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Pittsfield School Committee Endorses Moratorium on Charter Schools

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The School Committee on Wednesday night endorsed a joint statement with United Educators of Pittsfield to support a moratorium on charter schools.

State Senate bill 326, filed by state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, seeks to halt the state's granting of charters to Commonwealth charter schools until September 2018.

The move comes on the heels of two reports questioning the efficacy of charter schools and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's oversight of their legislatively-mandated goals.

"This moratorium will allow time for an independent evaluation for our charters schools to determine whether charters are meeting their intended goals on improving education for all students," read Chairwoman Katherine Yon.

Yon and committee member Cynthia Taylor said they had attended the Massachusetts School Committee Association's conference on Cape Cod last week at which the association's new report on charters, "Who's Being Served," was discussed.

Yon said the concern is that children with disabilities, who are living in poverty and who are English language learners were not being equitably served by the state's 81 Commonwealth charters, exacerbating rather than closing the achievement gap. Charter school teachers also do not have to meet the more rigid and ongoing licensure standards as other teachers in the state.

At the same time, the funding mechanism continues pull critical education funds from public sending districts, with some $419 million in Chapter 70 aid expected to go to charter schools this year. Pittsfield was charged $2.6 million in charter school reimbursements this fiscal year; Adams-Cheshire Regional and North Adams, about $700,000 each.

The Berkshires has only one charter school but it affects the whole county, Yon said.

Late last year, State Auditor Suzanne Bump released a report criticizing DESE for failing to adequately document the innovative programs and best practices that charters were supposed to create as models for public school districts and to maintain reliable data, including on enrollment, to analyze their performance.

Bump last month testified before the Joint Committee on Education, Yon said, quoting her: "I have a responsibility to the taxpayers and to our kids to speak up when I see such enormous sums of taxpayer dollars put into private hands without evidence of its benefit."

The statement passed unanimously with little discussion and will be submitted to the city's state representatives. Taylor said state Sen. Pat Jehlen, D-Somerville, vice chairman of the Committee on Education, recommended the School Committee speak out

"She really stressed that we can have a voice in the Berkshires," she said. "You really have to make yourselves heard by your legislators over and over and over. She stressed that to everyone."

Tags: charter school,   legislation,   moratorium,   Pittsfield School Committee,   

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Pittsfield City Council Rejects Petition to Remove Connell

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council denied a petition aimed to remove Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell by claiming he no longer lived in Pittsfield.
Late into the six-hour meeting Tuesday, councilors came to the agreement that although Connell is spending much of his time quarantining out of state, his primary residence is still in Pittsfield.  
"I just want to thank you all for your kind support and thought and I will continue to do the best that I can for this council and this city," Connell said at the meeting's close around 1 in the morning. 
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