Ed funding debate takes Pioneer detour

Fall River’s Malone calls Chieppo a bozo

THE DEBATE OVER increased state funding for education took a detour last week as the Pioneer Institute and its critics tangled over a reform proposal designed to give the state more leverage at the local school level.

It started on March 10, when Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute proposed in a CommonWealth op-ed that the state should invest more in K-12 education but that the additional aid should come with the power to appoint a proportional number of local school committee members. If a community gets 50 percent of its school funding from the state, then the state should get to appoint 50 percent of the school committee members.

“This approach would pair more money with the appointment of officials whose role it would be to safeguard the interests of those who rightly expect improved performance in return for their investment,” Chieppo and Gass argued. “The state appointees could be chosen to provide needed managerial skills or academic expertise. Just as important, they would be independent, free of cozy ties to the school district they’re entrusted with reforming.”

Former state education secretary Matthew Malone, who has been superintendent in Brockton and Winchester as well as interim in Saugus, is the new Fall River superintendent.

Matt Malone, the superintendent of the Fall River schools, responded using the school system’s official Twitter account. “Blah Blah #Bozos big mouth bureaucratic #wonks who think they know more than those who work w/ children in schools – in the #Arena @TeddyRoosevIt – Support the cornerstone of #democracy – elected school committees not #privatization.”

Chieppo responded: ”Keep hitting it out of the park, Fall River!”

Malone invited Chieppo to come to Fall River to see what the school system is doing. “Talk is cheap and your articles are boring so we would love to host you to change your perception on what we do,” he tweeted.

Chieppo told the Herald-News that Malone’s rant on the school system’s Twitter account was unprecedented. “I’m not a social media expert, but I thought it’s one thing when a ‘bozo’ like me writes controversial stuff on Twitter, but for Fall River schools to write something like that it was really kind of mind boggling,” he said. “It’s incredibly amateurish. It’s another step in Malone’s longtime seeming desire to be the most immature guy in the room.”

Chieppo’s comments seemed a lot like name-calling, even though Pioneer issued a “responsible reply” to Malone’s comments promising there would be no name calling, just facts with links to data and sources.

Malone received the backing of Glenn Koocher, the executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, who said “sometimes you’ve got to toss a rhetorical bomb in order to get yourself noticed.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Maurice Cunningham, an associate professor of political science at UMass Boston, also weighed in on the unfairness of Pioneer’s proposal and the hidden agenda of Pioneer’s conservative backers (David Koch, the Walton Family Foundation, etc.). Cunningham said the Pioneer proposal creates a two-tier democracy.

“If you’re driving a Beamer you get all the voting rights of full citizenship,” he said. “If you’re driving a Beater, you get some voting rights but don’t get to vote for school committee in your town.”