Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deval's town hall in Wareham

Managed to make it to the governor's "town hall" meeting in Wareham. The schedule is on his official site and of course the state police are in evidence, and his campaign committee is collecting contact information at the events. I'm not sure what the funding model is. Regardless, the governor is organizing several such events around the state to, in his words, "answer questions and welcome advice".

The event was moved inside to the Middle School auditorium from the location of Memorial Park due to possible rain -- the fact that the announced rain venue of Town Hall wasn't used may have depressed turnout to about 160 persons. To be clear, I think this is more reflective of the community -- a faithful supporter of Republican lightweight state representative Susan Williams-Gifford -- than anything else. There were a few people devoted to Deval there in 2006 delegate clothing, but the majority seemed to be interested citizens. It was a mix of political operatives, would-be political operatives, local officials, local nutjobs, and a good smattering of private but active citizens.

The governor showed up only about 10 minutes late, which is sparkling for such an event. People with clipboards urged attendees to sign in, and circulated during the event to take down contact information for any unresolved questions. After a short set of remarks, the governor invited questions, with staff numbering attendees and delivering microphones to the citizens.

I was glad to see that the dominant topic of the town hall was education. A school committee member, a teacher in another town, and a university professor all asked about these topics (I had the chance to speak with the governor in my capacity as a teacher and union member before the event). The governor heard a lot about the end-arounds for which charters are infamous, such as skimming off the best student to raise their scores and leaving district public schools with a greater proportion of students who require the most resources to educate.

While admitting the inequities in charter education, Deval repeatedly sought to move quickly off of the current charter model onto the idea of his proposed "Readiness Schools", a new and different kind of charter. He emphasized the fact that teachers could "take over" a school in this format as one of three ways to turn a public school into a "Readiness school", though any group of citizens can form a "Readiness school" to act out their issues with the local school as well.

My personal take (more on this later) would be that if the governor would be willing to mandate in law that (charter schools + readiness schools =< X) to ensure that we aren't exacerbating and enhancing the charter dodge, but are instead replacing it with an accountable and equitable model, I could be interested.

The governor also answered questions on stimulus funds and bottlenecks ranging from simple to complex, as well as addressing patronage, agriculture and water pollution industries, and funding for towns with a seasonally variable population, such as Wareham.

The governor is a clever, quick-witted, and charming man, and that was on full display during the town hall. The crowd liked him because frankly he's a likable guy. His charm survived even the press of the "fathers' rights" advocates vocalizing their issue. They did get two of 10 questions, which were repeats of questions they've asked elsewhere (one questioner drove down from Roxbury), a good show. However, this quickly moved into shouting imprecations and questions from the crowd, and spontaneously standing up and delivering speeches while the governor was trying to talk. My feeling is that I would likely agree with their beliefs, but their passion/stridency may well drown out the strengths of their argument. Deval dealt with them well -- I rather suspect he's had lots of practice -- but the points the advocates were making quickly were overwhelmed by the rudeness with which they made them.

Taxes, gambling, and health care were not raised as subjects of concern by citizens at the forum.

The governor has been approachable as long as I've known him, and he certainly works well in small crowds. I can't say that I agree with him as often as I wish I could, but he comes across very well in this format -- no wonder he's using it so much. I can see why somebody would come away more supportive of the governor after an evening such as this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

That great Cabinet

Isn't it great that Janet Napolitano is touring an Olympics Center while Kathleen Sebelius is ... saying things...on the health bill? I mean, they are contributing so much more right now to the nation as Cabinet secretaries than they would as two governors and probable Senators as of January 2011.


Romney is to Bush as Weld to...

Charlie Baker, perhaps aware of how unknown he is to people (63% have no opinion of him in the recent Globe poll), is out of the gate in an effort to define himself. This video below is his first foray...

The production values are horrid, I think we can all agree. The green screen is obvious, and the body language and speech pacing are horrible. These are the mistakes you make at a stage between memorizing the lines and final take -- no way this should be a final take.

This video is also a preview of what we'll be hearing for the next several months, and it's an echo of McCain's campaign. Like McCain, Baker can be expected to dodge any connection to the last Republican to hold this office (Romney in Baker's case, Bush in McCain's). We can also expect similar invocations of an idealized Republican leader in the past -- Baker will talk about Weld with all the adoration that McCain spoke of Reagan.

The 2010 election is going to be reduced to Obama's Understudy vs. Weld Redux. (Does that make Cahill our Ross Perot?)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Too soon?

Signs say otherwise.

Time to mock the DGA

I earlier mocked the Executive Director of the Republican Governors' Association for this quote:

Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. He’s a CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has done a lot of nonprofit work in the healthcare, and is a brilliant business man and someone who I believe can cut beyond party and racial lines and say,

To think that a CEO candidate is a good thing is sooo 1999. I like how he throws in the line on "cutting across racial lines" when talking about one of the whiter states of the union. I wonder if he'd have said that if the Democratic incumbent weren't white.

Now, on the flipside, we have this gem from Nathan Daschle, the Exec Director of the Democratic Governors' Association:

Gov. [Deval] Patrick in Massachusetts is another who has a bright future, who is regarded as a leader in the party.

This may be bad luck for bad timing for Daschle, but lauding as a "leader in the party" a governor who is trusted by about one third of Massachusetts Democrats on taxes and health care over his opponents isn't a guy with a bright future to me. He's looking closer to another Christie Todd Whitman -- a once bright future fading into a "what happened to..." file.

These guys should really not talk about the Bay State. We're going to be choosing from the least-worst for governor, and it's embarrassing to spin it otherwise.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Questions for the guv?

I'm going to be at Deval Patrick's next "town hall" meeting, this Wednesday in Wareham. While I have some questions in my mind, do you have any questions you'd like me to pass along?

Ms. Whalen vindicated

The woman whose report of a possible house break-in led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. said she never mentioned race during her 911 call and is “personally devastated’’ by media accounts that suggest she placed the call because the men she observed on the porch were black, according to a lawyer acting as her spokeswoman.

This is backed up by the 911 recording, and the Commissioner of the Cambridge Police Department. I had earlier said:

However, the local blogosphere has quickly grasped at their own beliefs and scant rumors in the press to invent the rest ... what disturbs me the most is the instant assumption that the woman who first called the police did so because she is a racist. It's closer to a conservative caricature of progressives than anything else. David Kravitz, a normally cool-headed blogger at BMG, makes this assumption on zero proof. While I don't always agree with David, I was taken aback that simply phoning the police because a man of a different skin color is breaking into a house makes you a racist...It's well known how deleterious an accusation of racism can today. Usually, there is some proof offered, but today all we to go on is an unconfirmed claim by a substandard tabloid paper about a woman being vigilant -- perhaps over-vigilant but again we don't know -- about her neighborhood.

