METCO’s Milly Arbaje-Thomas & Researcher Roger Hatch on MA’s Voluntary School Desegregation Program

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Milly Arbaje-Thomas, President & CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) and Roger Hatch, co-author of Pioneer’s report, METCO Funding: Understanding Massachusetts’ Voluntary School Desegregation Program. Milly shares her background as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and deep involvement with anti-poverty and neighborhood-based organizations in Boston. She describes METCO’s history, the challenges METCO participants face, and the program’s proven track record of achieving excellent results for minority students from Boston and Springfield. The discussion turns to METCO’s complex funding model, and Roger Hatch summarizes the main findings of his recent report. They explore institutional barriers to expansion, despite the program’s contribution to diversifying greater Boston’s suburban districts (METCO students constitute very high percentages of those districts’ minority student population). They talk about the fiscal implications of METCO in suburban districts, including state and district funding and transportation costs; and possible financial reforms.

Stories of the Week: Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauds President Biden’s reversal of a proposal to curb charter school expansion. Basketball legend and civil rights trailblazer Bill Russell passed away this week; Cara and Gerard pay tribute to him.


Milagros “Milly” Arbaje-Thomas is the President & CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Inc. (METCO), the largest and second longest-running school desegregation program in the country. METCO places 3,200 students from Boston into 33 participating suburban school districts with the goal of reducing racial isolation and increasing diversity. Prior to that, Milly spent 15 years at ABCD, Boston’s anti-poverty agency, supporting more than 85,000 low-income residents through its city-wide network of neighborhood-based organizations. Milly oversaw neighborhood sites in Parker Hill/Fenway, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain as well as the Citywide Hispanic Center, and then served as Deputy Director of Field Operations for all sites. Milly also co-founded and served as President of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center (SIC) for 14 years. She began her career as a clinical social worker at Brookside community health center in Jamaica Plain. Born in the Dominican Republic, Milly holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Education and Women Studies, a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Boston College, a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Boston University School of Management, and an Honorary Doctorate degree in Humane Letters from Emmanuel College.

Roger Hatch spent a long career working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the areas of school and municipal finance. For 20 years he was the Administrator of School Finance at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In addition to supervising the school choice program, the office he led worked with the Governor’s staff, the legislature, advocacy groups, local officials, and the general public, to develop, calculate, and explain the Chapter 70 state aid formula.

The next episode will air on Weds., August 10th, with Prof. Charles Hobson, a resident scholar at the William & Mary Law School, 26-year editor of The Papers of John Marshall, and author of The Great Chief Justice: John Marshall and the Rule of Law.

Tweet of the Week:


Charter-School Change Is a Victory for Children

Bill Russell’s legacy: NBA ambassador, elite defender and leader of the Bay Area’s original dynasty

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Please excuse typos.

[00:00:26] GR: Hello listeners. Welcome back to another wonderful episode of learning curve. Of course, we’re joined by Cara Candal, who is back with us last week was our first week getting things back together. And this is week two and, , glad to be back in the ring of things with you. How are you since last week?

[00:00:45] Cara: I’m well, thank you, Gerard.

[00:00:47] Yes. Happy to go back where reunited, once again, I usually don’t tell people when I’m traveling, but this time I am visiting family in my home state, which is very nice. But as you know, we are experiencing rolling power outages, but it’s so [00:01:00] cool, Gerard, that we live in this place where. When one thing’s down, you still have lots of options.

[00:01:04] So maybe I’m sounding a little tinny, but man, I’ve got a cell phone and it works. So it’s kind of cool.

[00:01:10] GR: other than that, I hope the power comes back on.

[00:01:11] Cara: Cause it’s, it’s also kind of hot your art

[00:01:13] GR: kind of hot ah, yeah, that is, that is true. Uh, since you mentioned about power outs, I wanna just, give, some condolences and hope you do well soon to people in south Western, Virginia and people in Kentucky whose, lives have been impacted.

[00:01:28] Oh my goodness. Flooding and other, things going on cuz you know, many of them are preparing for back to school and that won’t look the same, uh, getting what’s going on. Oh my

[00:01:38] Cara: goodness. Now flooding and, flash flooding at that like between fires and flash floods, things that you can’t prepare for.

[00:01:47] Can’t get out quick enough. It it’s horrific and yes, my heart goes out one life’s lost just one life, too many and certainly. More than that for the people of Virginia, Kentucky. So thank you for mentioning that

[00:01:59] GR: for our listeners.[00:02:00] Oh, no problem. So what’s on your, , read of the week.

[00:02:04] Cara: Okay. Read of the week. I don’t know. I’m hoping I’m not gonna sound like a Debbie downer about this one jar, but you know, he’s going through and, we always have some great stories to pick from every week. And I’ve had charter schools on my mind a lot

[00:02:18] GR: lately, not just the, I mean, who doesn’t love to have

[00:02:21] Cara: charter schools on their mind’s.

[00:02:22] You know, it’s kind of how we roll, people like you and I, but, I came across this opinion piece by former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Also, of course it was published in Bloomberg news. the title of which is charter school change is a victory for children. So Gerard, you will recall that

[00:02:40] GR: a couple

[00:02:40] Cara: months ago we were talking about the complexities.

[00:02:43] Of the new federal regulations for the charter schools program, the federal charter schools program and how there

[00:02:50] GR: was. I’m just gonna say it, like

[00:02:52] Cara: just damning provision in there that would have basically prevented charter schools from opening in [00:03:00] communities where the district

[00:03:01] GR: schools were under enrolled.

