Patrick Rebuffed In Request For Education Bill Action

Gov. Deval Patrick urged the Massachusetts Legislature on Wednesday to suspend its rules and stay in session as long as needed to pass an education-overhaul bill, but the House speaker balked.

The Senate passed the bill Tuesday evening, sending it to the House, but legislative sessions for the year were scheduled to end Wednesday.

Patrick highlighted his plea by visiting a charter school just yards from the Winthrop hometown of House Speaker Robert DeLeo. He told reporters he wanted the House to pass the bill Wednesday, and he said "it is a little frustrating" that final action butted up against the deadline.

He also conceded he was "not hopeful" that DeLeo and House members would heed his appeal but was trying to use the bully pulpit of his office to draw attention to it.

"I'm frustrated by that, but I continue to press the point," he said.

About the same time, DeLeo sent a letter to his members, saying they would not act on the education bill or another piece of legislation regarding public access to criminal records.

"I believe it would be a disservice to the members of the House and, most importantly, to the students and families of the commonwealth to attempt to consider this bill at today's session," DeLeo said of the education bill. He took a similar view of the criminal-records bill.

Yet DeLeo pledged to meet a Jan. 19 deadline so the state can apply for extra funding under the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" program, an initiative to give grants to states willing to undertake a top-to-bottom overhaul of their schools.

He said that approach "will be of far greater benefit to the Bay State than if we were to attempt to unnecessarily rush the bill through for the sake of political expediency."

Patrick bristled at the timetable.

"The problem is we've been waiting for more than a decade," he said. "All apart from Race to the Top money, we're talking about our kids, who've been in this achievement gap for well nigh too long."

The bill passed the Senate on a 28-11 vote before heading to the House.

One of the most prominent features in legislation is the easing of a cap on charter schools, particularly in the state's worst-performing districts.

Sen. Robert O'Leary, co-chairman of the Joint Education Committee, said the bill would also create new
tools to help the state lift persistently underperforming schools and allow the creation of so-called "innovation schools" in local districts. Texts of the final bill, and its many amendments, were not immediately available for review.

Teachers unions, which typically oppose the creation of charter schools, lobbied against the bill and are now concentrating their attention on the House.

Patrick said that the Massachusetts Teachers Association has been consulted throughout the bill's development and that its concerns are reflected in many amendments.

"Nobody gets 100 percent in any legislation, but I think the bill strikes the right balance between respecting collective bargaining rights and focusing on where the focus out to be, which is our children," the governor said.

This program aired on November 18, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.


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