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The case for an elected Boston school committee

Edith Bazile explains why the recent resignation of Michael Loconto shows it's past time to give Boston voters a direct say in who oversees Boston schools.

If you have any doubt about whether Boston families and children need an elected school committee to achieve racial equity, just read the transcript of text messages between Loconto’s fellow school committee members.

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The elected committee was very inefficient. They had to worry about getting elected, so they acted like politicians, catering to whatever sub-groups could help them get re-elected. Members were fearful of making bold, necessary decisions, lest they anger the voters and get voted out.

The appointed committee is not perfect, but they have the ability to bring change that an elected body does not.

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The best solution is a middle ground with a combination of elected and appointed members. It's just like Boston City Council having both district and at-large councilors.

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If you had some elected members, those who REALLY wanted to be on the committee could work for it and hopefully get elected.

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That's totally different.

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One of those things is not like the other.

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The old committee was where the also rans ran.

The school committee had a guy named John Kerrigan in the late 60's / early 70's whose racism made certain members of the South Boston Information Center look like peace activists.

Don't return to a dumb idea.

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school committee is not making any bold, necessary decisions (aside from eliminating the selective high school exam this year). On top of that, they don't listen to the litanies of students, parents, teachers and community members who testify month after month about closings, selling off of land, awful conditions, unannounced program changes and so much more. The appointed school committee members just do what the mayor wants, else they are not reappointed.

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One of the main reasons that I registered to vote as soon as I turned 18 was that I had attended Boston public schools and was determined to vote for the school committee. It was changed to an appointed committee less than 30 years ago, in 1992.

Unfortunately, I'm not convinced that returning to an elected committee will achieve racial equity or any other kind of improvement in the Boston schools - the former elected version was mostly treated as a springboard to City Council and other offices (see: Louise Day Hicks.)

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The Boston School Committee members were elected in the past. That changed in the early 90s. When it was an elected body we had some hateful overt racist committee members like John Kerrigan and Louise Day Hicks.

Basile mentions in her article that schools with black students were underfunded and in bad physical shape. But Judge Garrity's desegregation order also concluded that the student population racial makeup was in some cases due to actions by the School Committee. While Louise" You know where I stand" Hicks promoted "neighborhood" schools, she and the School Committee were engaged in redrawing district lines to keep schools segregated, as the racial composition of neighborhoods changed.

I personally favor an elected School Committee, but that alone wont solve the problems that need to be solved.

Here is an interesting 1996 report from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau on the change from elected to appointed. Election may solve some problems but creates others.

https://www.bmrb.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/BB964.pdf

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There's a big skipped step in saying that we need to do something about racism on the school committee and then assuming that direct elections would help that problem. Direct elections of minor positions have low turnout and low media coverage so they tend to be dominated by the more privileged voters and the politically connected which in particular could mean you're getting an electorate which is whiter and more invested in the status quo. Taking this issue into account in the upcoming mayoral election and/or reforming the appointment process might be the better angle, or for that matter reforming how we elect the mayor and the city council so there can be more accountability for city government overall.

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Remember "Pixie" Palladino? Nuf said.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvira_%22Pixie%22_Palladino

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wanna know why we dumped the elected school committee? look up Louise Day Hicks

the constitutional civil rights of our citizens should never be subject to the elective whims of voters

the old elected school committee was Boston politics at its worst

returning to it will not solve our problems

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My town has an elected committee and I research the candidates before voting to make a somewhat informed decision. But I don't have kids in the system and their decisions don't directly affect me. Why should I (and other childless voters) be making a decision about how the schools are run?

Teachers and parents should be the ones deciding how the schools are run. (And mostly the teachers.)

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Let's not forget that childless people pay taxes toward the schools as well...

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Unless you give the school committee absolutely zero authority over the amount of money allocated for their capital and operating budgets. Taxation without representation and all.

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In most (all?) towns the Mayor and city council determine the school budget and the school committee spends the money. The committee makes requests for funding but has no say over taxes.

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In the vast majority of towns across Massachusetts, the school committee proposes a budget (they aren't limited to what a Select Board or Town Administrators proposes). They then go to Town Meeting for approval, can push for tax overrides, etc.

So having school committee members who represent the taxpayer interest and manage budgets responsibly is vital - having members who just represent the teacher's unions is often a recipe for conflict.

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that politicians should control the schools? Let them do what they do best, get jobs for their friends. Let professional educators run education.

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Ah, it's the old, everything old is new again.

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Second time's a charm.

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The single biggest problem with giving people the vote, is that they elect people who other voters disagree with.
Suck it up.

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The North Shore didn't have to deal with Louise Day Hicks. She was the upside-down's version of George Wallace. She didn't believe integrating Boston Public Schools was important because she didn't believe segregation existed. It would be one thing if all the schools were treated equally at the time but they were definitely were not.

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Louise Day Hicks was not alone in her beliefs, a large portion of Boston was right beside her.

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The elected school committee was a combination of racists, hacks, and people using the position as a stepping stone. That's why Menino received little opposition to converting it to an appointed committee.

Maybe times have changed and we would elect better people now. Or maybe the mayor could appoint better people. For good or for ill, either way the committee will reflect the city.

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school committee is better but I do know that neither the elected nor the appointed school committees have had the best interest of ALL the students at heart. They've always seemed to pit students/families/neighborhoods against each other instead of doing the necessary work to education ALL Boston children to the best of their abilities. The pre-busing school committees did not do what was needed to educate minority children so that they could compete in any college or employment situation. Today's school committee is still not doing what needs to be done to education minority children to compete in every college and employment situation. There is still an education gap which, by this time, should have been a thing of the past. The school committee, the mayor, city council, and teachers union do not want to do what is needed to close that gap. Longer school days and school years, automatic after school tutoring, and family intervention for those students falling behind is needed but still not done.
Now, the school committee and mayor in an effort to APPEAR to make a difference, want to pit neighborhoods against each other for the limited seats at the exam schools. Why can't they open another exam school already? Why have children from certain zip codes not been educated so that they can compete for a seat in any school with any other student of any other color?

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