Strangely, the rejection came on behalf of both campaigns. “The Wu team collaborated with the Essabi George (cc) team on the planning and given the flood of time requests, we are unable to attend this event before the election,” wrote the Wu campaign in an email to ACTE in which the Essaibi George campaign was copied.
A spokesperson for Essaibi George has dismissed the idea that his campaign is declining forums specifically on Boston schools, but no such public conversation with the two candidates has been confirmed yet. The Wu team said they are working on organizing a forum with the Boston Education Justice Alliance. Essabi spokesman George said the campaign decided to work with the Wu campaign to maximize candidates’ time and the number of forums they attended.
Logistically it might make sense with a competing campaign, but politically it’s a bizarre approach, with soft undertones of collusion between the two campaigns. The Wu campaign said they coordinate schedules wherever possible to give them the best chance of being able to appear together.
Wu and Essaibi George are both Boston Public School parents. Wu revealed it 52-page education policy platform in the spring, while Essaibi George, former teacher, says to herself “the candidate for education” of the race and a a serious 7,200 word education plan. Why are they reluctant to open up their ideas for public education to debate? Why not take advantage of every available opportunity to appear before voters in order to improve their record and their vision?
“There is nothing more important right now than public education,” said Edith Bazile, former teacher and administrator in Boston and past president of the Massachusetts Black Educators Alliance. Bazile was part of a separate effort to welcome applicants to an education forum, but applicants initially declined that invitation as well. “It doesn’t breed confidence if it takes multiple attempts to convince a mayoral candidate to attend an education forum in the city of Boston,” Bazile said.
Partners in this effort include the Boston Education and Justice Alliance, BEAM, the Boston Special Education Parent Advisory Council, Schoolyard News, and QUEST, according to Roxann Harvey, president of Boston SpEdPAC. Her coalition got separate rejections from the original campaigns, but said she had heard of the joint ACT email. “I’m reading this [move] like they’re trying to get through the countryside without challenging each other on any issues, ”Harvey said. “This should be of great concern to the public. If candidates avoid real problems together, it’s scary.
Puzzles abound in the city’s school district, including how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in federal relief funds or how to tackle the severe state audit released just before the pandemic that exposed many weaknesses and failures in the system. ” It’s clear talk about BPS potentially in receivershipso it must be a major problem for the new mayor, ”said Harvey.
Harvey said Friday morning that his coalition is now going with Plan B: they will meet with each candidate separately and a moderator will ask Wu and Essaibi George the same K-12 education questions. Their responses will be recorded and then made public. But the format does not have the kind of meaningful engagement that a virtual public forum offers with an audience that can ask questions.
It cannot be stressed enough: voters deserve more depth from candidates. “I want to know how you’re going to hold the superintendent accountable,” Harvey said. “What are your expectations for the school district? What steps do you look at when talking to the superintendent to hold him accountable? “
Or, what student outcomes will they stand for? Is it reading in third grade? Is it preparation for post-secondary education? Important questions, among many others. With Boston’s schools in trouble and the future of so many students at stake, applicants should not be allowed time off.