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Menino charter school proposal set for July 21 hearing

The Legislature's Education Committee has scheduled a hearing for later this month on Mayor Thomas Menino's plan to create "in-district" charter schools, a policy reversal for him.

Menino has said if the proposal doesn't pass during the current two-year session, he will ask the governor to lift the state cap on charter schools.

From the State House News Service (where I work several days out of the week):

The Education Committee is going ahead with its July 21 public hearing on charter school legislation, without Gov. Deval Patrick’s long-promised proposals on the agenda. Instead, the committee will hear a bill filed this week by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Rep. Marie St. Fleur that creates a so-called in-district charter school. The committee had hoped to take testimony July 21 on Patrick’s bills regarding “readiness schools” and lifting the cap on charter schools, but the administration hasn’t file its bills and committee members were notified Thursday by chairs Rep. Marty Walz (D-Boston) and Sen. Robert O’Leary (D-Barnstable) of the plan to hear Menino’s legislation only. The hearing begins at 1 p.m. in Room A-1. It’s the second time the committee has postponed plans to hear Patrick’s proposals. A June 30 hearing was postponed when it became clear the governor’s bills were not ready. A spokesman for Education Secretary Paul Reville, Jonathan Palumbo, said Reville has been working with feedback on charter schools provided by charter school providers, superintendents, teachers unions, school committees and others in the education fields. “We’re just taking the time to try to include as much of the feedback that we’ve received from the field as possible,” Palumbo said. “It’s not that we’re going out of our way to drag it out.” Palumbo said Reville has been in talks with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a number of top education issues. “We talk to them regularly,” he said.

A Wednesday press release from Menino's office is below:

Mayor Menino Submits In-District Charter School Bill

Legislation gives Boston key tools to improve under-performing schools through in-district charters and pay-for-performance benefits

Yesterday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino submitted state legislation that, if passed, will provide city officials with key tools to drastically improve the performance of chronically underperforming schools. The legislation allows officials to turn underachieving schools into in-district charter schools and permits pay-for-performance incentives to encourage teachers to innovate and improve their students’ performance.

“I’m the Mayor of all of Boston’s kids and I submitted this legislation because of its capacity to bring the radical changes necessary to improve all of our schools,” said Mayor Menino. “I’ve heard from many parents, teachers and principals that our school days start too late or end too early and that new, good teachers are re-assigned, that innovation is stifled and that in many cases principals hands are tied – I want to help untie those hands and give schools the tools they need to succeed.”

Under the proposed law, newly formed in-district charter schools across the state will remain part of the district which they serve and will be under the control of the respective school boards and superintendents. In-district charters will not be bound by previously established agreements regarding the removal of principals, administrators, or teachers, or collective bargaining agreements with unions and will operate under performance contracts stipulating improvement goals. They will also be continuously monitored to ensure that those goals are met.

Some of the monetary incentives to reward successful teachers cover various areas including student attendance, safety and discipline, performance on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, as well as progress in other various academic areas like English-Language Learners and special education.

“I am happy to be working with Mayor Menino to file legislation that will have a positive impact on the quality of education offered to children in Boston,” said Rep. Marie St. Fleur of Dorchester, the former Chairwoman of the Legislature's Committee on Education and who filed the legislation on behalf of the Mayor. “This legislation forces us to put the needs of children in underperforming schools first, by allowing an expedited pathway to access and quality.”

There are three important distinctions between in-district charters and traditional charter schools:

o Funding stays within the local school systems and accountability does too, unlike current charter schools.

o Because in-district charters will be targeted to lowest performing schools, there is a greater likelihood that those students who are most in need will be enrolled.

o And unlike traditional charters, not just one school is created but a whole outstanding school system is created.

Mayor Menino was clear when the legislation was filed yesterday that only a very select number of schools that are in clear need of drastic improvement will be converted to in-district charters. Mayor Menino also emphasized that the legislation takes first priority and that only if it fails will city officials seek to lift the cap on traditional charter schools.