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Two Articles on Massachusetts Parent-Ed Plan

Ohanian Comment: The Associated Press account gives the names of the Standardisto crew appointed to Governor Mitt Romney's task force to come up with a plan to require some parents in failing school districts to complete a "parental preparation course."

Question: Has any politician or any member of the newly-appointed task force so worried about parental attitude about standards and testing ever considered raising the minimum wage and providing low-income housing and health care as a means to improve school performance?

Modest Proposal: Every member of this task force should be required to read Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

from the Boston Herald
Teachers, pols decry Romney's parent-ed plan>

by Elisabeth J. Beardsley

Teachers and lawmakers slammed Gov. Mitt Romney's plan to send moms and dads in the state's worst school districts to parenting classes as a requirement for their kids to enroll in full-day kindergarten, saying it's expensive and insulting.

Legislative leaders were quick to note that Romney vetoed $10 million from kindergarten expansion grants just three months ago, a cut that lawmakers overwhelmingly overturned.

``It's a contradiction that befuddles us,'' said Rep. Peter J. Larkin (D-Pittsfield), a House budget-writer and past Education Committee chair. ``The governor can't ask for a program and not be willing to put the money up.''

Romney rolled out the plan in a speech yesterday at a teacher conference in Marlboro - where he alternately drew jeers and applause as he ticked through proposals like battle pay for teachers in tough districts, expanded hiring and firing powers for principals, and an intensive new effort to focus on flagging math scores.

Some praised the proposal for parenting classes as a solid attempt to address the pressing problem of how to get parents more involved in the schools.

``It's been a key missing piece for a long time,'' said Diane Brisson, the New Bedford Public Schools director of Title One programs, which help struggling students achieve basic skills.

Others were offended.

``Who are we to tell parents that they need to come in and learn different things?'' asked Shirley Peaks, a sixth-grade teacher at the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Springfield.

``I'm sure we'll be able to put the dollars together,'' Romney said. ``Dollars and cents can't stand in the way of our kids learning.''

But Larkin, who claimed lawmakers are way ahead of Romney in developing fix-it plans for struggling districts, said it would cost at least ``a couple hundred million'' to provide full-day kindergarten on a statewide base - a notion Romney is pushing as the ultimate goal.

``Governor, where are you going to find the money?'' Larkin asked. ``You can't have a `no-new-taxes' pledge and at the same time have unlimited ambition.''

Romney's announcement of a new task force to fix the achievement gap between white and minority students also met skepticism.

``That reminds me of how we're going to end hunger - and that still exists,'' said Rhonda Latney, an eighth-grade special education teacher at Springfield's Kennedy Middle School.

from the Boston Globe
Critics see legal snag in Romney school idea
By Associated Press

A leading civil liberties group yesterday said Governor Mitt Romney's plan to require some parents in failing school districts to complete a ''parental preparation course'' might not pass legal muster.

Parents would have to take the course in order to enroll their children in state-funded full-day kindergarten, Romney said as part of his proposal to improve failing school districts.

''There would be equal protection problems by providing services to some children and not to other children,'' said Norma Shapiro, legislative director of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ''It would be illegal.''

Romney named a task force yesterday to look at the proposal and others that would make it easier for principals to fire teachers, give ''merit pay'' to top urban teachers, and kick out of regular classrooms students with severe discipline problems.

The governor's plan, most of which requires legislative approval, would require parents of kindergartners to attend a weekend course that would include advice on which books their children should read, and which television shows to watch.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the plan is legal.

''We're confident we can craft a program that meets constitutional scrutiny,'' he said.

The proposals would apply to districts which the state Board of Education declares ''underperforming,'' based on MCAS scores. So far, no districts have that label, but the board is expected to vote soon on North Adams and Holyoke. Fall River and Winchendon also are under examination.

The task force Romney appointed consists of: Chairman Paul S. Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation; James A. Peyser, chairman of the state Board of Education; Basan Nembirkow, Chicopee schools superintendent; Thomas W. Payzant, Boston schools superintendent; Donna Rodrigues, former Worcester principal; Kim Marshall, former Boston school principal; Robert V. Antonucci, president of Fitchburg State College; Harry Spence, Department of Social Services commissioner; Robert Schwartz, lecturer, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Mark Roosevelt, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education; Linda Whitlock, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston; Janis Pryor, former Wheelock College assistant professor; state Senator Robert A. Antonioni and state Representative Marie P. St. Fleur, cochairs of the Legislature's joint education committee; and a teacher to be named later.

— Elisabeth J. Beardsley and Associated Stories
Boston Herald and Boston Globe





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