Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education
342 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139

Urban Voters Reject MCAS and Support Public Education

November 8, 2000 ­ For immediate release.
Local Contacts:
Cambridge: Charlo Maurer (MassParents) (617) 491-0429
Larry Ward (Statewide CARE) (617) 876-7285
New Bedford: Ben Gilbarg (New Bedford CARE) (508) 984 5108
Somerville: Bill Bumpus (Somerville Labor Party) (617) 625-9070
Holyoke: Preston Smith (Greater Holyoke Labor Party) (413) 534-6806
West Roxbury/Brookline: Ruth Kaplan (Brookline CARE) (617) 566-4173
Seamus Whelan (West Roxbury LP) (617) 469-8734
Boston: Jenny Lopez (POWER) (617) 628-2226

Urban voters in legislative districts from New Bedford to Holyoke last night voted overwhelmingly to end the use of the MCAS test as a graduation requirement and in favor of strong support for public schools.

In a vote that decisively dispels the myth that urban parents and citizens support the MCAS test as the best way to hold their school systems accountable, six districts with large low-income, minority, immigrant, and working-class populations approved the referendum question by large margins:
In Holyoke: 4,848 to 2,577
In New Bedford: 10,405 to 6,106 (2 districts)
In Cambridge: 9,433 to 2,955
In Somerville: 9,215 to 3,210
In West Roxbury/Brookline: 5,529 to 3,463.
The total "yes" vote in all six legislative districts was 39,430 or 68% of the total vote, a 2-1 margin of victory.

Charlo Maurer, field director of the Cambridge referendum campaign, said Wednesday morning, "The margin of victory in these urban districts shows that, when the people are finally given the opportunity to express their own views through the vehicle of a referendum, they are sending an unequivocal message to their legislators: stop the Board of Educationšs effort to undermine public education."

In casting a ballot for the referendum question, the voters also rejected vouchers and for-profit schools, and called for continued and equitable state funding of education, smaller class sizes and fair and authentic student assessment. "This vote serves notice to the Legislature that our families want their schools under public control, and not turned into profit-seeking businesses," according to Bill Bumpus, longtime community organizer and Labor Party member in Somerville.

Preston Smith of the Greater Holyoke Labor Party said, "Holyoke families face both economic and social barriers to their childrenšs education; this 2:1 vote gives a clear message that they want schools focused on student needs, not the privatization agenda of the State Board of Education."

The non-binding Public Policy Question was initiated by a coalition including the Massachusetts State Labor Party, representing many local unions, working together with local community groups and teacheršs organizations. The effort was supported and carried out by the Coalition for Authentic Reform in Education (CARE), local Cambridge and Brookline CARE chapters, Massparents for Education not MCAS, New Bedford Coalition Against Poverty, Greater Holyoke Citizens for Quality Education, Somerville Labor Party Club, Massachusetts Green Party, and the Executive Boards of the Somerville Teacheršs Association and the Cambridge Teacheršs Association.

The referendum vote follows on the heels of an overwhelming vote (137 to 30) last week by school boards at the Massachusetts Association of School Committees annual convention in Worcester to call for a suspension of the use of the MCAS test to determine high school graduation.

The Question read:
"Shall the representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that equitably invests state funds in local public schools for quality education; reduces class sizes; excludes use of voucher programs which siphon funds from public education; bars for profit schools from public funding; suspends the MCAS tests as the criteria for promotion or graduation, and establishes an authentic and fair assessment system of educational progress for our students and their schools"

The Representative districts were Cambridge ­ 28th Middlesex (Rep. Barrios); Somerville ­ 30th Middlesex (Rep. Jehlen); West Roxbury/Brookline (Rep. David Donnely); New Bedford - 12th Bristol (Rep. Rogers); New Bedford -13th Bristol (Cabral);
Holyoke ­ 5th Hampden.