...for right now, if some of these claims are echoed ("this all started with Whalen", according to a Globe commentator), the greatest victim of this episode will not be Henry Louis Gates or the Cambridge Police Department, but Ms. Whalen -- the party with the fewest resources to defend itself in all of this.

NB: In his promotion comments (the bit in italics) at a post at BMG, David does walk back his earlier comments, and is to be commended for it.

Given that Ms. Whalen is alone in this mess as not having a university, union, or government agency to back her up, it is to the commentariat to acknowledge when they were wrong, and apologize if rhetorical flights led to slanderous remarks. I am not hopeful, but willing to wait to see if that indeed happens. It's about integrity, folks.

Update: The Phoenix catches up: "And I gotta say: while I think my point about what Whalen's words do/don't say about her mindset was correct in the abstract, I feel pretty shitty having made it. Because after listening to Whalen's call to police, I'm pretty sure she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and has gotten a raw deal from the press--myself included--as a result...Not only does Whalen not want to talk about race, she's calling on someone else's behalf...Ms. Whalen, please accept my sincere apology for speculating about your motives before I had sufficient information. "

I'd hope that some of the more off-the-handle folks around Boston will be less in a hurry to impugn someone's reputation based on the latest rumors passed on by the Herald next time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coakley leagues beyond others in Globe poll

As you probably have already read, the Boston Globe commissioned a poll. The rather misleading headline reads that "Patrick support plummets", though this is the third straight one that showed Deval Patrick is murky waters coming up on re-election.

The head-to-head numbers are fun, but I wanted to instead focus on voters' impressions of the main figures in the state. I assembled a list of all the statewide officeholders showing their net favorability (that is, % of total respondents with a positive view of a candidate, minus the % with a negative view). Next to that net favorability is a number in parentheses which shows the percentage of respondents with no opinion of the person mentioned.

Generally, you want a high net favorability (which means people like you) with a low number of people with no opinion (which means that people know you and like you).

Some observations are below...

The Executives
Deval Patrick -16 net (3% no opinion)
Tim Murray +22 (48%)

Of all the persons surveyed by the Globe, nobody is liked less than Deval Patrick, and nobody is as strongly defined. Somebody so poorly liked, and with such little room to grow is vulnerable, regardless of the dynamics of the race. Patrick can try to bring up these numbers, but it looks that Deval's main hope may be that he isn't as bad as anyone else on the ballot -- a hope I personally think has a good chance of being fulfilled. Tim Murray, meanwhile, is fundraising at a strong clip and is enough out of the limelight that he is generally well liked.

The Legislative Leaders
Robert DeLeo -4% (49%)
Therese Murray +1% (54%)

Not too bad for the legislative leaders, considering how vilified they often become, especially after passing a sales tax. Despite all the internecine struggles, they seem to have come out of it the better -- both are more popular than the governor. Oddly enough, Murray is less known as a quantity even though I seem to see her on the screen more. Most strangely (and granted, margin of error grows at this point), Murray elicits no stronger an opinion in her home territory of SE Mass than anywhere else -- not much of a homebase.

The Other Guys
Charlie Baker +2% (63%)
Christy Mihos -12% (29%)
Tim Cahill +24% (32%)

I am astounded by Tim Cahill's net positives. More amazingly, he is held in esteem by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, Republicans most of all. He's also notably liked among the wealthy. This is the first time I've seen anything to make me think that Cahill has a shot, but he's in great position on the start line.

I think Mihos is pretty much dead in the water. He used up all his goodwill the first time around, and he has net negative favorability among Republicans.

As for Baker, well, he's a blank slate. If I were him, I'd be getting ads ready for the fall to introduce myself to voters, to beat the others guys to the punch. Baker has lots of potential to sell himself in a positive way, at least as much as a Republican chief of an HMO is able. I maintain the words "Republican chief of an HMO" doom him in this race, no matter how much money he has.

The Future
Martha Coakley +39 (21%)

Nobody is in her league on this poll. She has a +17 among Republicans, and an incredible +48 among women -- Deval's weaker group. In age demographics, she has a great lead among older voters, again the mirror image of Deval.

Right now, it looks as if she could write her own ticket.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama tries to buy his own way on education

Amendment X - Powers of the States and People.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
From our Constitution.

Of all the affairs of modern government here in the US, the most expensive and extensive one unmentioned in the Constitution is probably education. Following Amendment X of the Constitution, a clear reading says that education is the most important policy area that states "accidentally" ended up running, and boy does that tick off people like George W Bush and Barack Obama.

Not to be undone by the Constitution, these men seek to evade the Constitution by bribing states with federal money to play by rules cooked up in DC. Rather than allowing states to receive moneys they can use to improve education, these presidents see the opportunity to try to bribe their way into the game. Scholarship on this usage of federal money -- often called "spending power" or "power of the purse" is notably absent in the United States, compared to countries such as Canada (introductory example) where it is recognized and studied much more extensively, and understood as a fundamental piece of the current system. Perhaps policy study will catch up with reality here in the US eventually.

Anyway, what Bush did, and Obama just doubled down on, is offer comparatively little money in return for great power. Bush's No Child Left Behind law has obtained for the federal government the ability to bully communities about privatization, charters, standardized testing, union-busting, and a whole other set of issues in return for just about 5% of education funding in Massachusetts.

It's a great deal where the majority of goals and strategies are dictated by the people bringing 5% of the funding to the table, especially when that 5% is burned up in meeting the spending demanded by those dictated goals and strategies. Federal education regulations are pretty much a break-even proposition for states -- take the money from the feds and spend it the way the feds want, or go without, as states have done. It's not much of a net contribution. So if you want to load on new demands, you need to load on more money.

Is Obama troubled by the questionable Constitutionality of Bush's approach to education? Quite the contrary -- as with freedom of religion, privacy, and rule of law, Obama's approach in education is take Bush's bad model and expand it:

States and school districts will soon be able to compete for more federal money to undertake school reforms sought by President Barack Obama.Part of the economic stimulus law enacted earlier this year, the $5 billion education fund is Obama's big shot at overhauling schools over the next couple of years...To get the money, states will also need to be able to track student performance, and they will need a plan of action to turn around failing schools.
the administration says it will not award money to states that bar student performance data from being linked to teacher evaluations. Several states, including California, New York and Wisconsin, have such a prohibition. But there are also elements the unions will embrace; states can earn points by submitting letters of support from state union leaders.

