Bill to expand charter schools in Massachusetts spurs long recesses in House

Date Published: 
May 21, 2014
Michael Norton, State House News Service
News Type: 

BOSTON — The idea of introducing more charter schools in Massachusetts, believed to be an emotional topic that divides lawmakers and feeds into policy differences, spurred long recesses in the House after legislation facilitating more charters hit the House floor at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

House Democrats appear intent on using the back channels, as they did during recent budget debate, to settle the more than dozen amendments pending to the bill.

As many lawmakers chit-chatted and ate candy or worked their electronic devices, House leaders spent the better part of Wednesday afternoon talking with their Democratic colleagues who have filed amendments to the bill, which Education Committee chair Alice Peisch says provides a “very limited” lift in the charter cap to clear the way for charter schools in certain low-performing school districts.

Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat, engaged in often animated discussions with amendment sponsors while most House members waited for amendments or the bill itself to resurface for public debate or votes.

House Democrats are sponsoring 13 of the 14 proposed amendments to the bill, with changes offered by Reps. Peter Kocot, Thomas Sannicandro, Denise Garlick, Denise Provost, Denise Andrews, Antonio Cabral, Marjorie Decker, Paul Brodeur, Benjamin Swan, John Keenan, Frank Smizik, and Brad Hill.

The Sannicandro and Brodeur amendments are described as targeting “skimming.” Smizik’s amendment pertains to local approval of charter schools. Decker’s amendment bans for-profit and corporate entities from managing charter schools. Garlick’s amendment prohibits Commonwealth charter schools from hiring teachers who are not certified.