More charter schools on the way

The news that the state will lift the temporary moratorium it had imposed on new charter schools in several Massachusetts cities was greeted with the expected applause from charter school operators and advocates.  “City on a Hill is thrilled, over the moon, and excited about the opportunity to offer high-quality college preparatory high school seats to more students in Boston,” Erica Brown, executive director of City on Hill charter school in Roxbury, which wants to open a second school, told the Globe.

But what is more noteworthy is the absence in today’s Globe story of any carping about the move from any district public school leaders. That doesn’t mean reporter James Vaznis couldn’t have found someone to offer such criticism.  His story includes the boilerplate sentence that school districts have long opposed charter schools, mainly, they say, because of the funding formula that steers money away from districts and to charters for every child a  charter school enrolls. But the leader of the state’s largest public school district — and the one that has lost the most students to charters — Boston Superintendent Carol Johnson, told the him she is ready to compete with charters for students and not try to hold back their expansion. Just over a year ago, Boston district and charter leaders struck a historic compact pledging to work together on behalf of public school students in the city.

In 2010, the Legislature approved a doubling of the allotment of charter school seats in districts serving the state’s neediest students, but the new law prescribed a phasing in of the new seats over time. That has created some administrative headaches as officials try to project enrollment numbers for charter schools, many of which open with only one or two grades and then add a new grade each year. Concerned about possibly bumping up against the phased-in new enrollment caps, the state had put a temporary hold on new charters in several cities, which state education commissioner Mitchell Chester now plans to lift.

Even with the move, however, there will remain a lot of pent-up demand for charter school seats.  There are more than 4,000 students on waiting lists for charter school seats in Lawrence alone.  Even as they welcome today’s news from state officials, charter school leaders say they plan to push legislation next year to increase the number of charter school seats in the state.

                                                                                                                                                    –MICHAEL JONAS

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Yesterday’s selectmen election in Foxborough has tilted the five-member board even more strongly against a casino proposal for the town. Steve Wynn’s casino proposal drove turnout in the town. In western Mass, Westfield has expressed interest in a casino. Penn National Gaming is negotiating to purchase land in Westfield for a casino, AP reports (via Lowell Sun).

In a sort of “what is is” moment, the Fall River City Council debated the meaning of the term “cease and desist.”

Abington selectmen are hiring an independent attorney to investigate claims against the town manager, including breach of contract.

The Springfield City Council takes a symbolic vote urging the Legislature to reject a “stand your ground” proposal.

Framingham works out a deal with TJX that includes “contractual clawbacks.”

ELECTION 2012

US Rep. John Tierney asks his Republican challenger, Richard Tisei, to agree to limit the impact of outside money in their race just as US Sen Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren are doing, the Salem News reports.

The Republican argues that so far the contest between Brown and Warren has generated lots of noise but not much discussion of the real issues facing Bay State residents. In the Atlantic, Wendy Kaminer defends elitism in politics. The Eagle-Tribune, in an editorial, slams Warren for her Native American claims.

Acknowledging the campaign is “now bigger than a Beantown clique,” Mitt Romney’s aides are expanding their group to include some heavyweight advisors with national standing beyond Bostonians like Ed Gillespie.

Breaking: Joe Biden is not skilled at holding his tongue.

While rich Republicans dump their piles of unlimited money into advertising blitzes, rich Democrats are pushing unlimited piles of money into voter turnout efforts.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A New Bedford seafood plant let go 60 workers, whose immigration papers were flagged as questionable during an audit by Homeland Security. Some of the workers had been working there for more than a decade,

Brockton officials want to offer a $1 million tax break to a linen laundry service to move its operations from Fall River to the City of Champions.

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow, in his weekly Globe column, takes stock of the long journey that is about to culminate in a revived Jackson Square in Boston.

EDUCATION

A majority of parents of children in elementary and middle school in Salem favor the use of uniforms, the Salem News reports.

U..S. News & World Report has come out with its rankings of the nation’s best high schools and three in Massachusetts made it in the top 100 — Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis (#15); Boston Latin School (#62); and Hopkinton High School (#89).

Boston College and Boston College High School will share a $27 million shot in the arm, courtesy of a grateful alumnus.

The New Bedford mayor and schools superintendent have reached an agreement about whether the schools chief will leave her post but details will not be announced until tomorrow night.

HEALTH CARE

John McDonough, on his Health Stew blog on Boston.com, offers “two cheers” for the health care cost control bill rolled out last week by the House. His biggest reservation: The legislation pays “only lip service to prevention, wellness, and public health.”

City councilors in Methuen vote to raise the base rate for transporting a patient in an ambulance from $583 to $913, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Radio Boston hosts a discussion about a Blue Cross Blue Shield effort to crack down on painkiller abuse.

TRANSPORTATION

Keller@Large thinks $1.3 million to make new signs for the state’s toll booths changing the name from “Fast Lane“ to “E-ZPass” is too much of a toll on taxpayers.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Electricity prices continue to fall — along with the price of natural gas.

A wind developer suspends work on a turbine off the coast of Virginia, citing concerns over federal energy policy and the possible expiration of a renewable energy tax credit, the McClatchy Newspapers report.

With nuclear power out of favor, reducing carbon emissions becomes much harder, Time reports.

What does it mean to have more moose? UMass Amherst is investigating.

A mild winter has left the mouth of the Merrimack River choked with sand, less than two years after the river was dredged.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Supreme Judicial Court releases a sex offender and denies a request for a longer civil commitment because of a missed deadline, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The decimated ranks of the New England Mafia might not quite be able to squeeze into a phone booth (if there were still any of those around), but a modest-sized living room might do the trick.

A Weymouth police officer has been placed on leave after being charged with assaulting his 9-year-old twin daughters during a weekend visit, charges his lawyer said he “vehemently” denies.

MEDIA

The Washington Post is in even worse shape than you think, Forbes reports.