NO! to the Alma del Mar giveaway

Go straight to the scripts for calling your legislators.

Massachusetts may sound like an odd state for Republican policies to be implemented by Democrats. Yet as I write this the “Democratic” Bristol County DA is lobbying for the Republican governor’s “Dangerousness” [mass incarceration] legislation. And the latest bipartisan attack on public education is from comrporate Democrats — Dartmouth state Rep. Christopher Markey and Westport Rep. Paul Schmid, whose pro-charter school bill, HD4174 turns state education law on its head to pay for Alma del Mar with public funds. As a charter, the school is less accountable to the public than to its trustees or its corporate board.

Though frequently described as an experiment, Alma del Mar’s charter is just another skirmish in a greater war for the privatization of American schools. Nationally, charter schools have already fleeced taxpayers to the tune of at least $1 billion. The Network for Public Education Action has documented the role of the super-rich in buying legislative approval for charter schools. Their ultimate goal is privatization. Now New Bedford in in their crosshairs.

HD4147 is opposed by numerous local community groups and organized labor, including NBCSOS (New Bedford Coalition to Save our Schools), the Greater New Bedford Labor Council and the NAACP. This corporate giveaway is the work of a couple of tony suburban Democrats working with the Republican governor and business interests to usher charter schools into Massachusetts through a back door.

In a recent op-ed co-signed by numerous corporate interests, Anthony Sapienza, who heads up the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC), assures us that the legislation is a “first-of-its-kind partnership” and “a solution that is critical to the stability of all other public schools and the city’s finances.” Sapienza gushes about “neighborhood schools,” arguing that giving Alma del Mar to a corporation is all part of “tangibly advancing strategies for sustainable and shared growth” in New Bedford. Alma del Mar will be a neighborhood school only in the narrowest sense — just as Stop and Shop is your neighborhood green grocer only in the narrowest sense. To echo the NBEDC‘s slogan, Alma del Mar will be “open for business.”

Sapienza rather disingenuously frames the question as a choice between the city raising $8 million to expand an existing school by 600 students — or giving away $4 million to a private corporation to outsource another 450 desks. Since Alma del Mar was built on city property at a cost of $16 million, the real question is whether any sane person thinks New Bedford will save $4 million — an amount less than 1% of the city’s FY2020 city budget — by giving away $16 million to a private entity.

HD4147 is plainly a raw deal for city residents — especially when you actually read the legislation yourself.

Section 2 of the bill says that — for purposes of all the expensive stuff — the school “shall be considered a public school.” But — to the great delight of the corporations pushing the bill — “for all other purposes, including but not limited to chapters 71A and 71B of the General Laws, Alma del Mar Charter School, including its second campus, shall be considered a Commonwealth Charter School.”

And Schmid and Markey are giving them both away.

Section 3 of the Markey-Schmid legislation gives the city permission to dispose of the physical buildings as it sees fit: “Notwithstanding any contrary provision in or interpretation of section 15A of chapter 40 of the General Laws, the School Committee may transfer custody of 135 Shawmut Avenue [the former Horatio A. Kempton School] to the City of New Bedford pursuant to a simple majority vote stating that said property is no longer needed by the New Bedford Public Schools.”

In what alternate reality does a school district give away $16 million of property because no further use is foreseen? The answer is — only in the world of corporatized education.

Section 4 provides the corporate school with guaranteed taxpayer-funded tuition payments. Section 5 cuts the public out of any review process for the transfers in the preceding sections.

Call your legislators now!

The New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools is urging concerned citizens to flood state reps and senators with calls opposing this reckless legislation. Click here for a script. You can also sign an online petition.