Equal Treatment for All!

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Just returned from a packed State House hearing on charter schools, which included enough material to fuel the blogosphere for the foreseeable future.  

Due to the number of people wishing to testify, the education committee was unusually strict about enforcing a three-minute limit on individual testimony — which led to my personal favorite moment of the afternoon. 

Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton),  the most unquestioning of public employee union supporters, railed against inequality, claiming charter schools call themselves public but are more like privates in their entrance requirements.  The alarm marking the end of his three minutes sounded.  Undaunted, he continued — this time accusing charters of busing people to the hearing and feeding them with public funds.  After all, the same rules should apply to everyone.

The alarm rang a second time, and Senate Education Chair Robert Antonioni politely attempted to stop Pacheco.  But Pacheco would not be denied, continuing his tirade about the importance — above all else — of equal treatment for all.

By the time he was done, Pacheco, who was taken out of order in the first place because he’s a legislator, had taken twice as much time as anyone else offering testimony — all so he could hammer home the importance of everyone being treated equally.

By the way, Masssachusetts is the only state with a law that makes it almost impossible for private entities to compete for work currently performed by state employees.  The law takes the cost of private bids to deliver a service, then makes several “adjustments” — all in public employees’ favor — for things like lost tax revenue if any part of the work is performed out of state.  It then compares the private bid to the cost of providing the service with public employees, right?  Wrong.  The bid is compared to what the cost would be were public employees to work “in the most cost-efficient manner.”  Huh?

If the public employee bid is lower, game over.  But if the private entity still manages to prevail, the law sets up yet another layer of review by the state auditor, who can reject the contract for any number of loosely defined reasons.

Who could advocate for such legislation?  Well, it’s known as the Pacheco law.

Remember, the important thing is equal treatment for all.