Family feud

Democrats in Massachusetts don’t have many Republicans to fight and the one they do – Gov. Charlie Baker – has charmed them into passivity.

But in the ballot question to raise the charter school cap, they have apparently found a cause to go to war with but it appears they’re battling each other in a rift that is driving a wedge between some Democrats and many of its most staunch traditional allies.

After a brief fight at a meeting in Lawrence on Tuesday, the Democratic State Committee pushed by union leaders voted to make opposition to the referendum the official stance of the state committee. While it pleased officials from the teachers unions, many party stalwarts were upset with the move, saying Democrats were biting off their noses to spite their faces, or something like that.

“Tonight, a small group of state Democratic Party insiders hijacked a meeting and passed a resolution with little warning and no debate or discussion,” Liam Kerr, director of the Democratic group in favor of the ballot question, said in a statement. “The Massachusetts party insiders are so out of step they won’t even listen to those who stand with low-income families and families of color desperate for a better education for their children.”

Former state representative Marty Walz, who opposed charter expansion when she was in office because of the funding hit on local districts, says she now realizes that’s a cover for her fellow Democrats to have it both ways: Support charter schools but deny funding, to appease teacher unions.

“It takes courage to stand up to special interests,” Walz wrote in an oped in the Boston Herald last week after the Boston City Council voted to oppose the ballot question. “It takes courage for Democrats to stand up to organized labor and say that kids come first.”

The issue is causing a rift even within Democrats themselves, let alone among them. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a proponent of charter schools despite his support among the teachers union, says he can’t bring himself to cast a vote in favor of the question that would allow the cap on charters to be lifted for 12 new schools each year.

“Charters schools are not bad; they are not our enemies,’’ he said at a function welcoming back teachers and principals on Wednesday. “The enemy is that this ballot question doesn’t give us a funding source and that money is going to have to come from somewhere.”

The resolution, which was offered by AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman, was especially harsh in its language, equating charter schools with the financial demons Democrats despise. The resolution says the campaign in favor of the referendum “is funded and governed by hidden money provided by Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers,” though it offers no specifics. But Tolman says the fallout from 20 years of charter schools is apparent.

“Charter schools are actually interfering with the public school system in many ways,” he said.

That, though, might come as news to many Democrats who support charters, such as President Obama, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and former governor Deval Patrick. There’s even division within staffs. Mara Dolan, communications director for Senate President Stan Rosenberg, tweeted out her approval of the state committee action with a jab at those in her party who support the cap expansion.

“This just in: Democrats in Massachusetts turn out to be real Democrats after all, vote to oppose increasing charter schools,” she wrote.

That forced Rosenberg, who says he would have preferred the issue of the cap be dealt with in the legislative process, to distance himself from Dolan’s remarks because some of his members want to see the cap lifted.

“She spoke for herself, not for me,” Rosenberg said when asked about the tweet.

Even Baker noted the division within the party and expressed regret over the growing chasm. Or maybe not.

“I find it disappointing that the Democratic Party, which I believe is full of a lot of people who believe in equal opportunity and giving everybody a chance, would choose to be against something that is so important, especially to working class families in underperforming school districts,” he said. “They deserve better and they deserve a yes vote on Nov. 8.”

JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

On Tuesday, the Boston Globe suggested Sen. Brian Joyce might be shortchanging the town of Milton on property tax payments, noting there had been no permits pulled for interior work on his home except for plumbing since the year before Joyce bought the property in 2003. On Wednesday, Joyce provided to the Patriot Ledger copies of eight permits for work on the home pulled between 1998 and 2010. Today, the Globe discounts those permits because most of them were pulled before Joyce bought the house. Something isn’t adding up.

Gov. Charlie Baker gets the fawning treatment from National Review as how a conservative should look, act, and govern.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson documents how Worcester is changing by taking a look at deadhorse hill, a restaurant that opened last spring.

CityScore, Boston’s way of measuring how city government is performing, suggests Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration is always above average. (Boston Globe)

The Salem police chief orders two pit bulls euthanized after they attack a woman and her dog. (Salem News)

Fall River paid $20,000 to defend itself in a suit filed by 10 taxpayers challenging the city’s move to private trash collection. A judge dismissed the suit. (Herald News

Wareham selectmen are considering removing a member of the town’s Community and Economic Development Authority over allegations he harassed and bullied other members of the board and eavesdropped on a private conversation of the Town Administrator. (Standard-Times)

ELECTIONS

Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t swayed by a pep talk from Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. Baker praises Pence, but not his running mate Donald Trump. (State House News)

Trump shakes up his campaign staff once more but indications are it’s more of an effort to return to his primary bomb-throwing ways rather than mellow out for the general election. (U.S. News & World Report)

South Dakota voters will go to the ballot in November with the opportunity to revamp politics in that state. (Governing)

Keller@Large says former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who is flirting with a run for Senate, is a baseball savant but clueless when it comes to politics.

American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein, a Bay State resident, says he wouldn’t want Dr. Jill Stein for a physician, let alone a president.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Federal Reserve officials say near-term economic risks have diminished and a rate hike may now be warranted. (Associated Press)

EDUCATION

Sandra Stotsky wonders why officials are so intent on punishing students who opt out of state- and federally-mandated tests. (CommonWealth)

An eight-year survey in Falmouth shows drug and alcohol use among students is on the decline. (Cape Cod Times)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A Boston Herald editorial says the Affordable Care Act is crumbling, and cites as Exhibit A Aetna’s decision to pull out of health exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it serves. A Boston Globe editorial, however, suggests the law is working, despite some flaws. The Herald view is undercut by reports that Aetna’s withdrawal was spurred by the federal government’s rejection of its $37 billion merger with Humana. (Governing)

Preventable oral health issues that could have been addressed in dentists’ offices but ended up being treated in emergency rooms cost Massachusetts as much as $36 million in 2014, according to a new report from state health officials.(State House News Service)

TRANSPORTATION

Uber brings self-driving cars to Pittsburgh. Initially, the vehicles will be supervised by a human in the driver’s seat. (Bloomberg)

The cost of rebuilding the Longfellow Bridge in Boston remains unclear, as will who will pay for the overruns. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Supreme Judicial Court rejects the “pipeline tax” proposed by the Baker administration to help finance a new natural gas pipeline into the region. (CommonWealth)

The summer drought is endangering wildlife in the region as streams dry up, leaving animals without water to drink and fish and other aquatic life in the rivers threatened. (MetroWest Daily News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Brazil officials pulled two US Olympic swimmers off their planes home after doubts surfaced over their account of being robbed. A judge had also ordered the passport for fellow swimmer Ryan Lochte to be seized over the case but he had already landed in the US. (New York Times)

The Supreme Judicial Court agrees to hear out the American Civil Liberties Union on a comprehensive proposal to deal with the 24,400 court cases tainted by the involvement of state chemist Annie Dookhan. (Boston Herald)

Former Attorney General Martha Coakley says Boston officials should have waited for volunteers in the police department for the body camera pilot program rather than forcing unwilling officers to wear them. (Greater Boston)

Whitey Bulger asks the US Supreme Court to hear his appeal. (Associated Press)

Six teens charged with defacing Fort Revere in Hull with spraypainted graffiti will each perform 100 hours of community service under a new diversion program instituted by the Plymouth District Attorney’s office. (Patriot Ledger)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    If any CommonWealth readers would like to know the specifics on the pro-charter schools dark money then take a look at two article son WGBH’s website: The Hidden Money Behind Great Schools: Strategic Grant Partners and Dark Money in the Great Schools MA TV Ad.