[00:03:02] Now, why is that a problem?

[00:03:04] Cara: and I have to say, I just got a question from somebody. I was on a call and somebody. You know, yet again, made a charge that charter schools, drained resources from public schools. And I thought to myself, wow, here we are like

[00:03:15] GR: 30 years on. And we still haven’t busted that myth.

[00:03:18] Cara: But, this provision of the proposed regulations that would have prevented charter schools from opening and communities where districts are under enrolled is bananas in so many ways. But first and foremost, because, high, like no. all urban districts are under enrolled. Like almost all of the large school districts in this country are, have experienced and were experiencing enrollment declines before the pandemic.

[00:03:42] But certainly in the

[00:03:43] GR: pandemic, as we’ve talked about a

[00:03:44] Cara: lot here, you know, enrollment, permitted, interestingly charter school enrollment was up. During the pandemic, which tells

[00:03:51] GR: you sort of about

[00:03:52] Cara: what parents wanted and what they were looking for. So the good news as mayor Bloomberg points out is that, the Biden administration [00:04:00] walked.

[00:04:00] This regulation, they’re taking out this under enrollment provision, mainly because

[00:04:05] GR: the parents

[00:04:07] Cara: and not just advocacy groups, I think it’s really important to know parents who are on charter school waiting list. And so many of these communities that would’ve been affected were like,

[00:04:16] GR: are you kidding

[00:04:17] Cara: me?

[00:04:19] and you know, it’s also. So blatant that, the Biden administration and I’m sorry, I, I tried usually to be pretty neutrally political, but it’s, it’s just so blatant that this was about teachers unions and we know how

[00:04:30] GR: cozy, the unions are

[00:04:32] Cara: with this particular administration, and teachers, union hate charters.

[00:04:35] And that’s, sort of all there is to it, but parents one on this little provision, but let me tell you why. And feeling like a bit of a Debbie downer, J I’m feeling like a Debbie downer, because I think mayor Bloomberg is just way too sunny about this. So is this a victory for children? I don’t know.

[00:04:52] I mean, the fact that, yeah, this one little obscure regulation that, yeah, it could have definitely taken away some seats, but it’s not [00:05:00] changing. The overall a federal hostility towards charter schools and B you know, hostility at the state level towards charter schools, especially when these are schools that we know.

[00:05:11] So many of them are really effective for kids. And as I just said, so many of them have long waiting lists that parents and kids are trying to get entrance to these schools. So it just got me thinking. know, I think sometimes we, we say, okay, we won this little battle and we, take it off the list, but the federal charter schools program, that’s just one little part of it.

[00:05:30] And Nina res our friend who’s been on the show a couple times was

[00:05:33] GR: quoted in this article of saying, you know,

[00:05:34] Cara: we still need a list of time, not this article, but a separate one. We still need a little bit of time to see what the rest of the charter school program regulations are gonna look like. Now, as a reminder to listen.

[00:05:45] The federal charter schools program has traditionally been very important to charter schools because it helps ’em with startup funds. Now, why do charter schools do startup funds? Well,

[00:05:52] GR: because. Don’t fund charters

[00:05:54] Cara: equally. They certainly don’t fund charter facilities equally. And here’s

[00:05:59] GR: news. [00:06:00] If you don’t

[00:06:00] Cara: have access to a building, you can’t have a school for kids.

[00:06:03] Well, you can, but traditionally you couldn’t have, so we’re seeing more and more charters innovate in these ways, but it’s a long road. Right. And so it just got me to thinking, Gerard, should we, as people who care

[00:06:14] GR: about these.

[00:06:15] Cara: Be really happy that this one little provision was repealed maybe, but we certainly shouldn’t like sit back on our heels and say, okay, the good work is done.

[00:06:24] And it’s got me thinking a lot about how much attention we pay to federal programs and how much stock we put in federal programs. When for my money, Gerard, we should really be working a lot harder than we currently.

[00:06:37] GR: At the state level. And what do I mean by that? I mean that we should

[00:06:40] Cara: be working hard in a time when charters, have, you know, they’re experiencing.

[00:06:45] A lot of headwinds, those who don’t like charters, as I said at the outset have really made a lot of these anti-charter myths stick in the American, public imagination, except of course, with those who have used an experienced charters. And I think we need to focus on a couple things. [00:07:00] Number one, I think we need to focus on establishing multiple authorizers.

[00:07:04] Especially in states where school districts are the ones that are authorizing charters, because we know that not all, but a lot of the time school districts can be very hostile, charter, authorizers, and they don’t give charter

[00:07:15] GR: schools. The flexibility that they

[00:07:16] Cara: need. The other thing I’m thinking about is that we need to be working much harder at the state level as advocates for charter schools

[00:07:23] GR: to make these schools not so dependent on federal.

[00:07:26] So, what does

[00:07:26] Cara: that mean? That means changing the laws around how charters are funded. That means ensuring that states are giving

[00:07:32] GR: charter schools not only equal access to

[00:07:36] Cara: facilities. Like, I mean, how many stories have you? And I heard Gerard of empty public school district buildings, but nobody will share the empty buildings with a charter that has kids on a waiting list.

[00:07:46] Right. We need to be thinking about these things and we need to think about helping. Fund

[00:07:51] GR: charter facilities

[00:07:52] Cara: themselves. the federal government and charter schools came, grew out of the states. states are supposed to be laboratories for change in innovation. [00:08:00] And we got some of the strongest charter schools in states with strong charter schools, laws.

