So declares a front page, above-the-fold headline in this morning's Boston Globe - treatment that seems just a wee bit dramatic for a routine policy proposal.
Let me get this out of the way: Good! I have never been much for the notion that any change in policy position by a politician ought to be derided as a 'flip-flop.' Politicians, like anyone else, are entitled to learn new things and to let those new things influence past positions - even strongly held ones. I am in favor of expansion of charter schools, which (a) work; (b) provide opportunity for kids who otherwise have none; and (c) drive the teachers' unions nutty-bonkers-wackyboo. Now, for whatever reason, Governor Patrick - once opposed - is also now in favor of expanding charter schools. Fantastic.
For me, the question of Patrick's motive for this switch is of less than secondary importance. The Globe points out that "[t]he governor’s push comes as President Obama is threatening to withhold millions in federal stimulus dollars from states that hinder charter school growth." Patrick adamantly denies that this has anything to do with it. Of course he does - nobody likes to look like he's being strong-armed, even by a pal. But that could well be part of it.
So what does this mean for my pet theory, that Governor Patrick is not going to run for a second term? Could go either way.
On one hand, one could argue that Patrick and his pollsters have perceived strong support for charter schools and frustration with failing school districts, and/or a need for Patrick to be seen taking on Democratic sacred cows and bucking the union-dominated 'culture' of Beacon Hill.
On the other hand, one could look at this move and note that the teachers' unions were among Patrick's biggest supporters the last time around (remember those ads featuring scared school kids looking nervously up at the flickering classroom lights as someone - presumably Kerry Healey - seemingly hammered away at the very foundations of their school?). They are going to hate this move. Patrick must have been personally supportive of charters all along, one could assume, and now that he has decided not to run for reelection he is unfettered from the unions and free to do as he pleases policy-wise. This is not the first time Patrick has put a thumb in the MTA's eye recently, by the way. They do not like it. Would he really be doing this entering into an election year, with another Democrat (turned Independent) likely to challenge him?
I am sticking with my theory... with the admission that it is showing some cracks lately.