Why go down this road again

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More on the Patrick administration’s moves to gut education reform. The Patrick proposal creates a Secretary of Education. It gives the Secretary broad budgetary power, reducing the Commissioner of Education to being a department head. It stacks, packs and racks up the members of the Board, so that the power starts from the Governor, flows through the Secretary and leaves the Commissioner and Board to rubber stamp.

Once upon a time, in a not far off time, the current Chairman of the Board, S. Paul Reville, did not think this such a good idea. For the full testimony see here. The testimony was provided in June 2003, when a previous Governor proposed a weak Secretary (no real budgetary power, no changes to the Board).  At the time, Mr. Reville testified before the Legislature that:

“The reorganization removes the authority of the Board to hire the Commissioner. This has historically been the Board’s most important responsibility and a key feature of the quasi-independence of the education system. The Commissioner would now be a direct appointee of the Governor, placing the Department under the immediate control of the Executive Branch. Further, the proposal creates the post of Secretary of Education. The Commonwealth has tried an education secretariat twice in recent decades and in both cases, the experience has been so negative that the Legislature has chosen to abolish the position. Notwithstanding the outstanding qualifications of the Administration’s proposed nominee for this post, why go down this road again?”

“I submit that the arm’s length relationship between education and politics has served the Commonwealth and its children well over the years. I would urge you to maintain that relationship, avoid the failures of the past and concentrate on bringing real reforms to our schools and classrooms.”

Indeed, why go down this road again?