Charter schools compromise fails

April 11, 2014
By

The state Legislature’s Joint Committee of Education, which local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz co-chairs, failed to reach a compromise last month on the lifting the cap on charter schools in Boston and several other urban school districts.

But state Rep. Alice Peisch, the other co-chair of the Joint Committee of Education, filed legislation in the state House to lift the cap on charter schools after the failed compromise. It is unclear what will happen with that legislation.

Charter schools are contentious, as they are publicly funded, but operate outside school districts’ rules. Supporters point to charter schools’ academic successes, while critics, such as teacher unions, say they hurt public schools.

The compromise would have lifted the cap in exchange for the state reimbursing school districts for students who left non-charters for charters.

Hannah Hastings, spokesperson for Chang-Díaz, said the senator was unavailable for an interview, but released a comment from her to the Gazette.

“I am truly disappointed that the good work done by many education stakeholders, including my co-chair Rep. Peisch, over the past several months did not move out of the Joint Committee on Education,” she said. “All our children—district and charter—deserve action on the provisions we’ve been working on. The bill would have included reforms that would have put Massachusetts on the forefront of innovation in education policy.”

The Joint Committee on Education had faced considerable pressure to reach a compromise on the lifting the cap, including a pro-charter school letter signed from 145 business leaders, such as CEOs from EMC Corporation and Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

Chang-Díaz said that she was “sad that obstinacy and polarized rhetoric stood in the way of compromise and progress.”

“The fact that too many parties could not get out of their corners to find a practical middle reminds me of the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. right now,” she said. “Unfortunately, it’s children in all public school systems, district and charter alike, who are suffering for it.”

Local state Rep. Russell Holmes, who sponsored legislation lifting the cap and was involved in the negotiations, did not respond to a request for comment.

Best of JP 2014