Saturday, July 17, 2010

If It's Bad News, It Must Be Friday

Last October, the State House News Service observed that the Patrick-Murray Administration seems to have a "mildly pathological fixation" with dumping bad news on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to minimize the need for PR damage control.

The Administration was at it again late yesterday, disclosing not one but two pieces of bad news. First, Governor Patrick announced that his embattled nominee to the Middlesex Family and Probate Court, Attorney David Aptaker, had withdrawn his name from consideration in the wake of growing opposition to his candidacy. The Senate Republican Caucus called for Aptaker's resignation two weeks ago, following revelations that he had failed to disclose hundreds of dollars in questionable campaign contributions on his judicial application.

But the bad news didn't end there. Word also leaked out late yesterday afternoon that the Patrick-Murray Administration is poised to dump the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems (MCAS) test and replace it with what is sure to be a less-rigorous and watered-down national standard. This would represent a major step backwards for education reform, given that the high standards set by the MCAS have resulted in Massachusetts' students leading the nation in a number of testing categories.

It's not surprising to see this full-scale attack on the MCAS. After all, this is the same Governor who stripped the state's Board of Education of its long-standing independence, politicized the charter school approval process, and used one of his first appointments to name one of the MCAS' most strident opponents to the board. And let's not forget that Patrick is also beholden to the anti-MCAS teachers unions, which have donated heavily to his campaign.

The Governor's latest actions remind us of an Associated Press story that appeared last fall, in which Boston University communications professor Tobe Berkovitz compared the Administration's Friday-afternoon press dumps to what happened in the final days of the Nixon White House.

"It's right out of the Dick Nixon playbook," Berkovitz told the Associated Press. "During Watergate, they would always unload everything at 20 after 6, just before the network news went on the air at 6:30 p.m."

One can only imagine how many more bad news stories the Patrick-Murray Administration will be looking to bury on a Friday in the coming weeks.