Lawrence: City of the Scammed

Ground zero for edu-shysterism in Massachusetts these days is the City of Lawrence.

In order to solve its many problems, new teachers must be imported into Lawrence, preferably teachers who know nothing about the city, its culture or its history.

Ground zero for edu-shysterism in Massachusetts these days is Lawrence. But don’t take my word for it. Savor the rich bouquet and heady aroma that is the official Lawrence Public Schools District Turnaround Plan. This gem of a document is so jargon-studded, so rife with edu-cliches, that steam seems to rise from its very pages. Here’s the gist. Lawrence, with the lowest median income in Massachusetts and a cast of cartoonishly corrupt public officials, has one big problem: its teachers SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.

Or at least that’s what our va-genius educrat leaders would have us believe. This jargon-palooza of a plan has a bold solution to the “problem” afflicting the Lawrence Public Schools: bring in tons of brand new teachers, ideally teachers who know absolutely nothing about the City of Lawrence, its culture or its history.

Brilliant! As we know, there is no problem that a motivated Teach for America fellow can’t solve during the course of a two-year commitment. (See Williams, Jason). This Turducken of a turnaround plan hinges on parachuting whole divisions of TFA fellows into the Lawrence Schools along with their little cousins, Match Corps.

Now I first learned about the Match Corps Fellowship program when a Boston teacher/housing activist encountered a whole encampment of them squatting in a soon-to-be-foreclosed-upon house in the hood. The obvious question: what are math tutors doing holed up in a squat? Turns out that what Match Corps’ organizers rather generously refer to as an “urban education fellowship” doesn’t pay shit. Fellows work upwards of 70 hours a week tutoring urban students for a “stipend” that works out to roughly $5 per hour. Oh, and the program doesn’t come with housing, which means that the 50 “smart, idealistic, relentless” new Corps members will be fending for themselves.

Well, at $5 an hour, at least Match Corps is a bargain for the Lawrence Public Schools, right? Not exactly. The program costs $2700 per student. Multiply that by the 300 kids who’ve been selected to receive the Match treatment and you’re up to $810K. That’s a lot of dough, but apparently not enough to spring for living quarters for the poor Match-istas.

Hell, after reading Match Corps’ promotional materials, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. Who cares if I have to live in my car on a side street in South Lawrence??? Needless to say, Match Corps can’t quite decide how to sell Lawrence to the college kids who will soon be calling her home. The official guide to “Your new home for the next school year” comes complete with a map studded with local landmarks like Denny’s and Rite Aid. But just in case the kids are hungry for more than a Grand Slam Breakfast, Match has also provided some helpful context. Their background of choice? A controversial hit job of an article that appeared in Boston Magazine last year called Lawrence: City of the Damned.

I prefer City of the Scammed…