Archive for the ‘Boston Life and Culture’ Category

Massachusetts: Don’t Lift the Charter Cap

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

From: Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts:

Update: Senators to Vote Tomorrow on Charter Cap Bill!

We’ve learned that House Bill 4108, which would, among other things, lift the cap on charter schools in so-called “underperforming districts” is scheduled to come up at a caucus of Democratic senators Thursday (that’s tomorrow) at noon.

Votes can still change after that, but if you have an opinion on this and you haven’t talked to your senator yet, today would be an excellent day to call. Talking with an aide is fine too.

CPS’s June 2013 report, “Twenty Years After Education Reform: Choosing a Path Forward To Equity and Excellence For All,” includes a full chapter devoted to the facts on charter schools in Massachusetts. Click here to download the full report. (See Chapter 4 for information on charter schools.) Click here to download the executive summary.

The report found that Commonwealth charter…

View original 273 more words

Photopost: Red Sox at Fenway Park

My son Peter and I took in our first Red Sox game of the season on April 7th versus the Texas Rangers. While the 2013 champions have struggled early on, we were treated to a thrilling 5-1 victory. Yes, it was April baseball, as both teams had a passed ball and an error, and probably deserved some more errors. But a win’s a win. As an extra bonus, we received a David Ortiz bobblehead upon entering. And since Peter is now a member of Kid Nation, we were allowed to enter the ballpark early and watch the Red Sox batting practice from the Green Monster seats, which was pretty awesome.

Boston Marathon 2014

Fifteen years ago, I attended the Boston Marathon for the first time.  I knew about the race from an early age, because even in southwestern Connecticut where I grew up it is a big enough event to warrant lots of news coverage.  I also knew enough to be envious of Massachusetts’ schoolchildren that they got an extra holiday that fell on a lovely spring Monday.  But in 1998, I was skeptical that watching people run could be all that entertaining.

Still, I gave it a chance and rode my bike to Cleveland Circle to take in the race.  There was a thrill to seeing all the motorcycles, the press van, the time clock, and finally the small of elite runners zip by.  But what happened next it was really surprised me.  The ordinary runners, the people running to raise money for charities, or to prove something to themselves, or just because they love running began to arrive on the course, first in a trickle then in a big pack.  And the crowds of spectators grew and became louder and they cheered on EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNER.  I walked along the course, following the runners all the way down Beacon Street to Kenmore Square and then on to Boylston Street to the finish line.  Then I rode the green line back to Cleveland Circle along with proud finishers wearing mylar blankets, feeling like I was surrounded by large baked potatoes.

Boston is a town known for its reserve, something that to outsiders may appear aloof or rude.  But on this day, Patriots Day, there’s a near Bacchinalian explosion of good feeling as every spectator expresses their love and support of other people, the majority of whom are complete strangers.  I read stories of experience marathon runners who describe Boston as unlike any other race as the entire course tends to be lined with people offering constant support.  In fact, these runners say that they can’t even leave the race, because the spectators push them back onto the course, which is borderline aggressive, but done with the best intentions.

Last year, this celebration of the best of Boston humanity was marred by the two explosions near the finish line that killed three spectators and wounded hundreds more.  And yet, that Boston spirit was still there as people – both medical professionals and amateurs – rushed to the injured.  There quick action and selflessness save many lives and has been encapsulated in the idea of Boston Strong.  In the wake of the bombings, Bostonians were frightened and saddened, yet also calm and determined.  People I know from far away seemed more freaked out, wondering if anyone would want to run the marathon in the future, perhaps even canceling it entire.  President Obama got it right when he said “Next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.”

Since that first marathon in 1998, I’ve tried to watch it every year when I can get off work.  I’ve also gone to the battle reenactment and parade in Concord and a baseball game at Fenway Park (attending the dawn reenactment at Lexington and riding in the Midnight Madness bike marathon are still on my to-do list).  Last year, I did have the day off from work but was unable to convince my children that they would want to go watch people run and cheer for them.  We went to the playground instead.  In retrospect, ambulance that passed us by at incredible speeds as we were on our way to the playground were certainly responding to the bombings. I learned of the bombings from checking my smartphone while watching my children play.

