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DFER-MA Releases Statement on Stalled Charter Bill in Light of Arne Duncan's Visit to Boston Schools
March 11, 2014

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org


Democrats for Education Reform Releases Statement on Stalled Charter Bill in Light of Arne Duncan’s Visit to Boston Schools

Boston, MA - March 11, 2014 - Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts (DFER-MA) released the following statement today from Massachusetts state director Liam Kerr, urging the passage of a stalled education bill in the state legislature upon Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s visit:

“Doing right by kids can be politically challenging, but President Obama has urged Democrats to power through. In 2010, federal money helped push needed reforms. Today, hopefully, Secretary Arne Duncan’s visit will inspire politicians on Beacon Hill to do the right thing and make the changes we need.

“As reported by The Boston Globe on Sunday, the State House has stalled An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap, a bill to expand high-performing charter schools and further empower districts to turn around low-performing schools. The changes stuck in the Education Committee expand on the most successful aspects of the 2010 bill passed in response to Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition. Secretary Duncan advocated for states to make these exact changes back in 2010.

“While Duncan’s trip has not yet been publicly tied to the bill, he will visit two schools that have seen dramatic results from kids as a result of this legislation—created over the fervent objection of strong forces on Beacon Hill.

“In 2010, entrenched interests like the Boston Teachers Union promoted the claim that “Race to the Top” would not improve education. But it did, through both charter school expansion and district school turnarounds. Secretary Duncan will visit both these models of reform on this trip: success stories that would not have been possible if we listened to those same groups with a direct financial stake in the process that are objecting to the current bill. President Obama challenged Democrats to rise to the occasion in 2010, and we have to again now.

“The educational policies that President Obama and Secretary Duncan promote are difficult for adults, especially politicians. But let’s focus on kids. These changes have worked for Massachusetts, and we need more. Our kids deserve better.”

About Democrats for Education Reform

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political action committee with 13 state offices whose mission is to encourage a more productive dialogue within the Democratic Party on the need to fundamentally reform American public education. DFER operates at all levels of government to educate elected officials and support reform-minded candidates for public office.

A Strong Education Democrat Takes the Race in Boston
November 5, 2013

By Liam Kerr, DFER Massachusetts (DFER-MA) State Director

As many of us sleep off our post-election hangovers, the new mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is already planning for his next four years in office— years that will no doubt include tremendous improvements to Boston’s public schools.

Those who have followed the race know that DFER was a strong supporter of Walsh’s opponent, John Connolly, since we named him as a Reformer of the Month back in 2011. But, although Connolly didn’t get the “V” we all hoped for, we can confidently say a genuine reformer won his seat as the next mayor of Beantown.

As we said early on, both Connolly and Walsh are education Democrats; Connolly just happens to be an exceptional one. And, regardless of the outcome, two things have become clear: we have a lot of work to do to get our schools where they need to be; and, although Walsh was not our first choice, we are confident that he will live up to the promises he has made to improve Boston’s schools.

In the end, what matters most is this race is still a win for the students of Boston who can look forward to having a mayor who will keep their best interests at heart and work hard to improve the education they receive.

Liam has advised nonprofits in Massachusetts, an NGO consultancy in the Czech Republic, a charter school incubator, and a charter school network. He has worked on statewide political campaigns in Massachusetts and Vermont. Prior to DFER, Liam worked for the management consultancy The Parthenon Group and the national venture philanthropy fund New Profit Inc. Read more about Liam here.

DFER Endorses Former Teacher and Education Champion in Boston Mayoral Race
July 12, 2013

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org
Liam Kerr | 617.684.5426 | Liam@dfer.org


Democrats for Education Reform Endorses Former Teacher and Education Champion in Boston Mayoral Race

John Connolly Tapped for His Commitment to Boston’s Kids

Boston, MA, July 12th, 2013 - Democrats for Education Reform Massachusetts (DFER-MA) endorsed former teacher, City Council Education Chair and Boston Public Schools parent John Connolly for mayor, organization officials announced today.

