Blinded by the (green) light
The education bill that made it through the Massachusetts state senate, replete with a whopping 95 amendments, late Tuesday is being lauded as the biggest reform bill since the 1993-wonder that brought charters and much else to the Bay State. And it does have some fine features: The rule limiting charter attendance to 4 percent of Massachusetts students was scrapped, and the 9 percent cap on local spending on charters was raised to 18 percent in low-performing districts. Also attached to this Christmas tree, however, are yet another faux-charter "innovation school" model (as if the Bay State didn't have enough of these already) as well as a stipulation that the first two charter applications considered by the state each year come from low-scoring districts. Since the state only approves 2-3 applications a year anyway, that rule effectively maintains the cap for the other 90 or so percent of districts. The lesson here isn't in these details, though; it's that this bill, which moves to the House for consideration in January--a rushed session right before Race to the Top applications are due--is a prime example of 11th hour RTT covetousness creating policy fixes that may do more harm than good--or at least look better than they probably are. It was high time for Mass. to raise its charter cap, but let's make sure the stimulus dollar cha-ching ringing in our ears doesn't deafen us to faulty last-minute concessions.
"Editorial: Education reform is in for a big test," by Scott Lehigh, Boston Globe, November 13, 2009
"Opposition grows to education reform bill," by James Vaznis, Metro Desk a blog of the Boston Globe, November 16, 2009
"Amendments bog down charter school bill in Senate," by James Vaznis, Boston Globe, November 17, 2009
"Senate passes education reform bill," by Statehouse News Service Staff, GateHouse News Service, November 17, 2009
"Senate Passes Education Reform Legislation," iBerkshires.com, November 18, 2009