I'm glad that Obama has found for education a fraction of his gifts to Wall Street, but this is yet another prostration to wrong-headed education policy. For Obama and his understudy Deval, "writing education policy" seems to mean "rotate the order of conservative shibboleths in the law". This proposal has got everything:
  • Questionable constitutionality of spending power use? Check.
  • Effort to override local or state democracy on education? Check.
  • Embrace of standardized testing? Check.
  • Judging teachers by their students' test scores? Check.
  • Attempting to turn communities against teacher unions? Check.
Someday, perhaps, one of these guys will have an idea that doesn't kowtow to conservative demands for privatization of educating and testing. But I'm not holding my breath...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How to primary Deval...

I'm talking about challenging the governor within the Democratic primary today. I don't think anybody will do it successfully, much less do it at all. However, if Tim Cahill can launch a quixotic fizzle of an independent campaign, then I get to engage in far less expensive dreams as well.

To get far against Deval in a primary, I think a candidate would need three things:

  1. A claim on being taken seriously;
  2. A platform that would attract many progressives;
  3. A willingness to move outside Deval's orbit.

A claim on being taken seriously

This doesn't mean that you have to be a person of significant electoral success in the past, or even notable experience in government. Deval Patrick fit neither of those criteria, and he went from being a corporate executive to governor. Heck, Obama's president on a thinner elected resume than any we saw in years and he's doing a fairly good job as prez to boot. So while the natural instinct is to look at accomplished Democrats in our Commonwealth's government, Deval (like Arnold Schwarzenegger) has proven that there are other routes to a governor's seat.

The reason you need to be taken seriously is to attract talent and votes eventually. You'd need to attract some talent within the Commonwealth to build a campaign, or you may already have it "in-house". True, the governor has a lot of political talent in the Bay State wrapped up, but he also is staffing from Obama's shop and thus leaves more unemployed hacks than normal out there. Plus, I imagine some good folks in the Legislative branch could lend you their rolodex as well. Of course, Deval had a head start here, as he enjoyed a great deal of talent on loan from a certain freshman Illinois Senator who was looking to conduct a practice drill of his own future campaign.

Talent and votes are attracted by money. And to claim that they should be taken seriously, this person would need money. Whether from corporate sources (Deval), the fiscal resources of a wealthy candidate (Gabrieli), or the established fundraising networks of an established politician (say, Coakley). Money tells talent that you are for real, and it attracts more money. It puts in place the ability to seem serious by coordinating a presence at different events, signs on lawns, bumper stickers on cars. The upfront costs of such a campaign will not be handled by supporters independently coming to you -- you need to find a way to cover them. To go from nobody on the public radar screen without finding a way to quickly access cash is difficult, which tends to restrict the list of possibles.

2. A platform that would attract many progressives
Believe it or not, this is the easy part of challenging the governor in a Democratic primary. His choices have often been moderate or even conservative, and there remains a long list of positions that could appeal to self-defined progressives. To wit:

  • No further promotion of gambling beyond the already extensive presence of the Massachusetts lottery. No slots, no "racinos", no "resort" casinos (as Deval and Cahill support);
  • Support of public schools through respect of local democracy and opposition to the privatization/charter scheme (of which Deval is an enthusiastic backer);
  • Raising the corporate income tax (Deval blinked on this);
  • Implementing a graduated income tax so that the wealthy pay their share (He's staying out of this fight);
  • Reining in profligate spending and breaks on privileged sectors of the economy, such as "life sciences" and making Hollywood movies. (Billions of spending right there)
  • A commitment to campaign finance reform, even Clean Elections. (Deval circumvents the law already)

Granted, the population of persuadable voters who hold all six of these positions may not be large, but I suspect that the number of persuadables who hold 4 or 5 of them is large enough to get the ball rolling.

3-A willingness to move outside Deval's orbit.

This is the trickiest one. Many people with progressive bona fides and a network of donors (Jamie Eldridge, for instance) are deeply enmeshed with Deval already. Others with bright futures may content themselves to wait out Deval's moment and hope for an inside track on the next open primary (Martha Coakley, for instance). Of course, the last two candidates who tried to slide from one executive department to the other can tell you it isn't that easy. This narrows the list considerably as there are few people with fiscal backing who seem at all interested in taking on the governor.

The only real possibility is a rare Massachusetts politician who hasn't folded into Deval Patrick completely -- Therese Murray and Thomas Menino spring to mind, but both would be losing power in such a move -- or a thorough dark horse who can tap into money quickly.

I think the ideological opportunity is there, and is sadly the easiest to reach. I think such a candidate would get the 15% at the state party convention, because seeing a strong legitimate candidate flame out at an activists' meeting would do severe damage to the wide appeal to any eventual nominee (and Deval's people know that). There is a tremendous amount of "issue space" unoccupied in this race -- Mihos has the right, and Baker is chasing the center right. Cahill is laying claim to a sliver of the middle, and Deval sits in the center while profiting from a dubious claim on the left. If a candidate laid question to that claim, we would learn who is the real Deval, and who is the real Democratic Party -- and both would be the richer for it.

Not that I expect this to happen, but it's fun to think about.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Gates Mess, racism, and tabloid journalism online

(Because JimC already stole "GatesGate")

Hot times all around with the needless arrest of Henry Louis Gates, an internationally renowned professor on African-American culture and history who right now probably wishes he left Harvard for Princeton at the same time Cornel West did. Per ABC

Police responding to a call about "two black males" breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there — Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation's pre-eminent black scholar.

I'm stopping there, because the consensus facts stop there. Which door he was entering, how long he was there...all that information quickly devolved conflicting reports, as they say. The police are saying that Gates was confrontational and unhelpful when they responded, which resulted in his arrest. How confrontational he was is unknown, and how confrontational he should be allowed to be is a matter of opinion (though calling African-American police racist for confronting an African-American doesn't make much sense to me). Gates was demanding an apology but has apparently walked back to a rather mild joint statement with the Cambridge cops that spreads fault/responsibility all around:

The City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department, and Professor Gates acknowledge that the incident of July 16, 2009 was regrettable and unfortunate. This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of Professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department. All parties agree that this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances.

