Statewide school accountability map – 2019

This is the second year of Massachusetts’ revised school accountability system. An explanation of the system is posted on the DESE website.

Published lists are not the best way to see the patterns and understand the data. Here’s some graphs and a state map displaying the results. A larger scale version is published here.

 

Arlington Override Votes – June 11, 2019

On June 11, 12,723 Arlington voters went to the polls and chose to support a debt exclusion to fund a new high school building and a $5.5 million operating override.
This map illustrates precinct-by-precinct turnout and the votes for both questions. Use the tabs to move between maps, and hover over a precinct for a popup with precinct details. A larger scale, higher performance version is also posted here.

Arlington’s huge 21.1% enrollment increase

I compared public school enrollments for all 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts over a six year period (2012-2018), and Arlington has a 21.1% increase. With the exception of some small towns with enrollments less than 100, this is the largest rate of increase in the state.

A larger scale version of the map is available here.

Arlington town election results – April, 2019

Here are some maps to illustrate the 2019 annual town election.

Paul’s progressive, perspicacious primary picks

We’re a week from the Massachusetts primary. September 4, the day after Labor Day, is a crappy day for a primary. September is a crappy time for a primary. Josh Zakim is blaming Bill Galvin for the primary date, for the 30 day registration deadline, for the lack of same day registration, for the lack of Instant Runoff Voting, for Trump’s name appearing on the ballot, for global warming, for Babe Ruth being sold to the New York Yankees.

Galvin has long been known as the Prince of Darkness, perhaps the most anti-social statewide officeholder in recent memory. When he was a state representative, he had one of those socially conservative voting records that makes Colleen Garry looks like a Berniecrat. Zakim has a great name. Everybody loved his dad,and we all love that Zakim bridge. Only problem, the kid is not the father. Josh seems to have Andrew Cuomo syndrome; wrapped in the good feeling of the name established by his father, only to fall far short of lofty expectations.

Election laws are the domain of the legislature, the Secretary of State merely implements them. So when Josh Zakim blames Galvin for every failing of our electoral system, it just feels like the cry of an opportunistic demagogue. Galvin was a pro-life legislator? Hasn’t seemed to have had an impact on his role as Secretary of State. Zakim’s beef about election laws have merit, but the argument is with Robert DeLeo, and to blame Galvin for Mr. Speaker’s passive aggressive approach to progressive reforms is misplaced.

Elections are run at the local level, and the historical data made available on the Secretary’s website is outstanding.
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I went to Worcester as a Jay Gonzalez delegate. I looked at Jay as the candidate with the best argument against Charlie Baker, and I still think he has the best shot at making an argument against a popular, lackluster governor. Baker’s argument of being a fixer is best addressed by someone who has command of the details, who can call out the cost of Baker’s inaction to three places beyond the decimal. Still, I am ready to love Bob Massie if he wins the primary. No matter who wins the primary for governor, they need Jimmy Tingle on the ticket. While I am sure Quentin Palfrey was a good and loyal functionary in the administrations of Deval Patrick and Barack Obama, I can’t imagine sending him out to Weymouth or Woburn or Worcester to pull votes away from Baker. Palfrey, who moved to Weston to fight for social justice, may resonate in the other W towns, but Tingle speaks the language of the folks we need to engage and persuade. (Tingle’s convention video is must-see TV.)
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I am an establishment Berniecrat, so I drive people nuts with my endorsements. I do have a fairly consistent set of values, and one of those is that I will show appreciation for someone who has been fighting at my side over the years. That’s why I need to stand tall with Mike Capuano, who I supported enthusiastically when he ran for the U.S. Senate. I met him fifteen years ago, when I was in a group of educators wandering in the halls of the congressional office buildings in Washington. Capuano was knowledgable, strategic, and passionate about education issues, and walked away wishing he would replace Mitt Romney as governor. Yes, we need a more diverse delegation, yes I like Ayanna Pressley, and I want her to have a powerful future. I just don’t want to fire Capuano, who I view as an outstanding Democrat who can do great things if the Democrats recapture the House.

