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House chair working on ‘adjustments’ to 2010 education law

With unfinished priorities for legislative leaders piling up, a key House Democrat said Tuesday that her Education Committee hopes to advance a bill this session to adjust the 2010 law that expanded access to charter schools.

Representative Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat and the House chairwoman of the Education Committee, said no decisions have been made on what to include in the bill, but she stressed that she is not looking to produce “Education Reform 3” this session.

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“I’m hoping that we’ll be reporting something out that builds upon some of the successful aspects of the 2010 bill,” Peisch said. “I don’t anticipate it being huge changes. It’s more of adjustments to the 2010 bill, so more students are able to access better education.”

For months, many in the education community have speculated on what the committee might produce, off-handedly referring to the effort in progress as “Education Achievement Gap Act II,” a reference to the 2010 law expanding access to charter schools in poorly performing school districts and giving administrators in failing traditional public schools more authority over hiring, firing, and curriculum.

“We never had any ambition of a big reform bill this session,’’ Peisch said.

Peisch previously suggested that she might be interested in revisiting the charter cap, particularly in underperforming districts such as Boston and Holyoke that are bumping up against the limits. On Tuesday, she said nothing was certain.

While a major education overhaul may not be in the offing this session, education advocates are preparing for what could be a major push next year when a new administration takes over.

Already, gubernatorial candidates from both parties are putting education improvements near the top of their platforms, and several Democratic candidates for governor call for longer school days and improved instruction to prepare students for the jobs of the future.

Meanwhile, the Education Committee heard testimony on two bills Tuesday, including one from Senator Stephen Brewer that would address a kink in a 1993 law’s funding formula that has dozens of municipalities staring at steep financial penalties and decisions about where to cut.

Brewer’s bill would protect districts that do not already count health care benefits for retired teachers toward net school spending from being penalized in their allocation of state aid. Representative Todd Smola, Republican of Palmer, cosponsored the bill.

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