The great equalizer?

Public education is the great equalizer, the place where everyone gets the same chance to learn and develop to his or her full potential. Or so the mythology goes.

In fact, we have set up a constellation of separate school districts that often only exacerbate inequities.They are publicly funded, but there is effectively a price tag for admission and it comes in the form of housing costs, which sort families by income. You’re well-off and want well-resourced schools? Buy a house in Wellesley. It’s a struggle just to keep your family fed and housed? You’re a lot more likely to land in Lawrence or Holyoke, whose long-struggling school districts are in state receivership, or maybe find subsidized housing somewhere in high-cost Boston, where many of those of means opt out of the district schools.

And districts where students already face plenty of challenges tend to be the places where new challenges pile up. Two examples this week cast this in stark relief.

The devastation from Hurricane Maria has left thousands in Puerto Rico without stable housing. Massachusetts officials say they expect lots of people to arrive here soon from the island as a result. But most will end up landing in places already struggling to serve current residents.

Holyoke, one of the state’s poorest cities, is one place where many will go. About 80 percent of its public school students are of Puerto Rican descent. The district’s superintendent says plans are being made for the new arrivals. He says many will arrive with no records regarding special education needs or immunization history. Yet the district, which is already struggling with years of chronic low performance, will have to figure out how to move them into classrooms a month into the school year. Boston school officials are also bracing for the arrival of new families from Puerto Rico as soon as next week. The district says it is preparing for them — though it has no idea how many new students might enroll.

There are also no illusions that it will be an easy process. “For a lot of them, it’s going to be a very rough and very immediate and disruptive transition,” Gov. Charlie Baker said of those who are expected to arrive here.

Meanwhile, the Boston school district, which must deal with lots of struggling students at risk of dropping out, is having struggles of its own in operating schools that cater to these students. Greater Egleston High School, a Roxbury alternative school, continues to be roiled by enrollment foul-ups that have left dozens of students off the official school roster. The school headmaster has been put on leave by the school department, which isn’t saying why. It’s the second alternative high school in the district that has been beset with turmoil over start-of-the-year registration after problems emerged in late August at Dorchester Academy.

For students already teetering on brink of quitting school, problems getting registered to attend classes seem like a cruel joke.

It all puts complaints about soggy pizza at the school cafeteria into some perspective.



The House and Senate are poised to go separate ways on criminal justice reform. (State House News)

Radha Natarajan of the New England Innocence Project says the state needs a forensic science commission. (CommonWealth)


Boston Public Library officials are trying to figure out how to deal with a surge of fights among homeless people in their facilities and addicts leaving discarded needles in library bathrooms. (Boston Herald) .


ICE arrests hundreds of immigrants in sanctuary cities around the country. (Los Angeles Times) Fifty immigrants were also arrested in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

President Trump issued a temporary waiver of the Jones Act, a century-old law requiring goods shipped between US points to be carried by American-built and operated ships, after coming under fire for the administration’s response to the devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria. (New York Times)

Trump’s tax plan would save him close to $1 billion, according to a New York Times analysis. Globe data cruncher Evan Horowitz says there’s good reason to be skeptical of the idea that the proposed tax changes would give a big boost to the economy. An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute says the plan could cause as much as a $17 billion drop in annual donations to charities. (CNBC)

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he’ll pay back about one-eighth of the $400,000 he charged the government for private charters but it still may not be enough to save his job from an incensed President Trump. (New York Times)


Twitter offers an update on what it has learned about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Many of the same problems reported earlier by Facebook were discovered by Twitter. (Time)


Two trustees of the Berkshire Museum resign their posts. One of them says she left because she didn’t support the museum’s decision to sell off artwork; the other one couldn’t be reached for comment. (Berkshire Eagle)

The Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce calls in front-line responders on the opioid crisis to learn more. (Eagle-Tribune)

A data revision shows the country’s GDP grew by 3.1 percent in the second quarter, a marked increase over the anemic 1.2 percent growth in the first quarter. (U.S. News & World Report)


US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks at Harvard — and draws a bevy of protesters. (Boston Globe)

A Bridgewater State University professor who used social media to deride Trump voters as racist and label them members of the KKK has been placed on paid leave after allegedly receiving death threats. (The Enterprise)

A Cambridge public school librarian stirs up a hornet’s nest with an online post saying she doesn’t want the 10 books first lady Melania Trump donated to her school — and she especially doesn’t want Dr. Seuss books, which have illustrations “steeped in racist propaganda.” (  Cue the Howie Carr column. (Boston Herald) Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, whose city boasts a Dr. Seuss Museum, criticizes the librarian and invites the Trump family for a visit. (MassLive)

Stanford is selling morning-after pills to students via vending machines. (New York Times)


The debate over the dental therapist bill on Beacon Hill that would create a new position of practitioner who could treat patients cheaper and quicker than dentists has split lawmakers and the industry. (Greater Boston)


Despite the completion of projects that had previously slowed trains, the Worcester commuter rail line continues to have on-time problems. (Telegram & Gazette)


Energy Secretary Rick Perry links natural gas pipelines and national security. Could his stance have an impact on the pipeline debate in New England? (CommonWealth)

Cape Wind lives to fight another day after the Trump administration dismissed opponents’ arguments that the seafloor could not support turbines and affirmed the decades-long lease issued to the embattled project. (State House News Service)

Sudbury officials have filed suit against the MBTA over a lease the transit authority granted to Eversource to bury power lines along an abandoned rail right of way. (MetroWest Daily News)


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved $100,000 for Northampton to market itself to patrons of the MGM casino in Springfield. (MassLive)


The US Attorney’s office, complying with a new directive from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, decided to seek a mandatory minimum sentence against a woman for growing marijuana in Webster. But federal Judge Timothy Hillman, saying he was moved by her personal story, granted her a lesser sentence. (Telegram & Gazette)

A Lynn drug dealer will spend 5 to 8 years in prison for selling drugs that caused a fatal overdose. (WBUR)

Framingham police arrested a Dominican man and charged him with identity fraud after doubting his claim he was from Puerto Rico because of his accent and looked up his name on Facebook and identified him through his social media page. (MetroWest Daily News)

Milton police are investigating two incidents of “hateful messages” targeting sexual orientation and race at Curry College, which has seen a spike in such occurrences in recent years. (Patriot Ledger)

A reputed leader of the Everett clique of the MS-13 gang is indicted on federal racketeering charges. (Boston Herald)

The Boston law firm that hired former US attorney Carmen Ortiz says she’s a big plus despite criticism that she was overzealous in her pursuit of some cases while serving as the state’s top federal prosecutor. (Boston Globe)