Schools and Politics – How much can a mayor impact public education?

Public school education in the city of Boston has not been better in years, yet it remains tenuous due to factors that cannot be controlled. Exhortations by the Flaherty-Yoon mayoral candidates that Mayor Thomas Menino has somehow dropped the ball on public school education and that they can change public school education to everything all of us want it to be are specious.

Public school education in Boston is effected mostly by inertia and indifference – and this comes more from the overall public school enrollment population than anything else.

An extraordinary percentage of the public school’s population can barely read or write in the English language and are incapable of reading or writing in their native language.

In addition, it is the pervasive poverty and the ignorance spawned by the poverty that provide the double whammy of low reading scores, high drop-out rates, and situations that defy natural educational logic.

The finest teachers in the world led by the most able administrators in the world, all paid the highest salaries in the world, could not reasonably undo the complex difficulties facing the city of Boston public school system.

Charter schools have the ability to chart a new course.

But not every public school can be a charter school, and presently, the way the system is set up, wherever and whenever a new charter school opens its doors, it takes from the nearest public schools the best students, draining the best out of decent public schools in the inner city when it is those very schools that need more tools and a broader student body to score successes.

The mayor’s race is now spawning political yarns that insist the Flaherty-Yoon team can make a bigger difference than Mayor Menino on the public schools.

We respectfully disagree.

The present administration has done its best to do the most with the resources available.

In the next two years, a Flaherty-Yoon administration will face drastic state aid cuts that will likely paralyze efforts to move not only Boston’s public schools forward, but every public school system in the state.

In addition, the continued bussing of students at a cost of $40 million a year from their neighborhoods weakens the premise of the neighborhood school – and most of us would agree – it is the neighborhood school which should serve as the pillar of the neighborhood.

More new jobs, more public housing, better health care and a government that truly cares about the well being of the people will aid public school education in the city of Boston.

Ignorance and poverty are not crimes, Pericles said.

The crimes are in not doing anything about them, the ancient leader added.

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