[00:08:04] and I think we need to go back. To that model. I think that, you know, charter schools will barely on federal radar until the Obama administration really highlighted them as a success in incentive states with race to the top to establish more charter schools. And here we are with, , , president Obama’s VP.

[00:08:21] Seemingly working with the rest of his administration to, kill charter. So I think like let’s not get too excited. I’m happy that mayor Bloomberg

[00:08:28] GR: is excited, but the work

[00:08:30] Cara: is not done Gerard. And so I was left

[00:08:32] GR: feeling feisty by this story of the week,

[00:08:35] Cara: feeling feisty and thinking about mobilizing

[00:08:38] GR: for more change at the state level, what

[00:08:40] Milly: do you think?

[00:08:41] GR: Well, I would say you’re more, feisty Frida than Debbie down. On this issue because you laid out a strong case, why we should be glad, but not thankful in the big picture. Really not much more than I can add to it because you hit all the right points. Something that you reminded me [00:09:00] of is how many parents are on the waiting list to get into charter schools.

[00:09:05] The ones that are trying to per se, just open ones that have been open for years. They’re waiting to get on. And so, I mean, that’s, that’s just a good reminder and I’m also taken. , like

[00:09:16] Roger: you, about how many times

[00:09:18] GR: are we gonna decide to treat charter schools differently? For example, federal funds matter a lot to charter schools.

[00:09:24] Guess what? They matter a lot to magnet schools and the magnet school program created long before charter schools are in fact public schools. And if we took the same stance against magnet schools of saying, well, let’s not enroll any new students until we fill all the traditional public school, route seats.

[00:09:40] Hey guess. Let’s not fill in magnet schools. I’m pretty sure you would hear a great deal from the, uh, mag school association of America, as well as their teachers. But for some reason we don’t put that kind of, uh, hit onto magnet school, . So I like to Feist in this, uh, Fria.

[00:09:56] This was good. Thanks. I’ll take

[00:09:58] Cara: it. You and I love that, that you said that [00:10:00] you thought I was right. I’m gonna make

[00:10:01] GR: sure that my husband upset later. So oh yes. I, do the same thing you say that I’m right. I let Kimberly know as well. So no, we. Absolutely. It’s very important until just back on things like this,

[00:10:10] .

[00:10:10] Well, my story is about, a gentleman in Boston who helped build the Boston dynasty, bill Russell. Uh, some of our listeners may not know, , he, , died, , recently and, , there are a lot of tributes to him at this point, going on from people from KA AB DJA bar to people who actually knew him as a player.

[00:10:31] And so why is he important? Well, for one reason, he played for the Boston. Celtics pioneer Institute, who we both, work for supports in Boston, but it’s worth noting that here to someone who was larger than the game of basketball, but used the platform of basketball to talk about public educational and social issues.

[00:10:51] a few things people may not know about bill Russell, it’s just worth noting because it says a lot about, uh, his background. he was born in Monroe, Louisiana, [00:11:00] and he was part, his family was part of that. world war II, wave of families who left, , the south to go to California for better jobs. He, his family makes hiss way to Oakland, California, as many of you know, my family stopped in Los Angeles and naturally going.

[00:11:16] We know that he’s six, 10, but people assume that just because you’re tall and black, that you automatically. Play a basketball. I can tell you having a lot of tall black male friends who are not great basketball players. That’s true. That is a myth. And what’s so interesting is when he went to high school, he was an almost cut from his team because he didn’t have the fundamentals of basketball.

[00:11:36] as coaches will say, I can’t teach high. But give it to me. I can teach the fundamentals and bill Russell, uh, is an example, , exactly of that. He found a coach who wanted to work with him. He ended up playing basketball, leading his team to two championships in California. And despite the fact that he won two championships, a lot of division one teams, weren’t interested in recruiting him.

[00:11:58] Now, again, this is the [00:12:00] 1950s. college basketball is still pretty segregated. as was not only college, but you know, K-12 education, but in his own backyard, in the San Francisco area, he ended up getting, an offer to play basketball at the university of San Francisco. it’s a Jesuit school, not known as a basketball powerhouse.

[00:12:18] during his time there, he led them to two national championships, ended up leading them to a, to 55 consecutive wins. And now of course, he’s gonna get looked at by a lot of. places, a lot of NBA teams, as we know, he moves to the east coast, uh, plays basketball with the, Boston Celtics. Get this in 13 seasons.

[00:12:41] He won 11 championships now to put that in perspective

[00:12:46]: with his Celtics.

[00:12:48] GR: Yes.

[00:12:49]: I know that you have, I’m a terrible Bostonian

[00:12:53] GR: yeah, exactly. Yeah. You now remember I’m an LA guy, so I love the Lakers. And so I would. God Showtime when magic and [00:13:00] bird, that dinosaur was going back and forth. So I hear you.

[00:13:03] There’s a lot that, you know, I don’t always say about Lakers, but bill Russell is a lesson in tenacity and a winner’s mindset. It’s not simply because he was tall, but a lot of. About tall players in the NBA, , for 70 plus year history who don’t have 11 rings, their players will spend 10 years will never win one 13 years, 11 championships.

[00:13:23] And then he used his prowess, on basketball to also, you know, challenged the system itself today in the NBA franchises, there are a few African American coaches. Well, he was actually the first, African. American coach in the NBA, but also he was coaching while he was a player. he used, his understanding of black history and about social movements and his own story of growing up in the segregated south, going to California and making a move to talk about the importance of talking about history.

