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^ triumph day in the House for State Representative Russell Holmes

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Debate on the charter cap lift legislation began at 2 PM yesterday and, according to my best source, who received the news by e-mail, the bill was adopted by a vote of 116 to 35. According to my source, the bill — styled “an act to further narrow the achievement gap,” and first filed by Dorchester State Representative Russell Holmes, was adopted with no amendments. And there were plenty on offer.

Earlier this year I opined at length on the goods and bads of this legislation. In particular I disliked that the bill lifts the cap on charter sc hools only for “underperforming’ districts,’ as state education laws define the term. To me, this was an invitation to shaky, but not disastrous, school distticts, to slack their efforts, so as to be designated “underperforming” ; because parents a with children enrolled in such districts would now have an alternative very much desired and currently not availoable to them. This was what happened when our state adopted Special education’s school plan for children so designated. Parents fought to win “special needs” designation for their children so that they could get the one-on-one curriculum offered by the program.

That said, it is most significant that this legislation was offered by Russell Holmes, who represents one of the economically poorest districts in the state. charter schools are intensely wanted by parents in such neighborhoods, which have had to bear with some of the worst performing schools in the State. It’s hard not to conclude that the money and talent goes to school districts with higher income, more influential parents. Those without money lack power; that;s a fact. One doesn’t like to see low-income districts lose confidence in public schools, but that’s how it is; and who are we to tell such parents that no, you can’t have a chance at something better ?

It was argued to me, by my own state Representative, that the teachers and staff in marginal districts would fight NOT to be designated as “underperforming” because it might mean layoffs and the imposition of principals’ autin hiring new staff. This is a powerful argument; I think that my State Rep has it right.

If so, then the House’s 116-35 enactment vote yesterday will be on balance a good thing. Reimubursement, for pupils lost to charter schools, to the school districts so affected remains an issue both ways. The formula seems arbitrary. But it’s also a way to get more State funds into the budgets of affected school districts. As State education funds aid to local school systems has all but diusapperared, the reimbursement money will surely be very welciome at the district level.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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