Letters to the Editor

A special thanks From Bike to the Sea to the City of Everett

Bike to the Sea Inc. would like to give a special thanks to the city of Everett for the incredible job and team effort that made the big Earth Day Volunteer clean up of the Bike trail on April 23 special success.

This past Earth Day Everett showed its enthusiasm for the developing Northern Strand community Trail aka Bike to the Sea by pulling out all the stops. Everett brought in heavy equipment and dump trucks to mow the trail and pick up years of debris left from when this was an abandoned rail corridor. They transformed the area in just a few days using their skills and heavy equipment in close support of a legion of volunteers, efficiently and safely. Staff from Mayor DeMaria’s office and city hall coordinated multiple community groups bringing in close to 100 volunteers sticking in there all morning despite a spring rain. Everett’s Department of public works removed more the 40 tons of trash and heavy mowed over one mile of bike trail.

The City of Everett has embraced the developing bike trail, working hard to connect it from its current southern end at Wellington Street in the “village” to the Mystic River. The bike trail has tremendous potential to turn this once industrialized part of town into Everett’s new front door. Creating access to the Malden River, developing new parks and open space, housing and jobs.

We would like to thank all of the staff from the Mayor Office, the community development office and the Department of Public works for their vision and commitment to bringing new resources and options for healthy active life styles to the citizens of Everett.

Bike to the Sea Inc. is the lead proponent of the Northern Strand Community Trail. We work with the five towns along the trail to create a unified off road greenway starching from Everett on the Mystic River to the sea in Lynn.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Clay Larsen

Project Manager, Bike to the Sea Inc.

The impact of charter schools on Everett

As the statewide debate over the expansion of charter schools continues and November’s ballot question to lift the existing cap on charter school looms, it’s important to consider the impact of charter schools on Everett.

This year alone, charter schools will siphon off $5,819,024 in funds that would otherwise stay in the Everett Public Schools, and be used to improve learning for all students. For students, this funding loss means larger class sizes, fewer enrichment courses such as music, art, and athletics, and other damaging cutbacks.

None of us should be surprised that after years of shrinking budgets, our local schools are failing to meet the needs of many of our students. A recent report by a school budget review commission found that Massachusetts is underfunding public education by at least $1 billion a year. The ability of our schools to provide students with more opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and enrichment programs such as music, art, and athletics, is already threatened. And now, charter schools are taking more than $400 million in funds each year from our local school districts.

Numerous studies have shown that early education is the most effective way to ensure a child’s success later in life, but only 62% of 3- and 4-year-old children in Everett are enrolled in an early education program. Statewide, Massachusetts has over 16,000 children on waiting lists for pre-school programs. At the very least, we should provide access to pre-school and early learning programs for every child instead of giving money to more unaccountable charter schools.

Part of the problem is that the state approves charter schools even when the communities where they will be located are opposed to them. This has happened in Brockton, Gloucester, and many other communities. Charter schools are not accountable to the local taxpayers who have to pay for them or the communities they serve. That’s wrong. Parents and taxpayers in Everett should have the final say on what kind of schools we want.

A report from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, released last month, found that 60 percent of charter schools in Massachusetts don’t have a single parent on their boards of trustees. The board of the Pioneer Charter School of Science, in Everett and Saugus, has no parent representative and no one with a background in K-12 education.

Clearly, some of our schools are struggling, particularly in our urban areas. We should be committed to fixing them – not keep taking money away and giving it to charters which accept fewer English-language learners and kids with significant special needs. Expanding a two-track system of separate and unequal schools, where students with the most challenges remain in local district schools with fewer and fewer resources, is not consistent with our Massachusetts values.

The ballot question will allow charters to expand into areas where they don’t exist right now — anywhere in the state — taking millions away from successful neighborhood public schools and causing the elimination of programs, increases in class sizes, and other damaging cuts in the schools that most families choose. In Everett, allowing charter schools to take more money away from our public school system will only hurt the majority of students. We need to fully fund our public school system before we consider spending more money on charter schools.

Antonio Amaya, Everett

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