Winter 2014

Winter 2014

DOR to taxpayers: Don’t forget use tax

DOR to taxpayers: Don’t forget use tax

Peanuts that add up

Revenue department commissioner Amy Pitter has three words for those still debating whether sales tax should be paid on Internet purchases: pay use tax. Policymakers in Washington and on Beacon Hill may be split on whether out-of-state companies should be required to collect and remit sales tax on purchases made by Massachusetts residents. But Pitter(...)

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Lawrence school receiver cuts central office staff by 30%

Lawrence school receiver cuts central office staff by 30%

Savings go to schools

Two years ago, when Jeff Riley was put in charge of Lawrence’s failing school system under a new state law, he made a surprising declaration for someone who had just been handed broad authority over virtually every aspect of the district’s operation: He was not planning to use those powers as a state-appointed “receiver” to(...)

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How the data were gathered

How the data were gathered

It wasn’t easy assembling the data for this report. No one agency or office compiles a comprehensive list of instances when police use deadly force, so CommonWealth gathered the information from the state’s district attorneys, the State Police, state and federal court records, and the state Department of Public Health, which tracks all shooting injuries(...)

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Public defender blues

Public defender blues

The taxpayer tab for indigent defense keeps rising, but the lawyers who do the work are among the lowest paid in the country

Malden District Court is 50 shades of grim. The defendants in the packed courtroom—men and women, some young, most not—appear somber, resigned, or just plain petrified. The female judge whispers to attorneys. No one seems to know where the Spanish interpreter is, so the Portuguese interpreter does double duty. The court clerk yells out names(...)

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The change agent

The change agent

With a bold plan to revamp the teacher hiring process, Boston’s interim school superintendent is doing a lot more than just keeping the seat warm

John McDonough is the interim superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. He’s the anonymous guy who is supposed to keep the school bureaucracy at 26 Court Street running smoothly until Boston’s new mayor, Marty Walsh, can orchestrate the hiring of a new superintendent. McDonough looks the part. He’s got thinning white hair and is nearing(...)

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Healing health care

Healing health care

Do Bob Master and Rushika Fernandopulle have the cure for what ails American medicine?

Through the fall, and on into winter, health care was everywhere in the news, with one story after another about problems with various aspects of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. The one that seemed to capture all the woes with fitting digital-age symbolism was the virtual meltdown of the Obamacare website, the main(...)

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Clearing the cops

Clearing the cops

Do district attorneys rubber-stamp police use of deadly force?

FROM THE TINY TOWN of Colrain at the Vermont border to the siren-pierced streets of Boston, state and local police have shot and killed 73 people across Massachusetts over the last 12 years. The deadliest year was 2013, when 12 people were killed. Every completed killing investigation found the police were justified in using deadly(...)

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Resetting the bar

Resetting the bar

New education vision needed to guide Massachusetts schools in the 21st century

With headlines routinely proclaiming that Massachusetts “tops the nation” on national or international comparisons of student performance, it might come as a shock that over 40 percent of all students and nearly two-thirds of high-needs students are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. And these numbers have remained largely unchanged for the(...)

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