[00:13:51] he was at the university of San Francisco, at a time that there were a lot of social movements in the city. many people may not know that, San [00:14:00] Francisco. State university and Harvard university were the first two universities to actually offer, a course in African American studies.

[00:14:07] Well, some of the people, in fact who were working on that were people who, were part of bill Russell’s bay area. Cohort of people who simply talk about the importance of teaching black history and a point in American history right now, where in some states, that may be looked upon his critical race theory.

[00:14:24] he used that to talk about black history and American history in general. Lastly, the NBA thought enough about him to name its MVP award for the NBA champions after bill Russell. And so a number of players, you know, moving forward, latest one, our friend from, the warriors, uh, Stephen Curry, who won?

[00:14:42] Yeah. So just worth mentioning somebody who played basketball, , was larger than basketball, but had an imprint on the management and the style of basketball and at a point where, and people would take this as they. Where some people will use sports for one [00:15:00] lane of walking. He used multiple lanes and more importantly, he had a winner’s mindset.

[00:15:05] I can’t say that about a lot of things, but he was one of ’em. What are your thoughts? I love that

[00:15:12] Cara: Gerard. I love it. I just have to say real quick that

[00:15:14] GR: as a parent of a little boy,

[00:15:18] Cara: Interest in, all sports seemingly came out of nowhere and especially in basketball, which I have never really paid

[00:15:24] GR: attention to.

[00:15:25] I Washington Detroit pistons, but like back when Isaiah Thomas was playing right, the, first Isaiah Thomas, I know there’s another one. Um,

[00:15:31] Cara: but we’ve been so

[00:15:33] GR: odd to watch how he has just,

[00:15:35] Cara: he loves the game of basketball. He can tell you every sta et cetera, but there are really rich conversations to be had with young people around the examples.

[00:15:44] That these athletes who are huge role models set. and I think that, and love stories of,

[00:15:49] GR: folks who

[00:15:50] Cara: really come out as leaders and change makers and, can show kids that like with,

[00:15:56] power, whether you ask for

[00:15:58] GR: it or not comes influence and comes [00:16:00] responsibility.

[00:16:00]: So I, I just love

[00:16:02] GR: this story of bill Russell.

[00:16:03] Thanks for sharing. And just one thing. And, too, that you just reminded me, something you said he, and a couple of other players when he was, at the university of San Francisco actually went to visit Altra prison and they were one, a few civilians, who the door was open to for them to go on there and talk to, the men who were incarcerated.

[00:16:24] So again, Long before we see that kind of work taking place here, in 2020, it’s something he was doing in the 1950. So cool. Okay.

[00:16:34] Cara: Well, Gerard coming right up after this, we are welcoming two guests, local guests, local to Boston. That is to talk to us about a new study, up by pioneer, on the met program that is the metropolitan council for educational opportunity.

[00:16:50] It’s a cool long standing program. We are gonna be speaking with Millie Arbaje-Thomas. She is the president and CEO of Metco as well. Roger [00:17:00] hatch. And so he, with Ken Arden wrote, this white paper for pioneer, a lot of learning and we’ll be right back with our two guests

[00:17:08] GR: after this.

[00:17:51] If you don’t understand. Let me break it down. I know that [00:18:00] light

[00:18:01] GR: outside.

[00:18:39] Learning curve

[00:18:39] Cara: listeners as promise. We are back with Millie Arbaje Thomas and Roger hatch. Millie Arbaje-Thomas is the President & CEO of the metropolitan council for educational opportunity incorporated, otherwise known as METCO. It is the largest and second longest running school desegregation program in the country met [00:19:00] places 3,200 students from Boston into 33 participating suburban school districts with the goal of reducing brace isolation and increasing diversity.

[00:19:10] Prior to that, Millie spent 15 years at ABCD Boston’s anti-poverty. C supporting more than 85,000 low income residents through its citywide network of neighborhood based organizations, Millie oversaw neighborhood sites in Parker hill, Fenway, Mattapan, and Jamaica, plain, as well as the citywide Hispanic center, and then served as deputy director of field operations for all sites.

[00:19:33] Big job Millie also co-founded and served as president of the Roxbury Presbyterian church, social impact center. 14 years. She began her career as a clinical social worker at Brookside community health center in Jamaica, plain born in the Dominican Republic. Milly holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with minors in education and women’s studies a master’s degree in clinical social work from Boston college, a certificate in nonprofit management from Boston [00:20:00] university’s school of management and an honorary doctorate degree in humane letters from Emanuel college Melia BAE, Thomas,

[00:20:06] GR: welcome to the show.

[00:20:07] Milly: Thank you so much. Happy to be here.

[00:20:10] GR: Happy to

[00:20:10] Cara: have you well, and now after that, amazing bio. Now I have another one to read. I’m also happy to introduce Roger hat. He has spent a long career working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the areas of school and municipal

[00:20:23] GR: finance.

[00:20:23] Cara: That is, listen for those of you who don’t have to study school finance or who don’t know about it, it’s actually quite fascinating.

[00:20:30] I was going to say sexy. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that on the learning curve, but I think, I guess I just did for 20 years, Rogers was the administrator of school finance at the Massachusetts department of elementary. And. Secondary education. In addition to supervising the school choice program, the office, he led, worked with the governor’s staff, legislature, advocacy groups, local officials, and the general public to develop, calculate and explain the chapter 70 state aid formula, otherwise known as the way we fund schools in the Commonwealth of [00:21:00] Massachusetts.

