Patrick’s school choice

A Boston Herald editorial today calls on Gov.-elect Charlie Baker to work to eliminate the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts. Baker has been a strong supporter of charters, independently-operated public schools that were first authorized by the state’s 1993 education reform law, and he is likely to try to push in that direction.

But the editorial and a recent Pioneer Institute report that examined current charter school law and regulations are as much a look back at Gov. Deval Patrick‘s legacy on the issue as they are a prescription for the incoming administration. And the assessment of Patrick’s record on the issue is that it’s pretty much been a muddled mess.

A 2010 law aimed at allowing more charter schools (a move Patrick embraced because of the potential to secure millions of dollars in federal aid as a condition of it) has had the unintended consequence of limiting innovation in the charter sector, says the Pioneer report. The report contends that because the law limits new charters in communities that saw their charter cap raised to “proven providers” — organizations with a clear track record serving similar student populations — it has led applicants to safely propose replicating what they have done with other schools rather than encouraging innovation with new models.

An even bigger impediment to charter growth, however, came with adoption of new regulations earlier this year by the Patrick-appointed Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that rework the formula for determining which districts are eligible for more charters under the 2010 law. The law allowed more charters in the lowest performing 10 percent of all districts in the state. That had been determined solely by performance on the state MCAS test. In June, however, the education board voted to make that determination based on a combination of absolute performance (75 percent) and growth in MCAS scores (25 percent). The result bumped from the bottom 10 percent a number of large urban districts with low overall performance and replaced them with small rural districts where growth has been somewhat lower but actual MCAS scores are higher. The regulation change was pushed by state Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville, a longtime charter school opponent, and charter school supporters say it undermined the intent of the 2010 law to make more charter seats available to students in low-performing districts.

As a candidate in 2006, Patrick voiced opposition to raising the cap on charter schools. He swerved to support the 2010 cap lift when it was clear that such a move was necessary for the state to compete for federal money under the federal Race to the Top program. He then settled back into his original stance, voicing no support earlier this year for a bill to further raise the charter cap, and offering no comment on the regulation change that charter school leaders say undermines their efforts.

Patrick’s own life story, as he often tells it, is one that was entirely transformed by educational opportunity. Raised by a single mother in a poor Chicago household, he won a full scholarship to the prestigious Milton Academy, from which he went on to Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Charter schools have served as a Milton Academy for the masses, giving thousands of   families the type of choice of a more promising education that Patrick and a small handful like him have been able to so richly benefit from.

As has been done by education leaders like Geoffrey Canada, who was raised by a single mother in Bronx and went on to found the Harlem Children’s Zone, Patrick could have used his own story as powerful testimony to the need to shake up the education landscape and expand the options for poor and minority students. It’s ironic that despite winning the ultimate school choice lottery, he failed to make that connection.

-MICHAEL JONAS
 

BEACON HILL

The automatic state income tax cut going into place January 1 will further exacerbate the impending budget gap.TheGroup Insurance Commission says it needs $120 million more to cover a shortfall.

For the second time in a year, reports the Globe, the secretive MBTA pension fund has delayed reporting on problems with one of its investments.

Ooops. (Or not?) Not a single one of the roughly 175 people tapped to serve on transition committees for the incoming Baker administration lives in Berkshire, Franklin, or Hampshire counties.

The Globe reported over the weekend that Bryon Hefner, the boyfriend of presumed incoming state Senate presidentStan Rosenberg who has been the source of headaches in recent weeks for Rosenberg’s anticipated ascension, will be transferred by his employer, politically-wired Regan Communications, to handle accounts in Florida.

The Massachusetts Historical Commission will work with the Springfield Historical Commission and MGM to decide how best to preserve some valued buildings on casino land.

The Herald‘s Julie Mehegan likens attempts to burnish Gov. Deval Patrick‘s legacy to “shoveling sand against the tide.”

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

As the Lawrence City Council prepares to take a no-confidence vote in Mayor Dan Rivera, the focus is on his firing of political enemies and his hiring of people without following rules, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh reflects on his first year in office with Keller@Large, including reaffirming his support for an Olympic bid but declaring “I’m not going to mortgage the city’s future.” He also talks to Jim Braude on Broadside.

The state has for the second time ordered Quincy officials to release documents related to the purchase and planned demolition of nine houses to make way for a parking lot and sports field for North Quincy High School.

Wareham selectmen have revived the tradition of walking the town’s boundaries and renewing the border markers, an action that is still actually on the books in state law.

CASINOS

The Berkshire Eagle opines that a glut of casinos in New York and New England means that some of them won’t survive.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The head of New York City‘s police union blames the assassination of two officers on Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying, “That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.” There are fears of a backlashfrom the killings against the protest movement that has sought to spotlight police dealings with the black community.

This just in: Congress didn’t do much this session.

Google sues Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood over an alleged state effort to restrict Internet searches,Governing reports.

US Reps. Katherine Clark and Joe Kennedy explain the problems they are having reaching across the aisle.

Bloomberg Politics wonders why the Obama administration thinks Native American tribes are chomping at the bit to grow marijuana commercially.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Freighter ship traffic has grown markedly in the past two years in New Bedford Harbor.

Waste Management sells Wheelabrator Technologies to Energy Capital Partners for $1.94 billion. Wheelabrator operates the incinerator in Saugus, the Item reports.

The New York Times Magazine profiles Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

EDUCATION

A third grade teacher at UP Academy in Dorchester who won a $150,000 contest is donating the entire prize to her school.

Lots of local names are being floated as talk begins about a successor to departing UMass president Robert Caret.

HEALTH CARE

Steward Health Care has stopped accepting in-patients at Quincy Medical Center, which it is planning to close at the end of the month despite state and city objections that it violates an agreement the for-profit company signed.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin admits the cannot afford single-payer health care, Politico reports.

TRANSPORTATION

A dog bites man story: Transportation in and around Boston would be a big challenge if the city hosted the 2024Olympics.

Pedestrians aren’t paying attention or is it drivers? Western Massachusetts debates blame for a spate of fatal accidents involving pedestrians.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Executions hit a 20-year low in 2014 around the United States with 35 inmates put to death and a new report says the downturn may signal a downward trend as fewer capital punishment sentences are handed down.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

MEDIA

Sony will release “The Interview,” you can bet on it.