Citizens for Limited Taxation & Government
"The Commonwealth Activist Network"
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*** CLT&G Update ***
Friday, May 8, 1998

"Confederacy of Dunces"

Greetings activists and supporters;

Late last night the House passed the "Imperious Maximus" budget, which includes Finneran’s much-trumpeted "Biggest Tax Cut in State History"—the same "tax cut" which we pointed out back in March is actually a tax *increase*. The $19.5 billion budget, an increase of 5 percent over this year’s, passed near-unanimously (153-1) with but for one lone vote against it, cast by Rep. Douglas W. Stoddart (R-Natick).

Earned and so-called "unearned" income taxes will be reduced to 5.7 percent under Finneran’s budget, but the stabilization "rainy day" will balloon even larger by another $650 million of surplus tax dollars over its current $960 million, leaving virtually no chance of the automatic personal exemption increase/tax rebate kicking in.

"It has been a very reasonable budget," House Minority Leader David Peters, (R-Charleton) told the Boston Globe. To the Boston Herald he said, "Speaker Finneran has been extremely heavy-handed in his legislative approach."

The Imperious Maximus Budget now moves to the state Senate.

We’ve posted some of Wednesday’s House debate on the tax cuts on our website:

Some of you may have read Jon Keller’s Boston Globe column yesterday, "Antivoucher hypocrisy," in which he blasts the liberal elite establishment who battle school vouchers while packing off their own kids to private schools.

And in this month’s (May) issue of Boston Magazine, Jon Keller exposes the myths of "education reform" (which received an additional $260 million in the House budget last night) in "Confederacy of Dunces." He writes:

"The sheer volume of the legislature’s $5 billion commitment in the Education Reform Act of 1993 was testament to the severe alarm among the political and business classes over the public schools’ inability to produce passably literate graduates. Five years and nearly $2 billion in new spending later, math and reading scores have barely budged. In all candor, here are three major reasons why.

"There are lies, damn lies, and education reform. And there are three culprits: John Silber, the teachers union, and smug parents."

About the teachers union, Keller writes:

"‘LABOR IS COMMITTED to reform.’

"That’s what the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the state’s biggest and most powerful teachers union, like to pretend. Among those familiar with MTS’s hopelessly intransigent resistance to the reformist elements of the 1993 law, this lie is believed only by those who also buy O.J. Simpson’s commitment to finding the real killer of his wife.

"Financially, education reform has been great for the MTA.

Hundreds of millions of extra dollars have poured into school districts, much of it spent on new dues-paying MTA members. And there’s more to come. Acting Governor Paul Cellucci said in his State of the State address in January that he wants to hire 4,000 new teachers because "some teachers are faced with the daunting task of instructing as many as 30 students at the same time."

"In that same speech, Cellucci noted that after five years and an increase in state spending of $1.6 billion, "60 percent of our state’s fourth-graders still can’t read at their grade-level; over 8,000 of our high-schoolers drop out each year; one in every seven freshman students at our state colleges needs remedial help in math." Add in those horrifying teacher/student rations, and you wonder: Why is there so little to show for all that extra dough!

"Start with a reactionary MTA bureaucracy that acts like it’s representing sweat-shop pieceworkers instead of professionals in a service industry. If it isn’t in the rigid collective-bargaining agreements hammered out in less desperate times by the MTA, the union doesn’t want to hear about it now, no matter who it might help. One example: the MTA’s refusal to ease strict work rules that shut down schools and send kids out into the street in midafternoon. No wonder gang activity in Boston is on the rise again.

"Another beaut: the MTA reaction to a recent bill that gives teachers the right to kick chronically disruptive students out of their classes and immunizes teachers, districts, and principals against possible resulting lawsuits. Cellucci administration education adviser Michael Sentance told a legislative committee that frontline teachers in tough schools needed such leeway. But MTA president Stephen Gorrie testified against the measure. His better idea: Spend more state funds on the same ‘alternative education’ programs that currently leave teachers powerless.

"’They have decided that taking a cooperative stance doesn’t help them with their members,’ says former state representative Nicholas Paleologos of Woburn, a pro-union Democrat who learned to loathe the MTA during his stab at education reform in the mid-1980s. ‘There are a couple sour-apple teachers in eery district, and they’re the ones who get elected to the local union leadership. Then 300 of these local ball busters elect the statewide leaders.’

"Nothing displays the venal instincts of the MTA more vividly than its war against commonwealth charter schools. Twenty-five of these nonunion public schools were created by the Education Reform Act, and a predominantly urban, poor, nonwhite constituency has swamped them with application. That has embarrassed and alarmed the MTA, which has tried without success to kill the charter-school movement. But last summer the union fought for and won a concession from the legislature. Charter-school proponents had wanted 50 new charters approved to handle the burgeoning public demand, Union lobbying chopped that number in half, with 13 of the new charters reserved for so-called Horace Mann charter schools—new, unionized schools with a mandate to show that, as the late MTA president, Meline Kasparian once put it, "reform, innovation, creativity . . . and collective bargaining can coexits."

To anyone interested in issues of education reform and the disingenuous attempts by the ruling-class elite to allegedly educate the children, I recommend this article.

Now that we’ve got a little unavoidably free time on our hands, I think this issue and our enemies (note that I did *not* say opponents; it’s gone far beyond such niceties) in the MTA deserve more scrutiny and exposure. And really, those who know me well know that *nobody* wants to become my enemy if they can at all avoid it!

The gloves are off . . .

Chip Ford—

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"The only alternative to limited taxation and government is unlimited taxation and government"