“John Connolly started his career as a teacher and has remained a constant champion for all of Boston’s children,” said Liam Kerr, DFER-MA State Director. “Few leaders have risked more or pushed harder to keep kids at the center of public education, and Connolly has not wavered from that focus as a mayoral candidate.”

John Connolly was the only candidate backed by DFER in Massachusetts prior to the launch of the state chapter in 2012. He was celebrated as a DFER Reformer of the Month in 2011 for exhibiting a singular emphasis on children and exceptional courage to hold firm against political pressure. Among other stances to benefit students, his was the lone vote against a new teachers’ contract that left Boston Public Schools with one of the shortest days in the country.

“DFER is proud to support a candidate with Connolly’s rare combination of expertise and courage, which are necessary to lead significant change in public education,” said DFER Executive Director Joe Williams. “It’s clear that Connolly is just the candidate to fight hard to provide more opportunity for Boston’s families.”


DFER Endorses State Rep. Nick Collins for MA State Senate
April 23, 2013

Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org
Liam Kerr | 617.684.6426 | Liam@dfer.org


Democrats for Education Reform Endorses Candidate for MA State Senate
State Rep. Nick Collins Tapped for His Commitment to Education

Boston, MA, April 23rd, 2013 - Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) today endorsed State Rep. Nick Collins in the First Suffolk State Senate Special Election. Collins was chosen by DFER, an advocacy group supporting Democratic leaders throughout the country, for his commitment to education.

“Rep. Collins is at the forefront of improving our public schools,” said Liam Kerr, State Director of DFER Massachusetts (DFER-MA). “As a community member, he has played a vital role in the development of successful, innovative schools in Dorchester and South Boston. As a legislator, Rep. Collins has demonstrated a focus on improving public school options for all children in the state. We urge all education voters to join us in supporting Nick Collins for State Senate. As a Senator, Collins will ensure that our kids get the high-quality education they deserve.”

A recent poll by the nonprofit Education Reform Now showed education has emerged as the most pressing issue for the Boston electorate, with nearly half of likely voters citing the quality of schools as one of their top two concerns.

Collins has been involved in the development of high-quality schools in the First Suffolk District, rallying community members to help create the state's first charter-like Innovation School at the Clap School in Dorchester. He was also a founding board member of the UP Academy Charter School in South Boston, which posted the largest improvements of any middle school in the state.

In the coming days, Democrats for Education Reform phone banks and voter outreach will alert the education-focused electorate to Collins’ strong education credentials through the primary election on Monday, April 30th.



Charters Schools are Beyond an Experiment
December 7, 2012

By Liam Kerr, DFER Massachusetts State Director

Politician [pol-i-tish-uh‚ÄČn] noun: The only animal that can sit on a fence and keep both ears on the ground.*

This definition fit Massachusetts’ politicians straddling both sides of the charter school debate just a few years ago. In our state, which is home to the nation’s second-oldest charter school system, a common fence-straddling approach was to offer the rhetorical question: “Weren’t charter schools just experiments to find effective practices for regular schools?”

This position had many advantages. It avoided a reactionary, self-preservation response: “Charter schools take from the local pot of money we control”; or ideological conspiracy theories: “Those liberal charter fans have been brainwashed into a right-wing takeover of public education.”

It also projected an air of change while averting the need to support any politically challenging reforms. If public charter schools are just experiments, it is easy to justify limiting their number without any regard to the quality of education provided - as the official platform of the Massachusetts State Democratic Party stated until 2009.

Massachusetts Democrats took a strong step away from this line of thinking in 2010. The Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, a piece of legislation related to the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top competition, doubled the number of charter schools in the lowest-performing cities - not to experiment, but as fully legitimate schools for effectively educating children.

Why have some Massachusetts Democrats begun to evolve from viewing high-performing charter schools as small scale experiments to viewing them as part of a multi-faceted solution?

Two reasons.

First, over the last two decades many charter schools emerged from their “experiment” with incredible results. These successes drew the attention of parents, community leaders, and policymakers.


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