I personally think that Gates backs off talk of institutional racism, only in cases of strong generosity, or lack of a case. Meanwhile, the Herald is enjoying its best day since the Manny trade.

However, the local blogosphere has quickly grasped at their own beliefs and scant rumors in the press to invent the rest (kudos to the exception, one the best blogs out there -- Massachusetts Liberal). The Cambridge papers couldn't even get the time of the arrest right. Over at BMG, a usually passionate but measured place, accusations are flying. Perhaps the Boston Globe is in league with the Cambridge cops to cover up the racism of this whole thing. We all know how the Globe hates those lengthy investigations of unsavory institutions that so often result in a Pulitzer.

But what disturbs me the most is the instant assumption that the woman who first called the police did so because she is a racist. It's closer to a conservative caricature of progressives than anything else. David Kravitz, a normally cool-headed blogger at BMG, makes this assumption on zero proof. While I don't always agree with David, I was taken aback that simply phoning the police because a man of a different skin color is breaking into a house makes you a racist. If a man of any skin color is ramming his shoulder against the front door of the house across from me with the car running, I'm calling the cops.

I have no idea why Whalen called the police. Heck, we're going on a claim by the Herald so I'm not 100% convinced it was her in the first place. However, I tend to think that in this day two individuals of different races can work toward different purposes without racism being the cause.

It's well known how deleterious an accusation of racism can today. Usually, there is some proof offered, but today all we to go on is an unconfirmed claim by a substandard tabloid paper about a woman being vigilant -- perhaps over-vigilant but again we don't know -- about her neighborhood.

If Whalen comes out of her door and starts running off her mouth à la Louise Day Hicks, then she fulfills the label. But to label a private citizen as racist based solely on a Herald report that she called the cops when seeing two men breaking into a house is entirely beyond the pale. But for right now, if some of these claims are echoed ("this all started with Whalen", according to a Globe commentator), the greatest victim of this episode will not be Henry Louis Gates or the Cambridge Police Department, but Ms. Whalen -- the party with the fewest resources to defend itself in all of this.

Nice job, guys.

PS: Gawker says that Whalen is a fundraiser for Harvard Magazine. So either she decided to harass one of her employer's most well-known and recognizable employees for no reason, or made an honest mistake. Either way, the racism hysteria (which naturally attracted Al Sharpton's attention) has a good chance of endangering this lady's job.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Easy Ed Reform I: Lesson Database

Lest I seem only interested in tearing down the same solution (ahem, charters *cough*), I'd like to offer some ideas for "easy education reform" over this summer, and the first one is a complete no-brainer.

It starts from the fact that every public school student in Massachusetts needs to learn the same material. This material is written up in somewhat penetrable documents called the curriculum frameworks. All the tools that teachers have, textbooks, guides, et cetera, are designed and should be used to help teach the frameworks, not be used for their own sake. If you have a teacher who is plodding through the textbook because all students have the textbook, said teacher is using that resource incorrectly.

Anyway, these frameworks are used to that any given piece of the framework is taught by hundreds, if not thousands of teachers across the Commonwealth to students approximately the same age. For example, every student is expected to be taught how to "WHII.4 Summarize the major effects of the French Revolution -- its contribution to modern nationalism and its relationship to totalitarianism". This will happen in ninth grade, usually.

The fact that while this is required of nearly every teacher, the state government provides little resource in doing so. Every textbook comes with lesson plans, and many are available online, and almost all are of the "read the article and answer the questions underneath" variety. That is to say, most are written by people with doctorates in education who haven't spent significant time in a classroom in years.

So, my first easy ed reform -- create and promote a Massachusetts lesson plan database.
As part of accruing the professional development points (PDPs) that teachers need to constantly acquire in order to maintain their license, teachers could upload, say, 2 lesson plans every year to this publicly, freely available database.

The value of the lesson contributed in these "points" could be determined by number of downloads, ratings from fellow professionals (hey -- real accountability!), and filling areas of need in the database. Let's face it, it doesn't take a genius to make the Black Death interesting, but there's a paucity of lessons out there that would make students care about Japanese feudalism. If you fill that niche, you're rewarded.

Somewhere in the Commonwealth, a teacher has a great, interactive, exciting lesson to teach students how the French Revolution contributed to modern nationalism. And elsewhere in the Commonwealth is a teacher who has no idea how to start on that. Facilitating the communication between one professional and the other only would spread good ideas and help all students quickly. Can you imagine two sectors of Microsoft working on the same problem year after year, with the company not facilitating communication between the two?

There is already Lesson Planet, a pay site with many of these widgets. Given how general it is, and that it asks for money outlay for a site of questionable worth, it is not the best choice for a Massachusetts teacher.

If the Commonwealth laid out the money for the online infrastructure on this, added a line or two to a couple forms teachers need to fill out for retaining their license, we could have freely available online the "best of the best" lesson ideas from teachers across the state. These lessons would be in lockstep with state requirements and available as open-source inspiration. Use isn't mandatory, but it would help the teaching of all professionals in Massachusetts evolve.

A lesson database: it's quick, it's smart, it's cheap, and it's right. It's easy education reform, which means it'll probably never happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Education? Check! Deval's all set

After having de-fanged the education plank of the platform of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Deval Patrick shocked absolutely nobody by coming out forcefully to widen the flow of public education money to semi-public concerns:

Gov. Deval Patrick hopes to double charter school funding for under-performing districts under new legislation to be announced today, a source said.

The charter school funding bump - from 9 percent of state school funding to 18 percent - is part of a two-pronged plan to increase the Bay State’s chances for a chunk of the $5 billion “Race to the Top” federal funding program.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will join Patrick at the Museum of Science as he announces the bills today. The funding increase could mean 37,000 seats at qualified charter schools would be available, up from the current 10,000.

Patrick will also file the framework for his “readiness schools,” which combine aspects of pilot and charter schools.

This is the good news...Deval's faux readiness schools are exercises to allow pretty much anyone to open up any set of desks and call it a "readiness school", redirected public moneys to all manner of private and semi-private consultants and services.

More importantly for Deval's Obama's Deval's people directing his campaign, it can now seem that Deval Patrick has "taken care of education" as an issue. Far better and easier to talk about charters than talk about the problems of education in an intelligent, mature manner. This is essentially the same cowardice that Menino recently displayed on the issue. Of course, he's taking care of it by embracing a conservative priority that manages to weaken local control of schools, encourage privatization, and weaken unions all at once. I've written enough about the step backwards charters represent over public education, and the unbowed love of them that some Democrats have. I won't repeat myself....

