachusetts, where they promote charter schools and the removal of teacher tenure.

In Illinois, they bought up all the best lobbyists and got passed a law that made it illegal for the Chicago teachers to strike unless they got a 75% approval vote.

The Chicago Teachers Union got more than 90% and went on strike, much to the surprise of the big-money funders who thought they had crippled the union

She also highlighted recent comments by Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman that show how unabashed the corporate leanings of the group are:

Edelman boasted at the Aspen Institute Festival about how he had “outfoxed” the teachers’ union by working with the state’s wealthiest hedge fund managers, buying up lobbyists, and winning anti-union legislation.

Stand pretends to be a “progressive” organization. It is, in fact, as Edelman boasts on the Aspen video, a mouthpiece for the 1%: Pro-privatization, anti-union, anti-public education.

In light of the recent news, Chris Faraone of the Jamaica Plain Gazette called Connelly the "biggest threat to BPS." 

After seeing the disasters-in-progress in Philly and Chicago effected by the school privatizers and profiteers--and their willing accomplices in elected offices, I don't want the same to happen in Boston as well.

If you are in Boston and want someone truly committed to ensuring equitable, high quality public education, then opt for the other At-Large City Councillor in the race: Felix Arroyo.

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