Will voters judge Walsh on schools?

It was almost 25 years ago, in 1996, that Mayor Tom Menino issued his famous challenge to voters to “judge me harshly” if he didn’t deliver significant improvements to the Boston Public Schools.

He didn’t, but neither did they.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Boston switched to mayoral control over its schools, a reform designed to bring greater accountability for results. The track record, however, has been one of lackluster school performance and little evidence that voters have made mayors pay the price for it.

Against that backdrop, today’s Boston Globe declares in the headline of a lengthy editorial, “Failing schools must be focus of next Boston mayoral race.”

We’ll see.

The paper calls it “especially refreshing” that City Councilor Andrea Campbell offered pointed criticism of the schools following Mayor Marty Walsh’s State of the City address earlier this month in which he pledged $100 million in new school spending.

Campbell found Walsh’s speech wanting when it came to the state of the city’s schools, saying “we need more than announcements & money thrown at the problem.”

With a third of Boston’s schools in the bottom 10 percent statewide, it’s hard to argue with her, says the paper.

“Campbell’s strong words about the troubling state of the Boston schools reflect widespread and justified disappointment over the lack of progress at closing persistent achievement gaps in the system, which consistently produces sub-par results for black and Latino students,” says the editorial.

Campbell is mentioned as a possible mayoral challenger next year, and the Globe seems eager to see a contest that includes the Mattapan councilor, who has made education a top priority and has not been shy in calling out shortcomings in the district.

“If the exchange is a taste of what’s to come next year, then public education is poised to take the front-burner position it deserves heading into the 2021 election,” the editorial says.

Given the crucial role of schools — and the fact that they account for more than $1 billion of the city’s $3.5 billion annual budget — they ought to occupy a front-burner position in every mayoral race. But that’s not been the case, despite similar framing of their central role in earlier races, including the 2013 contest for the open seat that Walsh won to succeed Menino.

The longstanding lament has been that the families who rely on the district’s schools do not make up a sizeable enough share of the voters who turn out and decide city elections.

As it happens, new BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius unveiled her five-year strategic plan for the district yesterday. It has five big components, two of which directly address student achievement issues. Among her plans, she will propose that the district adopt MassCORE, a sequence of high school courses that the state says are a minimum requirement to prepare students for college and post-secondary success.

It’s outrageous that Boston has not been on board with MassCORE — which 90 percent of all high school students in the state must follow. Even more troubling was the talk that efforts by former superintendent Tommy Chang to bring MassCORE to the district got pushback from others in the system who worried it would hurt the BPS graduation rate.

Gains in graduation rates but graduates who are woefully ill-prepared to make it in college has been the problem for too long in Boston, where leaders have looked for positive data points to highlight while the underlying reality of education in the Athens of America has been a very different story.

Whether voters will demand more is an open question.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

As the House prepares to take up transportation legislation, Senate leaders host a working group meeting on the same subject and say they are “getting close” on their own transportation bill. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, using a conservative estimate on revenues, is projecting a state budget funding shortfall in fiscal 2021 of $900 million. (State House News)

The House passed a bill creating a registry of caregivers who abuse people with disabilities. (MassLive)

WGBH investigations editor Paul Singer and anchor Arun Rath talk about an ongoing look into the state’s lack of minority contracts.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Middleboro Selectman Allin Frawley agreed to pay $2,000 after the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance found that he violated campaign finance law by accepting an unlawful campaign contribution from a  pot shop.

United Way of Greater New Bedford’s family support leader Darlene Spencer says New Bedford service providers should be prepared to receive people fleeing this month’s continuous earthquakes in Puerto Rico, but so far, they are not eligible for disaster aid. (Standard-Times) 

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

House members delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate, setting the stage for the trial on whether President Trump should be removed from office. (Washington Post)

Lev Parnas, the Soviet-born businessman who was a key player in pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, says Trump knew all about the efforts to dig up dirt on his political opponent. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

What’s the big takeaway from the Bernie SandersElizabeth Warren showdown? The Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert says Warren’s moves were “crafty and beautifully executed,” including her refusal to shake Sanders’s hand following Tuesday’s debate: “You weren’t there to make nice. You were there to win.” But Joan Vennochi pans the handshake rebuff, writing, “It’s not about a woman having to ‘make nice’ to a grumpy man who supposedly insulted her way back in 2018. It’s about grace — a gender-neutral quality — and an ability and willingness to knit together competing constituencies within the progressive wing of her own party.” (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Another one bites the dust: The Top of Hub restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Tower will close in April, the latest longtime Boston establishment to announce it is signing off. (Boston Globe)

The Southfield Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the redevelopment of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station, has selected Brookfield Properties to take over leading the stalled project. (Patriot Ledger) 

EDUCATION

Grace Rett of Uxbridge was killed and many of her Holy Cross rowing teammates were injured when a van carrying them collided with a pickup truck in Florida. (Telegram & Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

The “Remembrance Memorial Monument” will open at Bristol Community College’s Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery on Thursday, January 23. For this show, the gallery focuses on 16 artists whose works embody many ways of thinking about loss, hope, resilience, and affirmation. (Herald News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A handful of Cape towns, including Yarmouth, are working to prohibit the use of disposable polystyrene cups, bowls, trays and containers commonly used for takeout food and leftovers. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS

Encore Boston Harbor had its best month in December since the casino opened, while the state’s two other gambling facilities, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park, had their worst month ever. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A young man who allegedly abducted an 11-year-old girl in Springfield, triggering an Amber alert, is tracked down and caught on the Massachusetts Turnpike; the girl was unharmed. (MassLive)

MEDIA

NPR, trying to avoid taking sides, ended up sanitizing what President Trump said at a Milwaukee rally and seemed to bring order to what was actually chaos. (Vox)

iHeartMedia lays off veteran employees across the country as part of a company-wide reorganization. (MassLive) Some of those layoffs are hitting the Cape Cod radio market hard. (Cape Cod Times) 

Shrinking newspapers are migrating to smaller offices, abandoning buildings that were once signature structures in communities. (Boston Globe)