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

RGA: Baker doesn't need your help

Proving how little national Republicans understand Massachusetts, Nick Ayers, the Executive Director of the Republican Governors' Association offers this assessment of Charlie Baker:

My belief is that a well-run governor’s race isn’t overtly partisan as much as it is about hiring the right CEO. And that’s especially true of the Northeast, where there’s more big business and people are very familiar with the roles of CEOs. We think if we can field better candidates who fit the job description of CEO and deal with a budget situation, that we’ll have a great opportunity in places like New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and even Maine.

A great example of that is a candidate who announced last week, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts. He’s a CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has done a lot of nonprofit work in the healthcare, and is a brilliant business man and someone who I believe can cut beyond party and racial lines and say, “I’m willing to bring my experience from the private sector to help solve Massachusetts’ budget issues.” I think Charlie is the kind of ideal candidate that we’ve been looking for. We spent five months recruiting him, so we were very excited to see him get in the race there.

Basically, the strategy is to tell people he'd be another Dubya or Mitt Romney.

I'd love it if Baker took this advice, but I think he's more attuned to voters' suspicion of CEOs this day than our friend in DC apparently is.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Big changes

Blogging has been scattered over the last little while due to three notable changes:

  • I just engaged to an incredibly wonderful woman. Planning a wedding has commenced, and will probably continue to take up notable pieces of the day until three years after we say the vows, if the first week is any indication.
  • I'll probably end up moving soon.
  • I did something stupid and ended up with the "Virtumonde" Trojan Horse virus, which resulting in shelling me with unceasing and misspelled spam, slogging my machine.

I'm no geek, but I'm not afraid of computers either. However, I'd strongly suggest from my own personal experience a few things to deal with possible virus, malware, and other baddies.
Download Ad-Aware. This freebie scans the machine for bad stuff. While not the best thing out there, it's the best free thing for fixing problems.
Download Malwarebytes' Anti-malware. It did the most thorough scan of anything I saw. While you have to pay for a full version to clean up what it finds, it's useful for notifying you of problems, which a semi-experienced user can take of themselves.
Download Process Explorer, a Microsoft product that traces out for you any and all processes running on your computer -- and their CPU usage -- at a given time. More in-depth than the Task Manager.

We will soon return to regularly scheduled opinionating...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


The gubernatorial campaign, while shaping up to be a kicker, isn't the only entertainment upcoming. Let me make some recommendations for entertainment for the months ahead:

  • Leverage on TNT. Fun thief/con show with Timothy Hutton. After Battlestar Galactica went off air, it's the only show I pay any attention to these days...I'm not one to watch television. I recommend recording it and catching up, as the second season starts on Wednesday. It is light but cracking entertainment with good inter-personal tensions that add to, but don't take over from, the episode plotlines.
  • Waterfire in Providence. It's free, it's beautiful, and hauntingly romantic. About 100 bonfires light the rivers of downtown Providence while music plays. Worth a Saturday night or two--check the schedule.
  • Read a book. Ones to search out -- Life As We Knew It, a young adult novel about the struggles of a family in the wake of a celestial disaster. The Road to Gondolfo, a comedy by Robert Ludlum (yes, that's right). And, In Defense of Food, which will make you re-examine your diet and the hype of the diet industry. Ones to avoid -- The Unincorporated Man, turgid scifi with cardboard characters, dead-end plotlines, and a vague interest concept run into the ground, and Flood by Steven Baxter, an environmental disaster book that takes several hundred pages to get a plot running at speed, and no reason to care how it ends.
  • Watch Mr. Deity websiodes. Although more focused on atheism and the trials of religion from the point of view of God and Lucy (Lucifer), it isn't preachy and has a dry sense of humor. In the one embedded below, Mr. Deity -- stage name "God" -- gets a phone call from a familiar penitent:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Anti-casino voters not at home among Dems

David makes a good point in his addendum over at BMG. Basically, that anti-gambling voters are not going to be interested in voting for any current or former Democrats running for governor unless they are pushed in that direction by an egregious Republican candidate...

  • Cahill loves gambling and would station slot machines inside elementary schools if he thought he could get away with it.
  • Deval Patrick "only" wants at least one resort casino in Mass.
Of course, the issue is that Republicans often present themselves as neolithics against marriage equality, any abortion, and basically on the losing side of mid-90s culture war issues. If Massachusetts Republicans can avoid that, then anti-gambling folks might give them a listen.

Now, living in a town that may end up hosting such a casino does tend to focus the mind greatly on gambling, and people distant to the issue may not realize how quickly it rises up the priority list for such a voter. I suspect that gambling may be an issue that is either nearly irrelevant to picking a candidate, or very relevant -- not in between. However, anyone who cares deeply about gambling is going to be hard-pressed to give Cahill or Patrick his/her trust on the matter.

If Mihos or Baker can minimize hot-button issues from the past (abortion, gay marriage) and collect those anti-gambling voters, that would be the foundation to a strong coalition. Mihos has come out against casinos, but favors slots at racing tracks, something that makes him a real player in my neighborhood of SE Mass. I would also note that Mihos has taken my advice and is labeling himself an "Independent Republican" for governor on his website.

In 2007, a poll found that about 1/3 of unenrolled voters and 1/3 of Democrats were against Deval's proposal. About 1/5 of those groups are strongly against the proposal. If Baker or Mihos can neutralize the hot-button issues while coming out strongly and smartly against gambling, they would be the natural candidate for that 20% of the electorate -- including people who may have been with Deval in 2006.

PS: Another nugget from the poll -- Martha Coakley had +66 net favorability among Democrats, +29 net favorability among unenrolled, and +9 favorability among Republicans. That would drop in any race, but I really have to believe this woman has a future in this state.

A Grown-up Gubernatorial Address on Education

No, it's not something any actual candidate has said. I'm thinking of doing a series of posts detailing what a reality-based candidate could say on these issues, but I don't expect it to be widely echoed. Reality-based discourses don't poll well, I guess.

Instead, I'm going to write addresses a fictional candidate could deliver on topics such as taxation, education, economy, and energy that dismantle some of the precious shibboleths that polticians and media use to infect our discourse. Naturally, I'm going to start with education, with a proposed discourse that is far too heavy on facts and far too light on hysteria to ever be delivered.

