Charters facing backlash all over country

It always seems to come back to charter schools.

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for just over a week and the strike ended with the teachers getting much of what they wanted — smaller class sizes, full-time nurses at every campus, librarians at every secondary school, additional counselors at high schools, a 6 percent raise, and curtailment of standardized testing.

The Atlantic saw the outcome as a symbolic victory for a teachers union that had portrayed itself as fighting not just for its members but for the 486,000 students they teach. But with the agreement came a commitment from the school district and the mayor to push the pro-charter Los Angeles Board of Education to approve a resolution calling on state officials to place a moratorium on new charter schools while a study is done examining the impact of charters on traditional public schools.

Most analysts say the resolution, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, has little chance of passing. And there is no guarantee that even if it does pass lawmakers in Sacramento will take note and beat a retreat on charters. In other words, the fight between charter school and district school supporters is likely to go on in Los Angeles and across California.

The New York Times reports that the Los Angeles teachers strike — following on the heels of charter defeats in California, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and other states — has demonstrated that, in the court of public opinion, “charter schools are facing a backlash and severe skepticism.”

“As the push for alternatives to traditional public schools has come to be more associated with President Trump and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, the shift in Democratic Party politics has been especially pronounced. President Barack Obama supported expanding high-quality charter schools, and pushed teachers’ unions to let go of some of their traditional seniority protections and put more emphasis on raising student achievement.

“But after a wave of mass teacher walkouts across the nation, and with a noticeable shift to the left in the party, ambitious national Democrats now seem more hesitant to criticize organized labor. Senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren were among those who said they supported the striking teachers in Los Angeles. The city’s charter school leaders couldn’t help but notice that no equally prominent elected Democrat rose to the defense of Los Angeles charter schools as union leaders attacked them.”

None of this is all that surprising to folks in Massachusetts, where the charter-district school warfare is unremitting. The latest skirmish is going on in New Bedford, where city officials squared off against a charter school seeking to expand enrollment dramatically. The shooting only stopped, at least temporarily, when state Education Commissioner Jeff Riley negotiated a compromise that allowed the charter to add only a third of the students it wanted in return for a vacant school and agreeing to draw students from its immediate neighborhood rather than across the district.

“In a time of great polarization, it’s heartening to see folks come together and work on behalf of who matters most, I hope, to all of us, which is our students,” Riley said.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Karen Spilka say they are laying plans to help federal workers if the federal government is shut down again. (CommonWealth)

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who is in charge of the Massachusetts Lottery, makes an urgent plea to allow the “mission-driven organization” to take bets online. (Boston Globe)

The Boston Herald continues to go at the quasi-public financing agency MassHousing over its spending habits for parties, out-of-town conferences, and meals.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

As Methuen lays off 50 police officers, Sean Cronin, the a Department of Revenue official serving as the city’s fiscal stability officer, said the state may need to step up its oversight of the city. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Joan Vennochi says Nancy “Nancy” Pelosi schooled President Trump — and also showed a thing or two to Rep. Seth Moulton, who had claimed his party needed a more effective leader. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

No one wants to remove President Donald Trump from office more than Howard Schultz, says the former Starbucks CEO, but his potential independent candidacy has worried Democrats who share that goal, and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, another centrist business titan, said an independent candidate would likely “split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President.” (WGBH News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The state’s leading immigrant advocacy group launches a group made up of allies in the business community. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology will sell the South End building that has been its opening the acclaimed two-year school opened in 1908 and use the proceeds to relocate to a new campus somewhere in Boston. (Boston Globe) Check out this 2011 CommonWealth feature on the school, which some say the state’s public two-year community colleges could learn something from.

Although her misspelled name appears under the text of a letter supporting the proposed Equity Lab Charter School in Lawrence, Susan Grabski, director of the Lawrence History Center, says she never signed onto it. Now the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is investigating whether Frank Devito, the school’s director, faked letters of support. (Eagle-Tribune)

Beverly wants to hire someone to manage its top secret $3.75 million school security project. The town has refused to disclose what that security project would entail so candidates must sign a confidentiality agreement to learn more about what they would be managing. (Salem News)

Fitchburg State University launches IdeaLab, which includes game-design space, in the renovated Theater Block on Main Street. (Telegram & Gazette)

