Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's the zombie education bill!

It's not dead yet!

Rep. Alice Peisch filed a substitute education bill this morning for the bill that came out (without being recommended) last night. It's now in House Ways & Means. Summary of the bill (from State House News):
According to a bill summary, Peisch's bill (H 3984) authorizes the education
commissioner to designate a subset of Level 3 schools as "challenge
schools," which include schools that score in the lowest performing 20
percent statewide that are most likely to be designated as underperforming
(Level 4). "Challenge schools" would be required to develop two-year
turnaround plans, similar to the turnaround plans required for
underperforming (Level 4) and chronically underperforming (Level 5) schools.

The bill also maintains the statewide cap on the total number of charter
schools that can operate at any given time, which is 72 Commonwealth and 48
Horace Mann charter schools.

The legislation lifts the current spending cap on charter school tuition in
the lowest performing 10 percent of districts from 18 percent to 23 percent
of net school spending, if the charter meets certain criteria, including an
"opt-out" lottery process, or the charter school is specifically designed to
serve at-risk student and/or dropouts.

In the "opt-out" lottery process all students would be eligible to attend
the charter school under the district's assignment policy without any
required application process for the school. Parents of students selected
for admission through the opt-out lottery process may choose not to accept
the admission offer.
You can read the whole bill here.
Having skimmed it, here's a few thoughts:

  • I don't want to do a turnaround process and stakeholder group for every Level 3 school in the district. I know that it would be an enormous time and energy sink, and I don't think that it would be a productive process for the schools or for the district. (And I know that this is somehow supposed to be the sweetener for school committee members; it didn't work for this one.)
  • The language around backfilling, open lotteries, and such are only for expanded or new charters. It doesn't fix the very real problems of those already in existence. 
  • There is no language around financing at all, which is the purview of the Legislature, most particularly that of the House.
  • Lifting the spending on charters to 23% of--let's be honest here--city education spending is nightmarish. That's close to a fourth of our budget, gone, to schools that do not, will not, and are not being required to serve all of our kids.
It's a bad bill. Vote it down. 

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