On Monday, Esquire’s political blogger Charles P. Pierce accused Boston Mayor Marty Walsh of pulling a “full Scott Walker’’—in other words, changing his position on an issue once he got elected. In this case, Pierce wrote Walsh “Scott-Walkered’’ his charter-school stance.
Later Monday, Walsh’s office vehemently refuted Pierce’s argument in a statement to Boston.com, calling it “untrue and unsourced.’’
Pierce’s assertion is based off a blog post from Mary Lewis-Pierce, who goes by the name “Public School Mama.’’ The local blogger and Boston public school parent filed a “freedom of information act’’ request to obtain documents from Boston Compact, an organization created in 2011 to encourage collaboration among district, charter, and Catholic schools.
In her post, Lewis-Pierce wrote the organization is currently working to determine which public school buildings should be handed over to charter schools.
“In off the record meetings with parents, BPS officials have intimated that the mayor wants to get the Boston Public Schools down to 90 buildings,’’ she wrote in her post. “BPS currently has 126 schools. Mayor Walsh plans to close 36 BPS schools, ¼ of the district.’’
This plan, Pierce wrote, directly opposes Walsh’s stance during his campaign in 2013. Pierce points out that, when he was campaigning for mayor in 2013, Walsh said that his opponent John Connolly, a vocal advocate for education reform by increasing the number of charter schools, was trying to destroy the public school system.
“[Walsh has] cut a deal with some of the most odious practitioners of the school ‘reform’ grift, including the Walton Family of Wingnuts, and he did so under the radar,’’ Pierce writes.
The mayor’s office, however, took issue with the article, and the original sourcing.
“The Mayor has never said, nor does he have a plan to close 36 schools,’’ Laura Oggeri, Walsh’s chief communications officer, said in a statement. “Mayor Walsh has proven his dedication to Boston Public Schools by, in the past year alone, providing unprecedented budgetary support, extending learning time for students, adding 200 pre-kindergarten seats to the district, and hiring a first-class Superintendent.’’
Pierce did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Boston.com about the statement from Walsh’s office.
Oggeri also pointed to the mayor’s multi-year educational and facilities master plan, which was released this fall. In the plan, Walsh does say that he expects some schools will merge. However, there are no specific figures for the number of schools to close.
“The Esquire article is untrue and unsourced, and references meetings that the Mayor has never had,’’ Oggeri said. “We are extremely disappointed at the spread of misinformation.’’
Update: Pierce responded to the mayor’s office in an email to Boston.com Monday night:
The Mayor “has never said, nor does he have a plan to close 36 schools.’’ The Mayor has said that he plans to “consolidate’’ schools. How can he consolidate schools if he does not close some? Oh, wait — if he leases some of the “consolidated’’ school buildings to charter schools then the buildings will technically remain open. They just won’t be Boston Public Schools. Despite the expressed concerns of the Mayor’s office, the Blog post was sourced and linked to twelve relevant documents obtained in response to what Boston public school blogger Mary Lewis Pierce [no relation] described as a FOIA [Massachusetts Public Records Act] request. Among those records was an agenda for a meeting between the Boston Compact and Mayor Walsh and a Boston Compact talking points memo prepared for the Mayor in which the Mayor is scripted to announce and define Enroll Boston.
Despite the claims of the Mayor’s office, the Blog post was neither untrue nor unsourced. However the Blog is newly concerned by the reading comprehension levels of those entrusted with the education of Boston’s public school students.