TWO UPDATES : CHARTER SCHOOL LEGISLATION ; ENERGY MATTERS

CB at charter hearing

^ Governor Baker testifying in support of his legislation to allow 12 new charter schools annually in underperforming school districts

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Yesterday will be marked as the day that charter school cap lift legislation died, leaving next year’s ballot initiative as the only recourse.

I say this despite the superb organizing and passionate appeal made by Governor Baker and his team in preparation for the day’s hearing before the Education Committee chaired by State Representative Alice Peisch.

Baker’s legislation will die because it does not have Mayor Walsh’s support. Walsh wants a charter school cap lift, but at a different pace than Baker calls for, and with a very high price attached : $ 55 million in compensation money for Boston’s school department budget. That’s not happening, any more than Walsh is getting millions from Everett casino operator Steve Wynn.

Walsh’s cross purposing Baker’s charter cap initiative allows the Mayor to have it both ways. He seems to support the charter school movement and its many Boston supporters — with fine words : “I support a charter cap lift,” said he at the hearing — but in fact his fine words assure that there will be no charter cap law enacted, thereby allowing him to satisfy, if not thrill, the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) and its dogged anti-charter school agenda. BTU President Richard Stutman sat in the audience and smiled. i saw him there smiling.

Walsh’s decision to give lip service to charters but the prize to charter opponents puts the entire burden on next year’s ballot initiative. Will it pass ? It well might. The organizing group Great Schools Massachusetts is developing a serious ground game for it. My guess is that Walsh will be Ok with a successful referendum. He’ll get some charter school cap lift — which he has always wanted — yet the blame, from Boston’s very vocal anti-charter forces, will fall on Baker, not on Walsh, as he faces re-election.

Such an outcome might even satisfy Governor Baker. His organizing will solidify his support among Boston’s many charter school supporters (though not from all ; see next paragraph) going into his own 2018 re-election fight. In particular, Baker is likely to gain a pretty effective ground game in Boston’s communities of color (COC), where charter school cap lift enthusiasm runs strong. COC charter advocates filled the auditorium at yesterday’;s hearing.

Curiously, Baker’s legislation was ignored by the charter advocacy group known as “DFER” — Democrats for Education Reform. Tweeting the hearing, DFER leaders did not even mention Baker’s presence. This seems par for the clumsy course, given DFER’s mishandled support of John Connolly in the 2013 Mayor election, followed with similar amateurism :when Walsh won, the group cravenly praised him as an education reformer. DFER also played a major role in the twitter troll defeat of Boston 2024’s Olympic Games bid so strongly backed by the Mayor whose education policy they now praise. Obviously DFER wants to make happy with the city’s heavily favored Mayor rather than oppose him further.

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Meanwhile, the owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant yesterday announced that they will close it in mid-2019, if not sooner. Immediately this closure puts paid to nuclear power playing any role in Massachusetts’ energy future. It also makes natural gas supply paramount. This is not the outcome that most clean energy advocates want. Gas pipeline proposals have aroused ferocious opposition from the communities affected; I support some of that opposition.So what will hapepn ?

Governor Baker issued this statement right away : “Our Administration will work closely with Pilgrim’s leadership team and federal regulators to ensure that this decision is managed as safely as possible, and we will continue to work with ISO and the other New England Governors to ensure that Massachusetts and New England has the baseload capacity it needs to meet the electric generation needs of the region.

“Losing Pilgrim as a significant power generator not only poses a potential energy shortage, but also highlights the need for clean, reliable, affordable energy proposals which my administration has put forward through legislation to deliver affordable hydroelectricity and Class-I renewable resources.

“The closure of Pilgrim will be a significant loss of carbon-free electricity generation and will offset progress Massachusetts has made in achieving the 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, making it more challenging to hit these targets. I look forward to working with the legislature to make our proposal for clean, base-load generation law, as it represents a diversified and balanced approach that will be needed to achieve the commonwealth’s greenhouse gas goals.”

The tone of baker’s statement says it all. Energy policy for Massachusetts is now back to the drawing table — to square one, as our policy makers try to figure out how to make up for the major power loss facing a state already experiencing intolerable power supply shortages.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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