[00:21:00] Roger hatch. Welcome to the show. Thank you. It’s

[00:21:03] Roger: nice to be here.

[00:21:05] GR: So we’re really happy to have you both. Okay.

[00:21:07] Cara: Well, quite an interview with two guests, so let’s just dive right in. So Millie, I’d like to start with you, as I mentioned

[00:21:14] GR: your family immigrated from the Dominican Republic and you have

[00:21:18] Cara: wow.

[00:21:18] Deep and varied experiences leading anti-poverty and neighborhood based organizations in Boston. I love that you are now in

[00:21:25] GR: education because

[00:21:26] Cara: METCO is. Parent power kind of organization. Could you share with our listeners a little bit more about your personal narrative and then talk about, how that relates to net’s history and what it’s like leading this huge program?

[00:21:40] Milly: Well, thank you so much. You know, I came to this country when I was 10 years old from the Dominican Republic and at a very young age, I always knew that I wanted to do something to change communities, even when I was. School. I used to see injustices happening in my own community. And I would write letters to the local [00:22:00] newspaper as a high schooler, you know, talking about these things and why can’t the government do something about it.

[00:22:05] that really led me to this career in social work, , where I spent mentioned at, um, Ashley for Boston community development and. Primary focus is there a, as an immigrant was that I wanted to help people become us citizens. So I developed and created the first immigration clinic there to really help people give back to.

[00:22:24] Have, you know, have immigration status to work, and to just have open opportunities. shortly after that, after spending, you know, 15 years there, I came across, you know, the medical program when I had children and I was a medical mother first, for a number of years before the opportunity to become it, CEO, , came to me.

[00:22:42] And you know, what fascinated me about the medical program was the deep roots that it had in the civil rights movement and how it was black parents in the Roxbury community and suburban parents who really care deeply about racial injustices in academia and education. And the lack of resources that [00:23:00] existed in certain communities and the abundance of resources that existed in the other communities and how they came together with no government intervention and created the medical program.

[00:23:09] It was grassroots led. It was parent led and 56 years later, we still are in existence, , and being the largest one in the nation, really to me means that we have a great responsibility. To understand the purpose of the program. Why does it still exist? Why was it created in the first place? And have we actually done what we needed to do to make our education system better?

[00:23:29] So for me, it’s a true honor as a mother of, the me program, having two children that have gone through me, you know, to really be part of this movement, to really try to bring about some systemic change in how we feel and see educat.

[00:23:43] GR: So Millie

[00:23:43] Cara: just for our listeners to clarify for those who aren’t familiar with Meco or Massachusetts, I wanna put a few things on the table and you can tell me if they are true or false, but so Meco is a voluntary desegregation program and it’s true that [00:24:00] parents sign up like when their kids are born

[00:24:02] GR: or when they’re pregnant.

[00:24:04] Milly: that was true. so that was how I found the program when I started the job four years ago. And that was one of the first things that I actually worked to, modernize. When I became the CEO of the Metro program, it was a very system applied and people stayed in wait list, just too early.

[00:24:21] And then by the time it was time to make a choice, , for your school, it was five. Later you might not live in Boston anymore. You may not actually be pursuing that same educational opportunity. So right now you apply to me when you are the year before you become school age, but you can apply as an incoming kindergartener up until the 10th grade.

[00:24:40] So you can come in at any of those entry points, but you do have to be school age now to apply to the me program so that parents can make a right time that they need to make it.

[00:24:51] GR: okay.

[00:24:51] Cara: Great to know. And then in the suburban districts that students attend and take buses to those districts have to agree to participate

[00:24:58] GR: in the me program.[00:25:00]

[00:25:01] Milly: Yes. And that’s what I love about the medical program, because it is voluntary. Like you mentioned earlier, and there’s a handful of us still left in the United States. But a lot of, the other programs are not voluntary, which means it’s mandated, it’s core mandated. And it’s not the same.

[00:25:15] You don’t get the same kind of feeling that you wanna be part of the program and that your residents there really. Less is voluntary. So that’s what I really appreciate about it because we’re in the middle of really doing some systemic anti-racism work with the resident communities, but it’s because they wanna do this work because , they’re participating this on a voluntary basis.

[00:25:34] They’re not doing it cuz they’re mandated. And that’s what I love about the me program.

[00:25:39] GR: okay. Great. Well, as

[00:25:40] Cara: somebody who lives in a Boston suburb, I’m glad you’re doing that work too, because boy, oh boys, do I recognize there’s a lot of work to be done

[00:25:46] GR: too. So

[00:25:47] Cara: before we hand this over to Gerard who I know has some questions for Roger, can you give

[00:25:51] GR: us a sense?

[00:25:53] Of

[00:25:53] Cara: what a me student sort of like daily or weekly schedule is like, because a lot of people would [00:26:00] say, isn’t it awful. I think these kids get up and get on buses really early, and they’re going to these districts. And are they getting the same treatment in the suburban districts that they would, if they had stayed closer to home in their neighborhood school, or are they treated differently than the other kids in the schools that they attend?

[00:26:14] GR: Can you talk a little bit about these.

[00:26:17] Milly: Yeah. So, you know, definitely the way that I would, describe it is that it is a challenging process in general, to be a medical student, but it also has incredible rewards. I mean, it’s challenging because you have to get up very early in the morning, like by four or five o’clock in the morning.