The Globe endorsed Lori Trahan, which underlines her position as the Charlie Baker Democrat in the race. The shoutout to Juana Matias, is further proof that the Globe editorial writes will go out of their way to support Democrats who embrace the charter schol industry. Using that standard, it’s no wonder why the Glohe wouldn’t endorse Barbara L’Italien, an outspoken advocate for public schools and the class of the field. L’Italien has a solid legislative record, so we know exactly what we are getting with this mom on a mission. She was out front, early, on marriage equality. She worked her way up from a seat on the Andover School Committee. She is the hard working, proven progressive, who will crash Fox News to talk truth to Trump.

Meanwhile, what’s up with this Rufus Gifford guy? Dad’s got cash and clout, and the kid got a nice gig as US Ambassador to Denmark. When Nikki Tsongas retired, Rufus moved from Nantucket to Concord, then dumped a bunch of family money into his campaign.
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If we can’t get rid of Charlie Baker, we can (at the very least) shake the foundation of best buddy Speaker DeLeo’s chokehold on the Massachusetts House of Representatives. I mean, Donald Trump is wrecking havoc out there, and we counter with DeLeo and Baker governing over a cup of tea and some lovely scones in a private State House parlor.

Our legislature turned on a dime in 2004, when Carl Sciortino took out sixteen year incumbent Vinny Ciampa in a primary in the 34th Middlesex (Medford and Somerville)District. A flock of lemmings, detecting a potential threat to their seats, made rapid progressive progress into the winds of change. It will take more than one primary defeat to ruffle the current flock, but a good starting point would be Jeffrey Sanchez in the 15th Suffolk house district. Sanchez, a top DeLeo lieutenant, saidThe Safe Communities Act didn’t reach the house floor for a vote because “we just did not find consensus on those provisions.” Translation. DeLeo and Baker vetoed it at tea time. Send a message with Nika Elugardo.

There are several more races where Democrats can shake the foundation of the House. In Dracut and Tyngsborough, Colleen Garry would be center-right in a Republican primary, and is being challenged for her House seat by passionate Berniecrat and Dracut School Committee member Sabrina Heisey. While the two towns have a conservative bent, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in both towns in 2016, so Heisey has a real shot at winning the primary.

Lexington has a five-way Democratic primary, and the progressive choice is Mary Ann Stewart. She’s a former member of the Lexington School Committee, and a Deval Patrick appointee to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. It’s a body full of Baker appointees, and she manages to be an effective though outnumbered advocate when the numbers are stacked against her. She has the skill to push the envelope as far as she can without being exiled to total irrelevance in the statehouse basement. This is also an argument for retaining incumbent representatives who have shown the same skill; Arlington’s Sean Garballey has shown the same skill while pushing as much of a progressive agenda as possible in DeLeo’s chamber. Note that Elugardo, Heisey, Stewart, and Garballey have all been endorsed by Progressive Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Barry Finegold is trying to regain the state senate seat he gave up to run for treasurer. Finegold is the point person in the senate for the charter school industry, reason enough to back Mike Armano in the Second Essex and Middlesex primary. Armano is a progressive firefighter in the mold of Ken Donnelly, and it would be wonderful if Armano continues Donnelly’s legacy of fighting for working families and progressive causes. Armano is also endorsed by Progressive Massachusetts.
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As for the Middlesex DA race, I look upon it from my home in Arlington. Our police chief, Fred Ryan, told Town Meeting last spring that if Starbucks called police on a couple of black guys sitting in the store, he would buy them a cup of coffee. “Every one of my officers would do the same thing.” Turns out the chief’s message resonates with the officers, as they bought coffee for a homeless man last week. We have a progressive view of community policing, where we have been leaders in community policing and seeking treatment (not jail) for folks caught up with opioids. When we held a Black Lives Matter vigil in front of the UU church, the police brought boxes of donuts. In all the progressive policing in town, Marian Ryan has been a partner. Embracing my “don’t fire folks who do good work” rule, I like Donna Patalano but I want to keep Ryan.
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So what if I’m not an orthodox Berniecrat. Guess I am sort of a maverick. To that, I say, thank you to John McCain for your service to our country. Let’s hope the next time I wander to Washington to lobby for public education, I get to visit the McCain Senate Office Building. May you rest in peace.

LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission Established

Wednesday night, Arlington Town Meeting voted 189-12-3 to establish a LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission.  Dan Dunn has a brief report of the debate, because the debate was brief. No big deal.

One of my first votes in Town Meeting was to establish our Human Rights Commission. Back in 1993 this was a contentious vote, with lots of ugliness entwined in hours of rhetoric. Opponents tried to gut the commission by offering an amendment to remove its subpoena powers. On the other side, proponents described several instances of some very ugly hate incidents that a Human Rights Commission could address.

I remember chatting with a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 1, who had a LGBTQ son at Arlington High School, and his son was being bullied mercilessly. It was both heartbreaking and difficult to listen to what was happening, and I was seriously wondering if I made a serious mistake when I moved to Arlington.

The commission was approved, and the subpoena powers remained intact. I stayed in Arlington, and I stayed in Town Meeting.

Fast forward to 2017. About a month ago, I was sitting on the bench at Za, waiting for my Friday night takeout, chatting with a couple waiting for a table. The weather was unusually cold and nasty for a late March evening. I was asked if I could live anywhere, where would I live. I thought for a few seconds, thought about places with better weather, and came back home. “Arlington, Massachusetts,” I replied.

This evening, I was speaking to a continuing education class, when I was asked about the significant changes to Arlington that made the town the place it is today. I went down my usual list. I talked about our move away from being a dry (moist, or humid) town and the restaurants that arrived when they could get liquor licenses. I talked about the rebuilding of our elementary schools and the Boston Globe declaration that the Brackett School was the best in the state. I mentioned the Bay Windows article that declared Arlington to be lesbian-friendly.

Here’s where I got a bunch of blank stares, and I couldn’t quite articulate why the Bay Windows article was so important. Folks who lived in Arlington in the 1990s understand what I am saying, but the view from 2017 is very different. Even the view from 2004, when marriage equality became the law, was very different. Arlington was toward the top of the list of communities issuing licenses on the first possible day. Why would the Bay Windows article matter?

What I didn’t say explicitly was that Bay Windows wrote the first article declaring Arlington as a welcoming community. In a town that had a reputation for being closed and insular, had a reputation for killing the Red Line extension to prevent “those people” from riding the train into town, this one article was transformative.

Folks who moved to Arlington based on the article, and our changing reputation, added to our diversity; new residents embraced this welcoming spirit, and Arlington’s reputation as a great place to live blossomed. Welcoming became the norm (though not truly universal) to the point where our 189-12-3 vote to establish a LGBTQIA+ Rainbow Commission is unremarkable.

Testimony at the Democratic Platform Hearing in Arlington

Here are my prepared remarks for the Democratic Party Platform Hearing held this evening in Arlington.
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Welcome to the home of our Representative Town Meeting; one of the most open and responsive legislative bodies in the nation; made even more accountable with our adoption of electronic voting.

I am Paul Schlichtman, and I have spent 21 years as a Town Meeting Member, and 15 years as a school committee member. During that time, it seems the open meeting and public records laws became stricter every year. Sometimes I wonder if I can sneeze at a school committee meeting if it isn’t on the agenda.

Accountability and transparency are good things, but from its inception through every subsequent reform, the state legislature has exempted itself from these laws. It makes no sense that the volunteers on the Bicycle Advisory Committee operate under strict rules that don’t apply to our professional state legislators.

As a nation, we have been transforming ourselves away from our democratic ideal, where public policy decisions were made, and public funds were appropriated, by elected representatives of the people. We are trending toward a plutocracy, where tax cuts for billionaires translate into cash-starved state and local governments. Without adequate revenue, cities, towns, and school districts are chasing funds from the Walton and DeVos Family Foundations. They provide the money, they set the policy.

