Compromise Averts Stand for Children’s Destructive Ballot Question

Citizens for Public Schools (CPS) believes the compromise reached by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and corporate-funded Stand for Children would avoid the worst aspects of Stand’s proposed ballot question, which was a deceptive and destructive proposal that failed to address real obstacles to educational quality and equity.

The compromise was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick today, June 29. In exchange, Stand said it would drop the ballot measure it proposed to put on the November ballot.

“Stand for Children has become a vehicle for a few billionaires who want to control how we run our public schools,” said CPS President Ann O’Halloran, who was the 2007 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year. “I’m relieved that Stand was blocked from achieving its full agenda, but CPS and our allies must be prepared to resist similar efforts down the road. We need to raise awareness of this as a national problem, not just a Massachusetts issue.”

Although Stand claimed its ballot proposal would ensure that “every child no matter their ZIP code, has access to great teachers and a quality education,” it would actually do the opposite, driving teachers away from schools that serve the neediest students — for fear of losing their jobs. The compromise will not improve education for urban students because it does nothing to address the challenges they and their teachers face. But it will reduce the damage that the original Stand proposal would have caused by removing some of its most destructive features.

For instance, the compromise bill eliminates from Stand’s proposal a raft of restrictions on seniority, collective bargaining and other provisions that would have given principals and superintendents arbitrary power to threaten teachers’ academic freedom, autonomy, and jobs, although the compromise still places limits on seniority rights.

Also, the compromise bill puts off implementation until 2016, allowing some time to see how the state’s new teacher evaluation process works before using it to make hiring and firing decisions. Stand wanted to start implementation in September 2013, before the new system is even fully in effect.

Stand’s Destructive Agenda

 Our public schools face continued threats from Stand and its deep-pocketed corporate allies to weaken teachers, open more charter schools and put more emphasis on high-stakes standardized tests. The good news is that Stand’s well-financed efforts were met with a broad-based, grassroots push back. CPS worked with many other state organizations and individuals to fight this ill-conceived ballot proposal, for example:

  • Former Stand members wrote and signed a letter decrying Stand’s deceptive and undemocratic practices and opposing the ballot question. More than 60 former members, including many current CPS members, signed the letter.
  • Thirty-three organizations and community leaders signed a letter protesting the ballot initiative.
  • A resolution against the ballot initiative was unanimously passed at the Democratic State Convention.
  • More than a thousand people signed a petition calling on Stand to withdraw their ballot question.
  • Citizens for Public Schools helped coordinate an Amicus Brief supporting the Massachusetts Teachers Association lawsuit against the ballot initiative, signed by more than 17 statewide education organizations.

CPS Efforts to Oppose Stand’s Initiative

 Stand’s corporate money and ballot initiative threat achieved a piece, but not all, of its damaging agenda. CPS and other education activists worked hard to expose their efforts and push back.  We will continue our efforts to promote evidence-based approaches to education improvement:

  • Shrink the role of standardized testing and recognize that the scores fail to measure many of the most important features of a good education.
  • Recognize and support efforts to provide a “whole child education,” allowing all students to learn in a variety of areas and through many modalities.
  • Limit charter schools to those genuinely trying out new ways to educate, not new strategies for selecting already successful students and pushing out the most challenged students.
  • Emulate Finland and other high-achieving nations by investing in training, supporting and developing our entire teaching profession, instead of trying to identify and weed out the struggling teachers.