[00:26:32] In some cases you have to be almost ready to start hitting out the door. By five 30 in the morning to catch that bus right before six o’clock even commute for an hour to an hour and a half sometimes each way. , sometimes because of transportation, , constraints, you may not be able to participate on everything that you wanna participate in, you know, because the last bus may leave at a certain time, but a practice for that team may go longer.

[00:26:53] Maybe your parents can’t go there and pick you up that late. So I’ve had seen, you know, barrier. to these, type of [00:27:00] access to activities, so that is a challenge, but, you know, I think our districts are actually working very hard right now to recognize that in the last four years we have been receiving medical, , state legislative increases in our funding.

[00:27:11] And we have been telling people that our districts, we have been telling our districts to really dedicate it to transportation and may have more additional late busing and other alternative ways to kind of get around. And again, because it’s voluntary, we also have a lot of suburban. Friends of medical group that actually volunteered to duke, right as well.

[00:27:30] But that is one of the challenges and also being sometimes one of the only ones. In the classroom that looks like you. And really trying to find that affinity space is sometimes challenging and not being able to stay there to build those long term friendships. it’s something that I’ve seen in my own children, sometimes that, you know, they can’t stay behind and do that play date or that do that impromptu.

[00:27:50] Let’s continue to hang out because you gotta get back home to Boston. But in the flip side, mm-hmm, . Are incredible because , you’re coming out of this with a real [00:28:00] opportunity to have an excellent education you’re being exposed to what the real world looks like. And you have that sense of confidence as a person of color that you can walk into white spaces and be familiar with that space and feel like you can navigate through that.

[00:28:13] And that’s something that you often hear from our alumni that had opened up doors in corporate America, in, fields of government where they really felt like they are in a new space for the first time. So it does bring that sense of confidence. It opens up opportunities, for success.

[00:28:29] and also just the understanding that this brings both ways to both urban and suburban people, to really understand each other and each other’s differences, not from a book, not from the media, but from each other’s authentic. Relat.

[00:28:42] Cara: That’s amazing Millie real quick. Before we hand it over to Roger and Gerard, can you tell us, , we’ve talked extensively on the show about some of the, troubles lost in public schools are experiencing.

[00:28:51] So

[00:28:52] GR: tell us really

[00:28:53] Cara: quickly, what do the outcomes for METCO students look like in comparison , to where they would’ve attended to their, peers in Boston

[00:28:59] GR: public. [00:29:00]

[00:29:00] Milly: Definitely the comparison is that our me students are graduating at higher graduation rate, than their counterpart of similar demographics in Boston.

[00:29:09] And, another major surprise it’s even a higher graduation rates than the state average. And the majority of our me students, you know, percent, one to college, also a higher rate than their counterparts in Boston of similar demo.

[00:29:23] GR: Thank you. So Roger Millie mentioned a few things about funding, , you and Dr. Ken Arden recently, co-authored a paper published by pioneer and it’s called or titled me co-funding understanding Massachusetts voluntary school desegregation program. Could you summarize some of the main findings from the paper and also talk about financial lessons that lawmakers in Massachusetts?

[00:29:46] Other states could learn about complex funding models for schools.

[00:29:53] Roger: Certainly. I think one of the main findings is more a reminder, a reminder that this [00:30:00] program has been in existence for, , 56 years and it just keeps chugging. , it keeps doing its thing and there’s a lot to be said for that stability.

[00:30:12] It serves about the same number of kids every year, about 3000 plus, and the same districts are involved. So, I think the issue and one of the, reasons that we wrote this paper was there’s a lot of misunderstanding about the finances. And so. we’d found that in fiscal 20. The average METCO grant.

[00:30:36] So there are two really main streams of funding. There’s the METCO grants from the state. It’s a state appropriation. And then also a state appropriation is the chapter 70 state aid program, which is the state big funding formula that gives out 5 billion, to the 318 school districts around the state.

[00:30:59] [00:31:00] So. The districts on the average, the METCO districts of which there are 37, receive thousand seven hundred fifty nine dollars per pupil. That’s the median amount from the grant. So it’s a sizeable amount of money. And from chapter 70, not quite as much, chapter 70 is an equity based formula.

[00:31:22] which means if you’re a wealthier district, you’re not gonna get as much as one of the poorer districts in the state. so on average, these medical districts, which tend to be wealthier, receive 1009 76 in. Chapter 78 in fiscal 21. So that adds up to its total of 8,773 for the typical Meco district.

[00:31:49] That’s a significant amount of funding, but it doesn’t pay the full cost. Typically these districts are spending. well into the high teens or even into the [00:32:00] 20,000 range, it ranges from 12,007, 17 in Melrose all the way up to 27,000 plus in Weston. It’s not covering the full cost. And one of the complaints that sometimes we hear is from finance committees and even school committees and selectmen in the towns who say, well, if this is a state program, then why shouldn’t the state be funding the full freight.

[00:32:27] that’s a bridge too far because in those districts, local money is supporting the majority of their school funding. And so really local money is funding a share of the cost of what it takes to educate a me student as well. , the beco students are treated, just like residents in the formula. another concern that is sometimes raised is that Boston is losing a lot of money because the me kids are no longer being counted [00:33:00] in its formula.

[00:33:01] Well, they’re no longer being counted in their formula. That’s true. They’re not paying anything for them, but, , Boston. Is considered in this equity based formula, chapter 70 as a fairly wealthy school district and that surprises people, because they think of Boston as most cities as being, you know, it’s a mix of wealth and poor.