A shortage of teacher substitutes is wreaking havoc in some school districts. Saugus school officials trying to crack down on unexplained student absences received pushback from parents who say their children are often being warehoused in the cafeteria when their regular teachers don’t show up for work. (Daily Item)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Globe reports that Partners HealthCare CEO David Torchiana “abruptly” resigned last night, and points to tension between him and leaders of two major Partners hospitals as a possible reason. Torchiana, who took the reins at the state’s largest health care provider network in 2015, laid out his vision — and pushed back at the idea of Partners as Public Enemy No. 1 —  in this 2016 Conversation feature in CommonWealth.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling says so-called “safe injection sites” are neither safe — nor legal — and his office would aggressively enforce the latter point should there be a move to launch such a location in the state. (Boston Globe) A group of mothers who have had children die of overdoses says the sites could save lives. (Boston Herald) Mayor Marty Walsh says the state is “not ready” for safe injection sites. (Boston Globe)

The Falmouth Board of Health will reconsider its vote of a needle-exchange program. The measure faced opposition, forcing the board to abandon a plan to open at an initial location. The AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod is searching for an alternative location. (Cape Cod Times)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Haley House Bakery Cafe in Roxbury, which has supported Boston’s community of poets, has closed its doors, at least for now, as the non-profit that owns it re-evaluates its business model. (WBUR News)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA proposes raising fares 6.3 percent starting July 1 to raise $32 million, which would be used to offset rising expenses. Gov. Charlie Baker says users of the transit system need to pay their fare share of the cost. (CommonWealth) The advocacy group TransitMatters decries the move, saying any fare increase should be accompanied by increases in the gas tax and tax for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. A Herald editorial, itself a model of efficiency at all of 125 words, says the T should look to more efficiencies rather than boost fares.

A T analysis concludes it’s time to start saying goodbye to the 1940s-era trolleys on the line that runs between Ashmont Station in Dorchester and Mattapan and phase them out entirely in eight to 10 years. The most likely replacement would be Green Line cars just now being delivered for use on the Green Line extension. (CommonWealth)

T notes: A new study indicates commuter rail ridership rose 21.2 percent between 2012 and 2018, but that may not be as big a jump as it seems…..Chrystal Kornegay, the executive director of MassHousing, joins the Fiscal and Management Control Board….Should MBTA police be in charge of preventing fare evasion, or is that approach too confrontational? (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker says he wants to try to recoup some of the more than $20 million in unpaid tolls by out-of-state drivers, zeroing in on the $5 million owed by motorists from neighboring Connecticut. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The recent federal shutdown left some fishing boats stuck ashore, as NOAA Fisheries workers were furloughed so boat owners couldn’t receive permits or transfer quota. Regional Administrator Mike Pentony said the agency is behind schedule on “many critically important actions.” (Gloucester Daily Times)

In order to meet its carbon-neutral goals by 2050, Boston will need to retrofit its old buildings and build green new ones, discourage driving in favor of cleaner transportation modes, cut back on trash, and rely on solar for 20 percent of power generation, according to a report by the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. (WBUR News)

CASINOS

Nevada gaming board officials released the results of their investigation of Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts, which concludes Steve Wynn raped, sexually harassed, and pressured employees to have sex for more than a decade and a series of high-ranking company officials who learned of the wrongdoing failed to take steps to address it. The gaming board negotiated a settlement with Wynn Resorts that would require the company to pay a fine while allowing it to retain its gaming license. The settlement now goes to a separate commission for final approval. (CommonWealth) JPMorgan analyst Joseph Greff said in a note that “given the Nevada Gaming Control Board settlement, we have a hard time imagining there will be a much different outcome in Massachusetts.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The two Native American tribes that own casinos in Connecticut are making a legislative push to add a third in East Windsor that would compete more directly against MGM Springfield in Massachusetts. The tribes are calling the proposed casino Tribal Winds. (MassLive)

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is opposing legislation aimed at securing reservation land for its sister tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag. Vineyard tribe opposes legislation that would benefit Mashpee Wampanoag casino efforts. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

At the start of the federal bribery trial against Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor and four other company executives, prosecutor David Lazarus said the case is about “what happens when you put profits above people.” Kapoor allegedly paid kickbacks — often in the form of large speaker fees — to doctors who prescribed a fentanyl-based pain medication. (WGBH News)

A jaw-dropping incidence of road rage on the Massachusetts Turnpike on Friday has landed two men in court. Mark Fitzgerald, of Ashland, allegedly drove at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour while Richard Kamrowski, of Framingham, clung to his hood. (WBUR News) Fitzgerald was finally boxed in by other drivers, one of whom drew a gun. (MassLive)

The excavation of land in the Tewksbury State Hospital Conservation Restriction Area is being done “in connection to an ongoing investigation and is not related to a recent event,” says a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, but she won’t say what that investigation is. (Lowell Sun)