"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and I thank you for coming. I'm here to speak with you about public education in our Commonwealth that serves all our children. I want to talk to you about the problems we face, and the solutions we have to consider. I agree with my fellow candidates that some of our approaches to education reflect a long-dead past, but I disagree with their proposed solutions. Most of all, I very strongly disagree with their fearmongering on the issue. It smacks of cheap politics for cheap political ends.

The fearmongering of which I speak is the habit of politicians to use inaccurate and dire language about our system in order to grab headlines. Governor Patrick's 'Readiness Report' uses the word crisis four times to describe our system. While the funding picture is depressing in these economic times, I will tell you that the way we educate our students is proven, and is emphatically not creating the crisis that politicians desire that would let them force through their agendas.. I know talking about data and studies won't make me seem visionary and won't grab time on the news, but I have faith that the people of Massachusetts do not need hysteria to work on the problems that we do have.

I'll tell you the direct information. There are many standardized tests that compare Massachusetts students to their compatriots around the country, and their verdict is unanimous. Whether it's the ACT for college-bound students, or the NAEP for fourth and eighth graders, Massachusetts students rank higher than those in any other state in the nation. If we look at the international TIMMS test, not only do Bay State students beat the nation, but when they are compared to those of other countries, our public school students hold ability levels that rank in the top five the world. That's right, this system that politicians want you to believe lurches in eternal crisis and ignorance is one of the best on the planet.

I personally think that if our students are among the top five in the world, we're doing plenty right. I personally believe that tearing down such a successful system for the sake of pretending to have bold vision only helps politicians, not students. I refuse to play that game. The governor has endorsed a report which pushes the idea of taking local control of schools away through forced regionalization. His Secretary of Education just announced a desire to take direct control of thirty unnamed schools for unnamed reasons. There's no basis for either one, but both ideas take power from students' families and deposits it with the governor's office.

I don't believe that civil servants in Boston know how to run a school better than the families that live near it,. I certainly don't believe those families should pay Boston for the privilege of giving up control of their schools. This approach failed in Chelsea and Springfield, and I don't know why it would work now.

As governor, I will not trample on the right of citizens to govern their neighborhood schools. As governor, I will not insult those citizens by manufacturing crises for the sake of a day's worth of headlines.

There are problems in our K-12 system that reflect challenges in schools across the nation. There are large achievement gaps among our students, and far too many of our youth drop out of schools. There are good ways to tackle these problems, but fellow politicians prefer the quick and easy illusion of decisiveness, and that will only hurt our children.

To begin with, I disagree with others who say that the solution is more of the same of what we do -- more days and more hours. The governor's statement that a child's work day should be as long as an adult's doesn't even deserve a serious reply. I believe that our children should be treated as children, not future cogs in an economic system. Learning to independently play, explore, learn, and discover is as important as being drilled in standardized tests. The greatest poison we can introduce to our children is to abhor learning, to associate it with drudgery and pain -- and that is what so many others propose.

I also disagree that the same private sector that gave us Bechtel, Lehman Brothers, and Halliburton is the one that should manage our education. From California to Utah to New York to Arizona, charter schools constantly flirt with bankrupcty as children's chance at an education hangs in the balance. It is troublesome enough that our system is built around privately run tests coming from a company who relies on students' failures to pay salaries, but I do not want to rely on the private sector for the greatest trust our society has to offer. However, so many of my colleagues in government want to farm out schools to all manner of concerns -- amorphous groups formed to claim a "Readiness Charter" per Deval Patrick, other interests looking to open the doors of a little-regulated charter school, such as the one just shut down in Boston after years of under-serving our students. All my opponents can do is point to a questionable study serving charters' interests with severe methodoligical issues.

I figured that we learned about the dangers of privatizing government during the Weld years, and I'm sorry my opponents have forgotten that lesson already.

It is true that we have, as I like to think of it, an eighteenth century system scaled up to twenty-first century proportions. An academy system designed to train privileged would-be didacts of an agricultural system is a poor fit for our post-industrial society. But we have a solution in our public education system already -- it's called vocational education.

Vocational education is a system that open up lucrative career opportunities to our students, but those opportunities are too few today. Students who are ideal candidate for vocational schools are turned away due to limited space. These schools, which give students immediately useful skills for the job market and are under local control, are the best model for at-risk students who do not thrive in academy settings.

Hand-in-hand with vocational schools are magnet schools, locally controlled schools that specialize in art, music, mathematics, or other fields. These two models offer alternate pathways toward success from the standard academy model. They also turn away thousands of students per year.

That is why I will increase funding of these schools to double capacity in our magnet and vocational systems in ten years. This means expanding shcools, hiring staff, and even building new schools. We have wasted enough time trying to make students' learning conform to our system -- it is time to make our system conform to students' learning.

I would remiss if I did not mention funding. It is true that schools demand resources at a time when there seem to be fewer to offer. Reactions have been predictable -- the desire to place blame on invisible waste, to attack education professionals, as always the desire to exploit this trouble for political benefit. The plain fact is that every enterprise that employs people is suffering as health costs spiral out of control, and those costs show up in the budgets of everything from public schools to private companies. We've taken the first steps toward taming these costs here in Massachusetts, and President Obama and his people are welcome to examine our successes as they plan on health care reform nationwide. But let's be clear -- lashing out by cutting budgets to no end, eliminating workers' rights to organize, or attacking public education is not how we solve a problem created by our health care system. And I refuse to do it.

If I am elected governor, I will do something radical -- I will treat the citizens of Massachusetts as adults when I talk about education. I will not indulge in hysteria for the sake of polls. I will not find people, communities, or good habits to blame. I will not point the finger at professionals or towns while declaring I am "non-partisan". I will not sell out our successful system to private interests in the hopes of appearing decisive.

I will defend a system that works as well as any in the world. I will rely on studies that are reliable, not those convenient to a transitory agenda. I will work with the people who care about education -- children, families, communities, and professionals -- every day. I will not divide them with an eye toward Election Day. The people of Massachusetts deserve an excellent public education system. They have that. They also deserve a serious conversation about public education -- and I think they haven't had that in a while.

If that is what you want from a governor, I would appreciate your vote."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Deval's win: primary voters + 20% of the rest

In the wake of an apparent three-way election, I just wanted to run the numbers based on the results of the 2006 gubernatorial election in Massachusetts, reproduced further below. What I found is bad news for anyone not named Deval Patrick.