[00:33:26] the fact is the formula, which looks at property value and looks at residential income, , fines. This is a consistent finding year after year after year at Boston is right up there among the wealthiest districts in the state. I’d say it’s in the top. well, between the 60th percentile, roughly,

[00:33:48] ,

[00:33:48] And so the formula doesn’t give it anything, but the minimum $30 per pupil in aid.

[00:33:52] And so really when people say Meko is causing a loss of money to Boston, all they’re losing [00:34:00] is $30 per pupil. that added up to 90 3003 60. And I should point out that Meko serves students a smaller number, a far smaller number. out in the city of Springfield in the Western part of the state, in the pioneer valley.

[00:34:18] And the opposite is the case with Springfield, which is by the formula’s definition, clearly a poor district relative to everyone else. And in fact, Springfield would lose roughly. Almost $14,000 per pupil in chapter 70 aid for every pupil that goes out in the Meko program. , this would be a matter of concern.

[00:34:45] but Springfield gets a lot of its funding from chapter 70. And so just to give you the numbers, you know, that they would’ve lost 1.5 million had the Meko kids stayed at home.[00:35:00] Their total aid is 370 million. So it’s, not a very large chunk. And likewise in Boston, the financial implications for Boston are almost nothing.

[00:35:11] So of the unstated finding in the report is that funding is complicated. so we do make recommendations for simplifying the Meko formula that gives out the grant money. chapter 70 is a harder Nu to crack. It is a complicated formula because it’s trying to accomplish, a difficult goal, which is to treat both taxpayers.

[00:35:35] And students equitably and adequately. So there are a lot of factors that go into the chapter 70 formula. And in my experience, administering that formula, it’s rare that you get someone who’s really willing to spend the time to understand how it works. In spite of the fact that great efforts have been made over the years to make it simple.

[00:35:58] So funding is [00:36:00] complicated. I guess to summarize, keep it simple. That would be the lesson for other states, looking at how to keep their school finance system sane for the average taxpayer.

[00:36:13] GR: Absolutely. One of the interesting points from your report, , that I really enjoyed is the number of medical students that constitute a very high percentage of the total minority students served in suburban schools around the Boston area.

[00:36:28] And when we think about desegregation, some use the term integration, we often hear the horror stories of suburban. school systems saying, Hey, we don’t want the kids. well here’s one example where they’ve opened up their arms and said, yes, we want the kids to come in. How do you respond to critics who say, well, the only reason they want those children is because of the money.

[00:36:50] It’s not really for the outcomes. It’s not really to help families is just the money you buy that critique.

[00:36:56] Roger: Not totally. I think the, um, [00:37:00] Programmatic benefits of the program are something that almost all the districts, place a great value in, as I said before, $8,700 per pupil is not a chunk change.

[00:37:12] That’s a significant amount, but, these districts for the most part are really well funded. they spend far more than what is required and so. Yes, every finance committee has at least one person who’s, , very money conscious. And doesn’t like to spend a dime more of local money than what is required.

[00:37:33] But for the most part, these districts are very welcoming. , the fact that there hasn’t been a district leaving the program for many years indicates how supportive the districts are. And so it’s not just the money that’s driving.

[00:37:50] Cara: wonderful. Really? I have another question for you. And that

[00:37:55] GR: is to speak a little bit to some of what Roger was talking about.

[00:37:58] You know, we’ve

[00:37:58] Cara: got all these, success [00:38:00] stories and seller results, , about Meco, but, the budget line item hasn’t grown. So what is that in some of the other institutional barriers to me. That government needs to

[00:38:11] GR: confront. So, could we spread it out to serve,

[00:38:15] Cara: for example, some of the other communities in Massachusetts, like what we would call our middle size, Massachusetts cities, our gateway cities.

[00:38:23] Could we do something to expand it beyond Boston and

[00:38:25] GR: Springfield? Would that be

[00:38:26] Milly: helpful? So I just wanted to clarify that since I’ve gotten there in the last four years, the line item has increased in terms of the budget, for the medical program, it is now an extra 8 million, from where we started back in 2018, when I got the job.

[00:38:42] So the legislators have been very perceptive to the program, need to evolve. continue to improve, to continue to make a, a deeper impact. but in terms of what has stayed the same has been the number of students. So the number of students served has stayed pretty much, , [00:39:00] relatively the same with the exception of this year, which I’m happy to say that we did talk to the legislators, to see how we can expand the program internally, internally, meaning districts that maybe are smaller size or have only were only serving high school or middle school and wanted to expand to the younger grades or increase their allot.

[00:39:19] In this September, we are adding 80 additional seats in three suburban communities as a response to their own, , interest and expanding their own micro numbers to have a higher, , diversity, population in terms of expanding outside of our communities. We have began discussions around that. with district we’ve actually have reached out to us.

[00:39:39] So after George PE Floyd’s, , murder. we had at least over 10 communities reach out to me asking about the me program. And these interests came from both, school committee members, resident, , members and superintendent. Who said, how could I be part of me? And I think this is also similar to when the program, last expanded in large numbers, which is [00:40:00] after Martin Luther king was assassinated.

[00:40:02] That is when the me program actually doubled its side. And similarly today, people are saying and have that they have, they feeling that civic duty, , that racial justice movement in this country, and they wanna figure out what they can do to make their communities better and can medical be that solution.

[00:40:17] So we have a number. We have reached out right now, but in order for that to happen, it would also have to take more money. We would not wanna take our existing funding, , dollars and spread it around to more communities. We would wanna talk to the legislators from those communities. And see how the me, , grants can increase even further to accommodate an expansion of a new community.