Speaking of Betsy DeVos, our unelected State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Secretary James Peyser, have been given broad leeway over education policy. While the town meeting that sits in this hall makes granular appropriations of local funds, such as $2,160 for the Arlington Historical Commission, an ideological group of Republican appointees can swoop in and take millions of dollars out of a city or town budget for an unwanted, unnecessary charter school. Instead of maintaining tight restrictions on the actions of cities and towns, the legislature needs to engage itself in some adult supervision of the state education agencies. We also need to reform governance and funding of charter schools. If we are expected to pay for charter schools, we expect the right to approve a new school and vote its appropriations.

With the nonsense happening in Washington, Beacon Hill needs to be a beacon for  thoughtful, progressive, successful government.

We don’t need a stupid wall. We need a smart transit system. We don’t need a stupid South Station expansion, we need a smart North-South rail link. Bill Weld and Michael Dukakis agree that the rail link is $2 billion cheaper than expanding Boston’s two dead-end terminals, and it would be the lynchpin of improved rail service throughout the region.

We shouldn’t need a Proposition 2 ½ override to maintain level services, especially when the Foundation Budget Review Commission has documented the annual erosion of state funding for public schools using formulaic trickery. For Fiscal 2017, the state said our costs DEFLATED 0.22% Really?

We are severely constrained at the local level in our ability to raise revenue, and the state refuses to talk about revenue and their structural deficit. Instead of looking for solutions, they pass the problem down to cities and towns and school districts.

Employer-based health care is a drag on small businesses and our economic competitiveness with other nations. The Republicans point to failures of Obama-care, Romney-Care, in rural states where the markets are not working. Vital, universal public needs like education and health care shouldn’t be market driven opportunities for high profits; we need Medicare for all, and a transition away from an expensive, profit-driven private bureaucracy with no public oversight or accountability.

At the end of our warrant, we have a sanctuary town, or trust act resolution. We have had many open discussions, and I believe it will pass by a significant margin. Our Human Rights Commission placed this on our warrant. It has been discussed. It will be voted upon. The discussion has been public; open. Just as I have faith that Arlington will vote to support the resolution, I have no faith that our legislature will even bring a similar resolution to the floor for discussion.

This hall is the home to open, transparent democracy at its best. If we can do it here, why not on Beacon Hill. Shouldn’t our legislature be as good as our town meetings? Shouldn’t we, as Democrats, embrace the highest standards for representative democracy and apply that to our state government? Shouldn’t our platform embrace, and advocate for, a state government that aligns to our local ideals?

The birds are… shivering!

The birds should be chirping, but they are shivering instead.

What’s up with the weather? It was 68 degrees in February, and we are in the midst of a frozen Nor’easter on the first day of April. It should feel like spring, with chirping birds, lots of bikes on the bike path, and happy folks enjoying the first days of sidewalk dining. While we are just two short days from opening day at Fenway, it is a windy, wet, cold, snowy, Saturday. April Fools!

This is where I usually get into the feathery shtick and tell you it’s a beautiful day for an election. Let’s be honest. The weather is less than ideal, and the town-wide races are uncontested. It’s the kind of day that lends itself more toward French toast and huddling under a blanket with a good book. Still, there are good reasons to venture out into cold reality and visit your local polling place.

First, there are poll workers who are waiting for your visit! A slow election is a lonely day for the election workers, who make sure you have the opportunity to participate in your town government. Go thank them for working a very long day to make democracy possible.

Second, voting in an uncontested election is a way to say thank you to the people on the ballot. My colleagues on the school committee, and the other folks on the town-wide ballot, are all hard working and thoughtful people who spend considerable time working to make Arlington a better place to live. Diane Mahon is also a long-time friend and fan of this chirping bird routine. Please take the time to fill in the bubble next to Diane’s name, as well as Dan Dunn, both running for re-election as selectmen. Fill in the bubble for Mary Winstanley O’Connor, running for re-election to the Board of Assessors. Fill in the bubble for Town Clerk Stephanie Lucarelli, and Finance Committee member Dean Carmen who is running for Town Treasurer. Please vote for my school committee colleagues, Jennifer Susse and Bill Hayner, and I ask for your vote as well.

