The bill to change the way charter schools operate in Massachusetts is dying in the legislature. But who believed it would ever really pass?

The idea that a home rule petition would be considered an acceptable legislative vehicle for such a monumental change in education policy was ridiculous from the beginning. Home rule petitions are for adding a beer and wine license for a new restaurant in a community without an available license, not for major policy changes.

Commonwealth Magazine sums up the proposed changes accurately:

"The proposal emerged from discussions education commissioner Jeff Riley held over the winter with New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and the director of Alma del Mar, which already operates one K-8 charter school in the city. Mitchell said having Alma del Mar serve a defined area of the city as the default school for students in those neighborhoods would create less of a strain on the city budget than a conventional charter school, which uses a lottery to enroll students from across a community.

The plan required approval by New Bedford’s School Committee and City Council, both of which signed off on the proposal, but it has stalled in the Legislature, which must authorize the move to a neighborhood-based system.

In backing the proposal, the state education board concurrently approved a backup plan put forward by Riley authorizing Alma del Mar to open a traditional charter school serving 594 students if the neighborhood plan did not receive necessary approvals."

As I understand it, the plan to use a home rule petition was crafted by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. Commissioner Riley and his staff were likely advised that this method of changing the law wouldn't work, but they persisted.

Now the plan has failed and the people of New Bedford are facing a financial crisis. The plan was always going to fail.

Unless failure was the plan all along.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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