I knew that I would have to watch the 2014 marathon no matter what. Luckily, the kids were agreeable, and my whole  family watched the marathon today.  We returned to my favorite spot at Cleveland Circle.  Conveniently, there is a playground tucked behind the buildings on Beacon Street, so the kids could take a break.  My daughter Kay peeked through the fence and shook some noisemakers while cheering on the runners.  My son Peter was more intent on watching the race and spotting some friends of ours among the pack.  He gave high five to runners and one woman stopped and talked to him about her stomach cramps. It was a gorgeous day, a great marathon, and really everything that Patriots Day in Boston is supposed to be.

 

Related Posts:

“Zombie” bill angers public school parents

Liam:

It’s really brazen how the representative of a tony, mostly-white suburb has done an end run around compromise and democracy to force this bill through the house. I really can’t imagine that the citizens of Wellesley see it in their best interests to underfund public schools in urban areas. More likely, Peisch is not representing the interests of her constituents but those of hedge fund managers like DFER and billionaires like Bill Gates and the Waltons. If only more elected leaders were as brave and honest as Sonia Chang-Diaz.

Originally posted on Parent Imperfect:

zombie bill The Parent Imperfect took the time this past Wednesday to write that no deal had been reached on the bill to lift the cap on charter schools in our state. Normally, the failure of a bill to get a positive recommendation from the relevant committee would be the kiss of death, at least for the current session. But this is not just any bill. As many feared, the failure to gain the support of the Joint Education Committee created only a minor annoyance for the drive to create open season on charter school expansion in Massachusetts.

Little did I know that the people in the Massachusetts Legislature who feel that lifting the charter cap is the critical next step in educational reform in Massachusetts wouldn’t even wait 24 hours to resurrect the idea. Before Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz could even communicate with her constituents about what had happened, her illustrious Joint…

View original 602 more words

Boston Public Schools Budget Cuts: The Legislature Needs To Hear Our Voices

The Massachusetts State Legislature is still coming to terms on the Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap.”  There’s a lot of pressure on our elected leaders to lift the cap on charter schools without first getting a better understanding of how funding charter schools in the state negatively affects the funding and resources for district public schools.  Whether or not you think charter schools are a good option for educating children, I think we can all agree that all schools should be fully funded to allow for equitable education for all students.

 

If you live in Massachusetts, here are a few things you can do to help:

  • Write your elected leaders. Contact information available from this website: http://www.wheredoivotema.com/ The message I sent today to the chairs of the education committee Sonia Chang-Diaz (Sonia.Chang-Diaz@state.ma.us) and Alice Peisch (Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov) as well as my representative Liz Malia are below (Chang-Diaz is also the senator for my district).  Feel free to crib for your own message.
  • Sign and share information about the QUEST petition with your friends and family. The petition can be found at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/adequate-funding-for?mailing_id=21010&source=s.icn.em.cr&r_by=8757554. A Spanish translation can be found at http://tinyurl.com/mk6opsv.
  • Join other parents and students at the State House in Boston at 4:30 today, Tuesday, March 25th. This protest is organized by Boston Public School parents from many schools who see the effects of charters on our schools and our children on a daily basis. (See: Facebook page for event)

 

I am a citizen of Boston residing in the Forest Hills/Woodbourne area of Jamaica Plain.  My 6-year-old son Peter is a Kindergarten 2 scholar at the nearby BTU Pilot School, a neighborhood public school with excellent, hard-working teachers and staff and the heart of our neighborhood community.  In recent months, we’ve learned that our school is facing severe budget cuts that will cause the school to lose teaching staff, social workers, Playworks, a school supplies budget, field trips, and other resources vital to equitable education.  Our school is not alone as most schools in Boston are facing their own budget cuts, and other school systems in the Commonwealth are facing similar challenges with dwindling resources.
 
I believe the Massachusetts Legislature can help address the inadequacies and inequality in funding and resources for public schools in Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap.”  One issue is charter schools that are receiving a larger piece of the pie in state funding, while the state has neglected to reimburse public schools (see this chart created by a Boston Public School parent: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BjRzkXVCcAE1WEK.jpg:large).  I’m not opposed to charter schools as an educational option for some children, but it seems grossly unfair that one type of school is fully funded while another has to beg for scraps.  The legislature should make it a priority to fully fund all public schools.  
 
With that in mind, please consider the following steps:  
 
• Remove charter school language entirely from Senate Bill 235/House Bill 425 “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap;”
• Prior to any consideration of raising the charter school cap read the soon-to-be released audit from the State Auditor’s Office regarding charter school finances and practices;
• Work with constituents to draft a more comprehensive proposal regarding the charter school cap. This proposal must address the inequalities already identified, include clear and quantifiable accountability measures that are put into place prior to such legislation being proposed, and explore more equitable or separate funding methods that do not bankrupt our public schools.
 
