An Education Mayor for Boston

A serious race.

November 4, 2013

It's a really crazy time in Boston right now. Yes, the Red Sox won and there was massive student partying accompanied by an overturned car or two but that's not the only thing happening over here.

We have a serious mayoral race for the first time in 20 years and one of the two finalists - both are Democrats, this is Boston - has spent much time and energy on improving the public education system in Boston - BPS - Boston Public Schools. I'm supporting this candidate - John Connolly - for mayor. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I have ever been involved with any campaign at any level, apart from showing up to vote.

For someone who views education as the pathway out of poverty, John Connolly is a dream candidate. Education was my pathway out. I started life in a trailer park off Dort Highway in Flint, Michigan. My father was a high school dropout who worked the night shift at General Motors. Education was always held out as my opportunity out of that life. He sacrificed his life in a dead end job so his kids could move up the ladder. Times have changed. For one, jobs like those are almost nonexistent - now automated and/or off shored and a trend that we will see continue. 

Manual labor can no longer be a Plan A. Nor should it be a Plan B. We need to help people prepare for Plan A if they want it - going to college.

John Connolly has a plan. His plan connects our public high schools with our local colleges and employers, providing students with a path and helping them pay for it with scholarships and financial aid. He views our high schools as "hubs of opportunity" and he is absolutely correct - this is a strengths -based view - seeing our local youth as assets rather than as deficits. Connolly's plan also draws upon Boston's colleges and universities to play a stronger role in building capacity within the city.

Higher ed is a big player in Boston and as part of the nonprofit sector, they don't always pay taxes. Instead we have a PILOT program that asks them for Payment in Lieu of Taxes. Connolly's play would count scholarships provided towards their PILOT obligation.

The pieces are already there. The innovation of Connolly's plan is in linking the individual components (high school, college, employer) in a single trajectory, making sure that we don't lose students along the way and in framing the youth of our city as an asset rather than as a public safety issue.

There has been a lot of talk about Connolly as a bold new leader for Boston. I know I'm ready and my neighborhood is definitely ready. I just hope the voters have as much confidence in the future of Boston on Tuesday at the polls as they had last Wednesday when the Red Sox played the final game of the World Series. 


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