For giggles' sake, I took every single Democrat who did not vote for Deval Patrick in the primary, and awarded their votes to a mythical Independent candidate, named Tim C. in the general. Unenrolled voters, and Democrats who did not vote in the primary, went untouched. The results would have been:

Healey/ Hillman784,342
Patrick/ Murray775,652
Tim C./ Guy G.*459,332
Mihos/ Sullivan154,628

*for example

This proves nothing (for many, many reasons) about what will happen in 2010. What it does indicate is that even if we reduce Deval Patrick's vote total to Democrats who liked him during the primary, he's in great shape. Even subtracting every Democrat who did not vote for Deval Patrick in the 2006 primary -- discounting any idea of party loyalty -- you have to figure that Deval Patrick starts with about 700,000 votes in hand, almost a third of the total cast. That even allows for a large percentage of Deval Patrick supporters who have since moved away. In any case, if you start a three-way race with 1/3 of the votes on your side before the debate even begins, you have a really great chance of winning the whole enchilada.

Hypothetical: Tim Cahill runs a meandering campaign that nonetheless does a bit better than Mihos and captures 10% of the vote, or about 220,000 votes. That means that in order to win, Deval Patrick needs to keep his loyal soldiers from the 2006 primary season, and merely add on about one-fifth of the remaining electorate.

I'll repeat that -- Deval's winning coalition is:
2006 primary voters + one-fifth of the entire remaining electorate.

That 20% is a small majority of Democrats who voted for Reilly or Gabrieli in the primary. Or a healthy dollop of first-time or second-time voters, or a fair amount of unenrolleds. What it means is that unless Cahill can somehow poach on people who sided with Deval Patrick way back when, Cahill isn't moving up in the world, and Deval isn't moving out of his office.

Democratic gubernatorial primary[33]
Candidate Votes % ±%
Deval Patrick 452,229 49.57%
Chris Gabrieli 248,301 27.22%
Tom Reilly 211,031 23.13%
Write-in 787 0.08%
Blanks 14,054

Majority 203,928 22.35%
Turnout 926,402
2006 gubernatorial election, Massachusetts[34]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%

Democratic Deval Patrick
(Tim Murray)
1,234,984 55.64% +10.70

Republican Kerry Healey
(Reed Hillman)
784,342 35.33% -14.44

Independent Christy Mihos
(John J. Sullivan)
154,628 6.97% +6.27

Green-Rainbow Grace Ross
(Martina Robinson)
43,193 1.95% -1.54

Write-in All others 2,632 0.12 +.06
Total votes 2,219,779 55.63%% + 0.40

Blank 24,056

Turnout 2,243,835

Majority 450,642 20.30%

Democratic gain from Republican Swing + 25.13

Power easy to get in Alaska

Becoming the governor of Alaska is starting to look pretty easy. Sarah Palin got elected on the strength of her experience "running" Wasilla and sitting on some government board. I thought that was a jump, but rapid and bewildering promotions are apparently part of Alaskan culture...Palin's legal successor is the guy who runs their prisons:

The state Legislature already confirmed a line of succession [to Governor Palin] under which corrections commissioner Joe Schmidt should be taking over as lieutenant governor.
Not the treasurer, head of the legislature, or attorney general. Not even the mayor of the largest city. No...the chief corrections officer takes over if the governorship of Alaska opens up. I'm not sure I'd want the state's chief jailer suddenly becoming the state's chief executive, but it's not my state. I'm not sure what role the lieutenant governor of Alaska then fills, but again -- it's not my state.

As for why this happened, my best guess is reminiscent of Britain's 1701 Act of Settlement. As the eighteenth century dawned, the reigning Princess Anne was getting in poor shape and thoughts turned to the next monarch of England. Such thinkers quickly realized that the 50 or so closest "heirs to the throne" according to law were all Catholic. Consequently, British succession law was hastily re-written to ensure that the next monarch was Protestant, whoever it would have to be. had to be some German fellow who couldn't even speak English. That's right, when King George I of England acceded to the English throne, he couldn't speak English, which I imagine was awkward in all sorts of ways.

So, I can only guess the Alaska Legislature created their own cognate of the Act of Settlement in order to steer power away from Palin and her buddies. Instead, the chief jailer will now be running the state. Hopefully, it works out better for them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The finest leader in Mass.

Martha Coakley:

The state is challenging the constitutionality of the federal 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, saying the law denies "essential rights and protections" to same-sex couples who have married since Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize gay weddings in 2004.

The federal law interferes with the state's "sovereign authority to define and regulate marriage," according to the suit filed in federal court in Boston. It calls the law "overreaching and discriminatory."
This is real leadership. Looking at the depressing specter of a gubernatorial race featuring an HMO penny-pincher, Obama's understudy, a failed Democrat, and a bombastic Cianci-lite, it's nice to see that somebody can show leadership in this state. Coakley is showing what she's made of here, and continuing the recent tradition of the Massachusetts AG standing for what's right against the federal government, tobacco companies, and even Microsoft.

Huge bonus points for any gubernatorial candidate who publicly declares support for this lawsuit. If any of them, perhaps the lawyers, files an amicus curae, I'll be delighted.

PS: I'm not looking forward to the depths of depravity that Obama's Department of Justice will go to defend this law.

PPS: One thing that stands about blog coverage of this -- the Massachusetts set is ignoring Coakley's leadership in filing this suit, while the national folks put her name all over it. Coakley (like Terry Murray) usually gets underestimated and under-credited by progressive bloggers in the Bay State, so this is no surprise, but passive-voice headlines "Lawsuit against DOMA filed by Massachusetts" are a slap in the face of the Attorney General. Imagine the hagiography we'd have seen had Deval Patrick sent a press release about the case.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cahill bails, everyone loses

Apparently Tim isn't tough enough for a Democratic primary. Sure, the deck was stacked against him, but he's re-registered out of the Democratic Party in preparation of an all-but-definite run for the governorship.

I figure nearly everyone loses:
  • Cahill loses his job, and his bid for the governor.
  • Deval Patrick supporters lose any impetus to reflect on their concept of the Democratic Party.
  • Old-school Democrats lose their strongest representative in the conversation within the party.
  • The Democratic Party's tent gets smaller.

Only Deval Patrick wins, which means that many prolific bloggers will celebrate this as a great day.

