Dear Marty

Marty and CharlotteBetween now and next Tuesday, the Parent Imperfect will have to come up with an answer to the question, “What are you going to do?”. It should be a “no brainer,” Marty: My vote is there for the taking. The vast majority of my friends are voting for you, and more than a few are working on your campaign. At a recent meeting of Quest, a BPS parent group, one member said only half-jokingly that it was time to “do an intervention with the PI” because of my continuing inability to see the light (Quest has not endorsed a candidate) All of the three candidates that I seriously considered supporting in the primary (including the one I voted for) have endorsed you and are more or less actively supporting your campaign. Your life has followed a path familiar to me (all except for the success part). You are the working class guy who has risen above problems with alcohol to become a successful union leader and state politician. Now, the Globe has endorsed your opponent, which should be a crystal clear signal to me to move the other way.

The job of getting my vote is more trouble than it’s worth. The dirty secret is that the last time I voted in a final mayoral election, you had just turned 16. I can’t help but wonder what you thought about the Flynn-King election at age 16. Probably not much….Maybe it makes me part of the problem, but I have this strange idea that I should only vote for candidates who hold views that are consistent with my own on issues that really matter to me.

In 1983, I certainly supported public education as an idea (I had tumbled out of UMass just a few years before), but I didn’t know or care much about the Boston public schools. Since Vince and then Connie entered the BPS, however, it has become clearer to me how much the condition of our public schools is creating the future of our city before our very eyes. There are many things that affect our city that the mayor can’t really change, but s/he does have a lot of influence over our schools.  I want to vote for a mayor who I believe will really address the challenges facing public education in the city. Up until now, Marty, you haven’t convinced me that you’ll do that.

Both you and your opponent are part of what I call the “Post-Busing Generation” of kids who grew up in Boston. That’s a diverse and fascinating generation that will soon encompass nearly all of the City’s political class. You were just getting started in school when Judge Garrity’s order came down, and John was taking his very first steps when the buses began to roll. That was the time when a certain demographic in the city completely lost faith in the Boston Public Schools as a way to educate their kids. Many of those folks left the city for Dedham and Weymouth and Stoughton. Many of those who stayed found some other place (parochial schools, in many cases) to school their kids. I have no idea what either of your families thought about the BPS, but, as nearly as I can tell, neither of you ever spent a day as a Boston Public School student (if you did, you didn’t choose to highlight that experience on your website). Somebody will tell me if I’m wrong, but I bet this is the first Boston mayoral election in a very long time in which neither candidate ever attended public school in the city.

This, of course, says nothing about the kind of person you are, the type of mayor you’ll make or even what you think about the BPS. But when you grew up (I remember that time) and where you went to school will make me listen closely to what you say about the BPS. Support for public education is not automatically among your core values.

I have now had the chance to ask you personally (and to listen to others ask you) a few times what you think about education policy in the city. Every time, you lead with the important fact that you have served for many years on the Board of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester. That’s great. All that I know about NHCS suggests that it is a great school, but your service on that Board says very little to me about how you’ll be as the boss of the Superintendent of an urban school system with over 50,000 kids in it. You’ve also been clear about your position that the Legislature should remove the current cap on the expansion of in-district charter schools in the Commonwealth. I don’t agree with that, but it is a perfectly reasonable posture for a charter school board member.  That view, however, begs some explanation of how charter school expansion is compatible with a commitment to provide quality education to all Boston’s children by strengthening the weakest of the City’s traditional public schools. Finally, you’re clear that, as a union leader, you’ll be able to “sit down and work with the BTU” rather than declare war on the Union. That’s clear and probably true, but what views about the future of public education will you take with you when you sit down? Speak to me.

I’m not a one-trick pony. I care what you say about creating jobs, public safety in the City, addiction treatment programs, economic opportunities for our youth, affordable housing and many other issues. I like your views on some of those issues, and believe that you are committed to making a difference. I have, however, been waiting to be inspired around the issue that I think holds the key to changing the future of the city. 

Your campaign has knocked on my door four times since the primary. Those knocks gave me the opportunity to speak with a retired police officer from Dorchester, a young mother making some extra money as a canvasser, an activist from Local 26 and another from the CWA. To my surprise, no one from your opponent’s campaign has bothered to knock, and this matters. The face of your campaign at my door says something about what you have done to bring different parts of the city together and each of your volunteers took the time to try to convince me that you are the candidate that best reflects my values. I, of course, gave them my education schpiel before they could politely get away to the next house. The two who didn’t think I was completely nuts to be canvassing the canvassers actually agreed with me and said, “I’ll be sure and bring that back to the campaign.” I hope they did and that in these last days of the campaign, you’ll find a way to cast yourself as leader, thoughtful critic, advocate, hard lover and promoter of the Boston Public Schools.

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