[00:40:38] But I do believe that is, a place that we need to go. That is one of my desires before I leave the me program, as its current leader to leave the program at least expanded to newer communities. And, you know, there’s. So many ways. So we can look at this, not only communities that are close to existing ones that, you know, already provide transportation route along that way.

[00:40:57] And we already go to those nearby towns. [00:41:00] It could also mean what we’re doing now. Spending the numbers are communities that could use more diversity where maybe the macro numbers are not as large. And the impact is not as visible or even looking at, you know, something such as Springfield, another community where we could have another hub, with an urban city.

[00:41:16] Such as Lauren, such as Brockton, sending kids to other nearby communities, also reducing the amount of commute that is happening right now. Cause right now we’re commuting to the north shore. We’re communi and we’re also commuting to the south shore. So perhaps they closer.

[00:41:32] hub might also help alleviate that commute. So those are things that I definitely would love to see happen. And I think, this is a reason why me’s still here. I don’t think we’ve gotten it completely right. In terms of how we’re doing this business as usual. I think we have to look at how to prepare.

[00:41:48] Communities to come into the me family by doing some racial equity work and assessments to really ensure that our teachers are being trained and that we’re looking at curriculum, we’re looking at discipline [00:42:00] and we’re looking at access to courses before our students enroll in a new community so that we can maybe get it a little bit better than how we did it back in the day, which is just raise your hand.

[00:42:09] You’re interested.

[00:42:10] Cara: wonderful. Well, it’s really heartening to hear that such a longstanding, historically impactful program continues to innovate under your leadership. So Milia Rae, Thomas and Roger hatch. Thank you so much for spending this time with us today. I know that Massachusetts listeners and those in other states are really gonna benefit from having learned more about this wonderful program.

[00:42:33] Thanks so much for your time.

[00:42:35] GR: Thank you. Thank you for having me.[00:43:00]

[00:43:10] I have friends and families are that I see every day don’t play. No moving forward.

[00:43:20] GR: Stop getting to. So my tweet of the week comes from, a citizen Stewart. many of you know him as Chris Stewart, it’s from August 1st, , and it’s reply to a, , video, , that he looked at, , about the Coleman report. and the Coleman report is one of the most, influential mm-hmm , uh, federal reports to help shape what Americans thought about education, about equity, about justice.

[00:43:42] , and he says that we as. School reformers. , these days there are a lot of doubts about some of the things we’re doing and he says, I always think it’s important to trace our steps and remember how we got here in the first place. So for those of you who know something about the common report, worth the Reed, some of you who may have learned about this for the first [00:44:00] time, surely we’re to read, but check out citizen, Chris’s thoughts, , about this.

[00:44:06] I love it

[00:44:06] Cara: and leave it to citizen Stewart. You know, we haven’t, had a Chris Stewart tweet on here in a while, and I have to tell you, Gerard, have you ever read the whole ask you, I should say, have you ever read the whole comment report? Because it’s enormous.

[00:44:17] GR: I read enough to be dangerous conversations on exactly.

[00:44:22] That’s about. As Mo as most of us had,

[00:44:26] Cara: because it’s the thing about as a graduate student, just the thing that, so fascinated me about the Coleman report was I think it pushed back on me if I’m wrong here. I mean, it was the first, like just

[00:44:38] GR: substantial look that we had. At American schools. And he was

[00:44:44] Cara: looking at schools during the time of segregation.

[00:44:46] Right. And I mean, just

[00:44:48] GR: tones and tones of

[00:44:50] Cara: quantitative data. And I think that in interpretation, you know, we didn’t always get the Coleman report. Right. But man, oh man. I mean really setting the stage for [00:45:00] what, you know, now we take terms like data driven instruction, all the stuff like Coleman brought the data and,

[00:45:05] GR: we.

[00:45:06] Do well

[00:45:07] Cara: to heed citizen stewards reminder and go back and look at some of the lessons learned. And I have to say by the way, when I teach, which I still sometimes do, I used to do a lot more of when I teach undergraduates or even master’s students, , about education policy. , I often get pushback that says like, oh wow, we don’t need to know about history.

[00:45:25] Like, I’m not kidding. Like when people think that if you cite a paper and it’s, older than two years ago, that it must not be valid anymore. I’m thinking, wow, , how we undervalue the lessons we have learned, especially if you’ve been at this, as long as we have Gerard, you know, That education reform is just a big old pendulum swinging back and forth.

[00:45:44] We like accountability. We don’t like accountability. It’s just, and here we go again. And so thank you for bringing this to our attention, that historical memory, we need to remember these things pretty important. well, we won’t be talking to Chris Stewart next week, but we do have another fabulous [00:46:00] guest ARD and we will be speaking with professor Charles Hobson.

[00:46:04] He is a resident scholar at the

[00:46:06] GR: William and Mary law

[00:46:07] Cara: school and the editor of the papers of John Marshall and the great chief justice, John Marshall, and the rule of law that

[00:46:14] GR: is, um, one of his latest books. So until

[00:46:17] Cara: Gerard. Continue to enjoy your summer. I hope that you, , continue to have power too, but like all things noted.

[00:46:23] you’ve like recorded through legendary ice storms. I’m here during the small power outage and we always make it to the learning curve. Right,

[00:46:31] GR: right. Hey, that’s why it’s the learning curve. Yeah,

[00:46:34] Cara: that’s right. We’re here for it. All right. Take care of my friend. Talk to you next

[00:46:37] GR: week. Take care.[00:47:00] [00:48:00]

[00:48:29] I.

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