We work well together, we respect each other, and I think Arlington is moving in a positive direction. Your vote today may not be a vote to select candidates, but it is a vote of confidence.

In eleven of 21 precincts, it is also a vote to elect Town Meeting Members. Our citizen legislature appropriates the town budget, enacts bylaws and zoning bylaws, and makes the major decisions for the town. Some of the Town Meeting races are very spirited, with your neighbors engaged in a contest for the right to spend several spring evenings representing you in Town Hall.

Yes, we have a town election on April Fools Day, and it’s the fools who fail to use their vote! The polls are open until 8:00 p.m., and I promise you, if you vote, the birds will be out chirping in the sunshine really soon.

The dysfunction of the U.S. House speaker

As a low-rent local elected official, I know I am substantially worthless. I can decide absolutely nothing, but as a member of a seven member board, I can only get something done if I can convince three other members to vote with me to do something. This is why the phrase, “Can you count to 4,” is significant in a seven member board.

Our Congress isn’t much different. With 435 members of the United States House of Representatives, the question is if you can count to 218. Under current circumstances, this presents an interesting challenge.

The House is currently comprised of 237 Republicans, 193 Democrats, and there are five vacancies. If you can get all 237 Republicans to agree on something, you can reach a decision. However, last week’s failure of the House Republicans to gather 218 members to support a health insurance bill illustrates a fatal flaw in the current House structure.

If you look at the current House mathematics, you need to consider the dynamics of the Republican caucus. Let’s start with one of the driving factors of the GOP split, the 23 Republicans who represent districts that voted for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton GOP
GOP Representatives in Clinton districts

So, if you do some simple subtraction, taking 23 moderates away from 237 Republicans, you find yourself at 214. Similarly, if you remove approximately 30 members of the Freedom Caucus, your 237 member majority suddenly looks like a 207 member minority.

Republicans in Congress
Congressional Republicans by faction

If you start at the far right of the distribution with a policy proposal, chances are you are going to run out of yes votes before you get to 218. Similarly, if you restrict yourself to Republican members,start with the moderates, and move right, you are going to see the Freedom Caucus drop away.

Congress
Entire congress

The message is simple. A governing majority needs to somewhere near the middle, and cannot limit itself to one party. This is going to become more crucial if the probable outcome in 2018, a Republican loss of 10-15 seats, will leave the GOP with a razor-thin majority.

To legislate successfully, you need a Speaker of the House who can determine the will of the Congress, and lead it to that position. However, the role of the Speaker has transformed from the leader of the entire House of Representatives to a kind of uber-majority leader. The Hastert rule, where the Speaker was bound by the majority of the majority, effectively puts him in the position of supporting the position of the 119 most conservative Republicans in the House.

I don’t know how we are going to get there, but we need to find a way to get a more neutral Speaker, one that has the support of members from both parties. We need a Speaker who can work from the center and be able to bring the majority and minority leaders into the room and craft legislation that can achieve 218 votes. So, you lose 30 far-right Republicans, you can pick up 50 centerist Democrats and put together a governing coalition that stands a better chance of gaining acceptance of the American public.

Think about it. If the Speaker was focused on the will of the majority of all members, not just the majority of the majority, we would have had no problem passing an immigration reform proposal backed by George W. Bush and John McCain, many Democrats, a majority of the entire Congress, but not a majority of members of the Republican caucus.

Corker tweet

The ideal candidate for Speaker would be one of those Clinton-district Republican moderates, someone who is friendly with and can work with Democrats. We need someone who is more interested in representing the will of Congress, rather than advocating for a ideological or partisan position through the Speaker’s chair. The partisan advocates should be the majority leader and the minority leader; the Speaker should represent the entire Congress.

Public school governance, and other topics of interest, in a large New England town.