I understand that you are receiving a lot of attention from lobbyists of the charter school cause.  These groups are backed by billionaires and corporations who have their own ends in supporting the charter school cap that may not be in the best interests of Massachusetts’ children.  Please listen also to the voices of your constituents – the parents, students, and educators of some of the best public schools in the nation and do the right thing for all the state’s children.

 

A “Third Way” or the charter way?

Liam:

More thoughts on the current BPS Budget Crisis and the effect that the proposed charter cap compromise may cause.

Originally posted on Parent Imperfect:

Chicago charter poster The Parent Imperfect has a strong sense that the fix is in on lifting the cap on charter school growth in Massachusetts. I fear that the fix will leave public school districts with less resources to educate the vast majority of students in the state that will always attend traditional public schools. As always, the kids will pay the price of a bad “compromise.” The Dorchester Reporter reported yesterday that Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz and Rep. Russell Holmes have reached a compromise to lift the current legal limit on charter expansion (the charter cap).

It’s important to note that this is a compromise between two legislators intent on raising the cap, and charter boosters in the community, like the Mass Public Charter Schools Association and Paul Grogan of The Boston Foundation. I have nothing against either legislator: It just seems important to be honest about what has happened. Parents, teachers…

View original 659 more words

Boston Public Schools Budget Cuts: Maintain the Cap on Charter Schools

Following up on my earlier post regarding severe budget cuts to Boston Public Schools, here is an issue that requires immediate attention from any residents of Massachusetts who read this blog.  Currently there is legislation moving through the Massachusetts legislature that will decide if the cap on charter schools in the state will be lifted.  This is a contentious issue as vocal groups of charter school supporters advocate lifting the cap with help from deep-pocketed investors.  Meanwhile the parents and educators of children in Boston Public Schools are contending that the cap should remain until we have a greater understanding of the financial pressures that charter schools exert on traditional district schools and that the current charter schools in our state are held to greater accountability for serving all children.

The Boston Public Schools are facing a 60 million dollar deficit shortfall and  most of the 128 schools are being asked to make cuts that would lose teaching staff, social workers, Playworks, supplies, and other resources. One reason for the shortfall is that traditional district schools are not being fully reimbursed for loses to charter schools.  Whether or not you support the charter school movement, I think we can all agree that education at any school should have full-funding and resources.  It will do no one any good to have a fight over limited funds.

Fortunately, my state senator Sonia Chang-Diaz from the Second Suffolk district is working on the Joint Committee of Education and is committed to making a compromise that will support all forms of public education in the Commonwealth.  She, and by extension the children of Massachusetts, deserve our support.  You can take action by following the steps below.  A statement from Senator Chang-Diaz follows.

Senator Chang-Díaz Statement on Joint Committee on Education 1-Week Extension

Today the Joint Committee on Education voted on a one-week extension on bills dealing with turnaround and charter schools. Over the past few months, stakeholders from all sides of this issue have been hard at work coming to compromises on various aspects of a composite bill, and we have come to agreement on a number of issues. We are down to the final aspects.

I continue to fight to find a balanced third way that breaks from the us-versus-them mindset when it comes to district and charter schools. All are public schools and both are needful of our attention and advocacy. I have been on record in both words and actions that I am committed to getting a bill out of committee that continues to close the gap between populations served by charters and districts, mitigates the financial stresses that even the best charters present for district schools, and allows targeted expansion of good charters. To that end, I’ve offered multiple proposals for balanced compromises. These proposals have been met with consistent “no’s” from the charter advocate community, with no counter proposals that bring us toward a compromise. While I am disappointed that we must resort to a one-week extension today, I remain committed to forging a resolution. My door is wide open to anyone who has ideas about how we can move forward on a middle path that treats all kids with compassion and fairness.

I also want to be transparent that, should we be able to reach resolution and report a bill out of Committee, there are still key decisions about funding fairness that will be made over the coming months through the budget process, which occur outside the Education Committee. These decisions will impact the effects of any bill on the schools in which the majority of students remain and therefore will be large factors in my ultimate vote for or against a bill on the Senate floor.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,317 other followers

%d bloggers like this: