Why do suburban Mass teachers want to block school choice for the state’s poorest children?

It is hard to look at photos splashed all over social media with mostly white teachers who work in the suburbs, smiling, while they protest what would ensure that more disadvantaged children get the education that they deserve—the education that these teachers would most assuredly demand for their own children.  

“But giving parents in underperforming districts more opportunity to choose a better school is nothing less than any of us would demand for our own children.- Governor Charlie Baker during his State of the Commonwealth speech.

The Newton Teachers Association disagrees with the most popular governor in America. They recently posed for photos, proudly holding “save our public schools” signs as part of a union-driven initiative against lifting the charter cap this November. But Newton teachers don’t just want to prevent students who reside in Newton from attending charter schools. They are actively working to ensure that even the Bay State’s poorest children are stripped of any access to public school choice—the kind of school choice those lucky enough to live in Newton already enjoy. The kind of luck that is literally measured in feet, as Boston’s neighborhood of Brighton borders Newton.  A quick look at median home prices tells the story of a zip code where most Massachusetts residents could only dream to educate their children.


(All Information taken from http://www.realtor.com/local/Newton_MA)

The Newton teachers work in a school system that looks like nothing like the schools in the districts where charter seats have reached their limit. I have to wonder if any of them has ever spent a day inside the schools that low-income parents are trying, in droves, to escape. The Newton teachers work in a district that is well resourced and chock full of parents who will settle for nothing less than a high-quality education for their children.   

Would any of these teachers be willing to send their own children to a failing school in Roxbury, or Holyoke, or Lawrence? Do they stand with Governor Charlie Baker who says it is wrong to expect any parent to send their child to a school that we don’t think is good enough for own kids? Do they stand with progressive darling Senator Elizabeth Warren who actually supports school vouchers.

The majority of the 34,000 children on charter waiting lists in Massachusetts are low-income students of color. They can only dream of attending a high school like the one built in Newton just six years ago with a price tag of $197.5 million. Many of them don’t even know what it’s like to be able to bring books home or to be in a school that offers Calculus or AP classes.  And, no, it is not a question of resources.  Boston actually spends more money per-pupil on its students than Newton. It is a question of quality. The kind families in Newton already enjoy. 

This post originally appeared on the blog Good School Hunting.

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Erika Sanzi

Erika Sanzi

Erika Sanzi spent a decade as a teacher and school dean before becoming a full-time education advocate. Her love for writing coupled with her willingness to take on people in power has led her to spend much of her time responding to status-quo protectors inclined to put adult interests ahead of kids. She is particularly focused on inequities in the system, persistent but surmountable achievement gaps, and what she sees as a culture of low expectations that disproportionately impacts low-income students of color. She is the mom of three young sons and you can often find her on the sidelines of their countless sports practices and games. She is committed to the belief that zip code isn’t destiny, that parents deserve choices when it comes to educating their children, and that too many “good” schools are falling down on the job in too many ways. Born and raised in Massachusetts, she now calls Rhode Island home with her boys, her husband, and her big fluffy dog, Griffey. She writes about her corner of New England at Good School Hunting.

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