The Codcast: Charter school question at the wire

The vitriol and division that have been the hallmarks of the presidential race nationally have found their way to the state ballot question in Massachusetts on expanding charter schools.

The contest over Question 2 has drawn more than $30 million in spending between the two sides, with emotionally driven arguments from both camps about who is standing up for kids and schools. The paid ads have been pointed, but stayed within bounds. On social media, things have gotten considerably uglier.

Charter proponents say it’s a matter of civil rights and giving predominantly low-income, minority families stuck in low-performing urban schools a better option. They say those with means always have choice — whether it’s moving to a more affluent community or private schools — and charters help even the playing field for those without such options.

Opponents of the ballot question say charters create a two-tier system of public education that leaves most families behind, and they say the funding of charters leaves district systems strapped as they struggle to meet the needs of the remaining students.

Lots of the focus is on Boston, home to about one-quarter of the state’s 40,000 charter school students and the place that is likely to see the most charter school growth should the ballot question pass. Two Boston city councilors joined The Codcast to share their opposing views on the question. Andrea Campbell, a district councilor representing Dorchester and Mattapan, supports Question 2. Ayanna Pressley, an at-large councilor who lives in Dorchester, opposes the measure.

They bring plenty of passion to the discussion — but thankfully spare us the vitriol.

Campbell says her constituents are faced with far too many low-performing Boston district schools. They “don’t have the luxury of moving,” she says, explaining her support for more charter school options. “These families are desperate for something else,” she says, “and I think that frustration, that desperation, and that pain is missing from the conversations.”

Pressley says charter expansion would only add more financial pressure to already struggling schools. She points to the announcement this week that the chronically underperforming Mattahunt Elementary School in Mattapan will be closed down.  She calls it “an example of a school that has been under-resourced” in its efforts to get on track. She faulted the state’s current failure to fully fund the reimbursement formula designed to help districts transition to lower enrollments when students leave for charters, and says as long as that continues “our schools are forced to do more with less.”

Campbell says she’s not convinced that money is the problem holding back Boston’s district schools.

The conversation is pointed but still respectful. What a concept. Give a listen.

–MICHAEL JONAS

BEACON HILL

The state comptroller said the initial review of the use of Department of Conservation and Recreation resources for a private pre-Fourth of July party underestimated the cost and “lacked impartiality” because it was carried out by a DCR employee who was invited to the bash. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Worcester begins a discussion on how to reduce its reliance on property taxes, with a paper outlining 16 proposals. (Masslive)

The Barnstable Town Council approved a land swap that will allow a shuttered firing range on conservation land, closed since 2012 when it was discovered the town’s insurance didn’t provide coverage, to reopen. (Cape Cod Times)

Halifax officials are asking Town Hall visitors to be mindful of how they smell when entering the building, asking people not to douse themselves in too much perfume or cologne. (Patriot Ledger)

A Brockton city councilor wants to convert the city’s Shaw Center from a convention venue to a senior center and turn Campanelli Stadium, home of the Brockton Rox, over to the school department when the leases expire on both facilities in about five years. (The Enterprise)

ELECTIONS

With polls showing the presidential race tightening, Hillary Clinton is shifting to defense, working to preserve her firewall of must-win states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. (Boston Globe) A UMass Lowell poll in New Hampshire has the race tied, with Donald Trump picking up backing from voters defecting from Libertarian Gary Johnson. (Lowell Sun)

With the emergence of the renewed FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails, conservatives are talking openly about the possibility of impeaching Clinton if she wins. (National Review)

Donald Trump’s income doesn’t always square with his claims of how much he makes, according to a New York Times review of publicly available documents.

Finally common ground: More than 80 percent of voters say they are disgusted with this year’s election, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

State Rep. Michael Day, a Stoneham Democrat, is hit by attack mailers over his vote to support transgender rights legislation that ominously charge him with “allowing boys to shower in girls locker rooms.” (Boston Globe)

Michael Petrilli wonders if Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has railed against the influence of money in politics, was influenced herself by more than $200,000 in teachers union donations when she came out against Question 2 despite a long history of support for even more disruptive school choice reforms. (Wall Street Journal)

With ballot initiatives playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, big money lobbying firms are courting secretaries of states to have some influence in how the referendums are worded. (New York Times)

Eric Fehrnstrom comes to the defense of FBI director James Comey. (Boston Globe)

Layers of shady operators appear to be behind Question 1, the ballot question that would allow another slot machine operation in the state. (Boston Globe)

The Republican in Springfield comes out in support of marijuana legalization. The scare tactics being used by opponents of marijuana legalization are getting out of hand. (CommonWealth)

In making the case for voters to embrace the Community Preservation Act, James Levitt and Barbara Erickson note that self-taxation for conservation started with the Boston Common. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker will head to New Hampshire this weekend to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu.

Moody’s Investor Services, which earlier this week warned four Massachusetts cities that their credit rating could be hurt if the charter school ballot question passes, has not followed through with its promise to provide at least a draft report detailing its concern by Wednesday of this week. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Greater Boston takes a look at local efforts to regulate home-sharing apps such as Airbnb in the absence of state oversight.

The Northshore Mall in Peabody is planning a major facelift. (Gloucester Times)

The smile on your friendly crew member at your local Trader Joe’s may be masking workplace demoralization and discontent, according to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Harvard is cancelling the remainder of the university’s men’s soccer team season after it was revealed that the team’s practice of rating women, which an earlier report linked to the 2012 team, has continued to the present team. (The Harvard Crimson)

A Malden charter school is seeking “liquidated damages” from a teacher who left to take a job at another school. (CommonWealth)

A third grade boy brings a .25-caliber handgun to school in Lowell. (Lowell Sun)

Worcester officials are worried the school system may not be able to pull off full implementation of the state’s new standardized tests. (Telegram & Gazette)

Elevated levels of lead have been found in five more drinking fountains in Quincy schools. (Patriot Ledger)

TRANSPORTATION

Complaints about trashy subway stations are up nearly 50 percent since the MBTA shed janitors from its cleaning force in September. (Boston Herald)

On the Massachusetts Turnpike, 81 percent of the toll booth demolition work is done. (Masslive)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A symposium of about 200 scientists and researchers at New Bedford’s Whaling Museum focused on strategies to save the right whale, whose population showed a decline last year for the first time in 15 years. (Standard-Times)

CASINOS

A 41-member police unit will be assigned to the area around the MGM casino in Springfield once it opens in 2018. (Masslive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is found in the driver who was involved in the wrong-way crash that killed five teenagers in Vermont. (Berkshire Eagle)

MEDIA

Why are NFL television ratings down? Lots of explanations. (Bloomberg Business Week) Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman says it’s because “the league isn’t fun anymore.”