First off, I'm not voting for Cahill. If he isn't tough enough to take on Deval in a primary, he isn't tough enough to take on the problems facing this state. His infatuation with predatory gambling is nearly an addiction in its own right, and he is a cipher on too many issues. But beyond that, Cahill is running just to the left of the Republicans and just to the right of Deval. If the ideological field is going to be split that finely, the election comes down to organization and machine, something the Democrats and Deval Patrick have to spare.

What this does mean, however, is a pull to accompany a pre-existing push on many Democrats. There is a traditionalist view of the Democratic Party that predates my birth or Deval's move to Massachusetts. It's the view that a man (or woman) could count of the Democratic Party to make sure s/he could put food on the table, back up his/her right to be in a union to do it, and otherwise leave them alone. The Dems were for the common man, but they weren't going to tell the common man how to run his life.

That school of thought has been a subject of attack by Deval Patrick's followers, who love bureaucratic expansion, basing sales taxes on calorie count (soda, for example), loathe labor organization, and have the solution to any number of social issues. I'm not saying they're all wrong, but there's a lot of wrong in that approach. In addition, their palpable condescension for any other point of view than what they've newly discovered is a real push on the Democrats who built this party in the 50s and 60s.

Now these people being pushed out have somewhere to go -- the Tim Cahill campaign. Cahill is kind of a Democrat, and he's no Republican. He's not going to call you a cynic or a naysayer because you disagree with him, and he's not going to tell you he knows how you should live your life better than you do.

All of which is probably going to be very attractive to thousands of Democrats who are treated as pariahs in their own party -- the party many of them built before a dry run was needed for Obama's campaign. So as the Devalcolytes push these folks away from the party, the Cahillians are going to pull them into their campaign. Sure, it may only be 5-10% of the electorate, but that makes a difference in close State House and county races. Who knows -- if Cahill gets his head straight about gambling and education, I may be part of that 5-10%.

Of course, in December 2010 Cahill's campaign is dead, and his political future likely will be, too. The Democratic Party's "big tent" will have shrunk, and there will be a large group of people looking for a political home as the Cahill campaign is subject to electoral forclosure.

And if the Republican Party ever pulls its head out of its a--, those people are their ticket back to relevance. So I guess it's not just Deval who wins.

(Update): Blogging compatriot Charley on the MTA over at BMG has kindly linked to this post calling me an "inveterate Deval hater". The emoticon makes it clear that the comment is meant tongue in cheek. I think. Either way, it helps support some of my points.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Deval's on schools: how serious?

The latest move from the Executive Branch of our fair commonwealth arrived three days ago:

The Patrick administration, in a sharp deviation from previous state policy, will seek legislative approval to take over about 30 of the state’s worst schools and dramatically weaken their teacher contracts, as part of the governor’s effort to overhaul public education.

If this were to pass, this would be a radical change in education in this state, and I think that it's worth asking how serious Deval is about this. So let's try to read the tea leaves.

Signs that he's not serious:
It's just a press release. Deval is notorious for issuing press releases, doing nothing, and then claiming credit for whatever the Legislature does in the subsequent time period. See pension reform -- the bill was written, debated, and passed by the Legislature, but no members of the General Court were present at Deval's press conference. Mind you, this is pretty much the governor's approach to his job om any issue, so this disengagement from all other policymakers may not be much of a telltale.
There's no meat on it. News agencies are forced to extrapolate from an astoundingly brief mention on the governor's site. Maybe it's a trial balloon...two days before a national holiday in the dead of summer. It certainly has even less thought than his press release on pension reform. The thirty schools subject to Deval's direct administration aren't even listed.
Even Deval knows it's nearly impossible to pull this off: The state is can barely afford to supply Local Aid to meet fundamental budgets for schools, but has the money to hire an army of consultants for thirty schools under Deval's direction? I have no idea from which line item this would come, unless Deval is hoping to run the schools with his people, and bill the towns and cities for the privilege. The Readiness Report stands as a monument to Deval's approach of speaking loudly and doing nothing on education. I'm not sure that right before an election, the governor will direct people to fire public servants based on rules created during Romney's administration.
He pulled it out of his a--: Despite claims to the contrary, pretty much nobody saw this coming -- the most common media description of reaction to this announcement is "stunned". It's devoid of details and full of double-talk (typical: "The school is still part of the district, the district just loses a measure of control’’). Again, vintage trial balloon stuff.

On the other hand, reasons to believe Deval is serious:
This is another opportunity for union-busting: One thing that anchors Deval Patrick's minimal interest in education is an implacable hostility to labor organization among education professionals. The Readiness Report mulls forcing teachers into a statewide labor union, forcing regionalization (which would weaken district unions), and opening the pathway to anti-union "Readiness Schools" based on the thinnest of justifications. So, the line that this would "allow the state to change local policies, suspend sections of teacher contracts" fits right into Deval's anti-union mentality.
More executive power: Like any executive, Deval enjoys accruing more power in the name of "efficiency" or "restructuring". This chance to step all over local democracy in return for gathering more power to the governor's office is the norm for our recent executives, and was another constant in Deval's Readiness Report.
Deval has to do something: The governor is taking on water rapidly, moving people from his office or the Obama team into his political operation. He can't stay ahead of uninspiring rivals such as Christy Mihos or Tim Cahill in the polls. Though Deval Patrick has quite an echo chamber online and in the Democratic Party, it isn't enough to make any strategist breathe easier. Marching consultants into schools makes for good tv and makes it look as if Deval is doing something about education.
Deval has full faith in the ivory tower: From Paul Reville to Dana Mohler-Faira, Deval Patrick's "advisors" on education are largely ivory tower folks unfamiliar with actual classrooms. He has shown uneven respect for classroom teachers and administrators, preserving an archaic rule that bans them from the state Board of Education. Meanwhile, his advisory team is heavy on teacher college folks who stand to gain the most from casting doubt on the abilities and qualifications of people who work in public education today. Insulated in private education and private business since he began his teenage years, Deval Patrick's understanding of public education relies a lot more on those around him than anyone else.

It's tough to tell what would happen. Springfield and Chelsea demonstrate that experts (aka people who know no more than you, but work elsewhere) can't do much beyond stabilize a situation, and wait to receive credit. There is a chorus who will embrace anything Deval Patrick proposes, even if they'd have fought tooth and nail against Mitt Romney attempting the same power grab, their numbers are lower.

In the end, though, the fact remains that the Patrick political operation is getting more and more desperate (see his undermining of Plymouth Rock Studios in Therese Murray's district) and a desperate politician often makes desperate moves.