New Bedford Must Approve Charter Expansion [OPINION]
The state of Massachusetts has the city of New Bedford in a box and the only answer is to go along with the limited and innovative expansion of Alma del Mar.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell has been placed in an impossible spot by the actions of the state education leaders in the Charlie Baker administration. Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley wants to see the expansion of Alma del Mar charter school and he manufactured an environment to ensure the expansion went forward in New Bedford.
The agreement reached between Mayor Mitchell and Will Gardner, the executive director of Alma del Mar, isn't perfect but it should be approved by the New Bedford City Council and the New Bedford School Committee because it is the best the city could do under the circumstance.
The choice is between the City spending $4 million or $8 million on charter school education annually. Commissioner Riley has secured the permission of the Board of Education to expand the seats at the charter school and it is up to the City how many seats they will be assigned. The City can do the limited $4 million expansion "voluntarily" or refuse and get the $8 million expansion.
The limited expansion requires the City to transfer a currently unused school building to the charter school. The building comes back to the City if the charter school discontinues using it and the City wants the property back in the future. Rather than using the opt-in lottery system that requires parental involvement, the charter school will operate as a traditional public school and accept all students from a specific geographic area in the city.
The fight is over and the city is going to have more charter school seats. The mayor and City Councilor Hugh Dunn made their important points and educated the city on the process.
The biggest issue has been the financial impact on the city. The choice is spending $4 million or $8 million, and the choice is easy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.