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MBTA complaints on the rise

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MBTA complaints on the rise

Complaints about poor service and rude employees on the MBTA’s buses, trains and subway cars are on the rise.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) received 14,335 bus, subway and commuter rail complaints from April to August, up more than 13 percent from the same period last year when the T began tracking complaints electronically.

The biggest increase was related to subway service, with a more than 25 percent jump.

T General Manager Daniel Grabauskas says he’d expect an increase in the number of complaints with the recent sharp increases in ridership, but that his goal is to reduce the number of disgruntled commuters.

T spokesman Joe Pesaturo says the number of complaints is tiny when compared to the number of riders.

Half of Mass. public schools not making adequate progress

Half of the state’s public schools have failed to make adequate progress toward meeting federal No Child Left Behind standards for at least two straight years, up from 37 percent a year ago.

State Department of Education officials released the data last Friday, saying 50 percent of public schools, or 828 schools, have been identified for improvement, corrective action or restructuring under the federal accountability system. The assessment is based on student performance on the 2008 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) English and math exams.

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said he takes the figures seriously, but does not consider these schools failures.

He said many have made significant improvements, but just not enough to meet rising annual performance targets.

The No Child Left Behind law requires all students to reach grade-level proficiency in math and English by 2014.

Conn. Civil War regiment honored

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The 29th Connecticut Colored Civil War Regiment is being honored for serving their country with distinction — more than 140 years later.

Descendants of the regiment were on hand last Saturday to unveil a monument dedicated to the 900 men from 120 Connecticut towns. The monument stands in New Haven’s Crisculo Park, the site of the black regiment’s first muster.

A group of descendants started raising funds for the monument more than 10 years ago. They say the recognition is overdue.

Some dressed in period clothing for the ceremony. Festivities included living history re-enactments. Dick Gregory, a nationally known activist and comedian, was the keynote speaker.

Childhood poverty on the rise in Mass.

A new report says the number of children living in poverty in Massachusetts is on the rise.

The report, released last Tuesday by Massachusetts Citizens for Children, claims that 182,000 children — 13 percent of all Bay State children under 18 — lived below the federal poverty lines last year. That’s 4,000 more than in 2006.

The new figures, based on U.S. census data, dropped Massachusetts to 11th in the percentage of children living in poverty, down from fifth in 2006.

Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, says the state has the third-widest divide between the rich and poor in the nation and the divide is growing at the fourth-fastest rate.

The report says children of color are much more likely to live in poverty.

Pro-tax group relies on union support

The organization opposing efforts to eliminate the state’s income tax has received two-thirds of its funding from large teachers unions based in Washington D.C.

The Boston Herald reported last week that The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers contributed a combined $1 million to the Coalition for Our Communities.

State finance records show that the group raised $1.5 million from unions and $100 from an individual donor.

The paper previously reported that the Committee for Small Government, which supports abolition of the 5.3 percent income tax, collected about 60 percent of its financial support from out-of-state donors.

A spokesman for the Coalition says the unions represent workers who could lose jobs if the income tax is eliminated.

N.E. ratepayer advocates gather at energy summit

CAMBRIDGE — The threat of ever-rising energy costs in New England brought consumer advocates from around the region together last Wednesday for a summit designed to collaborate on ways to fight the high prices.

More than 120 advocates for commercial and industrial energy customers, as well as low-income residents, attended the summit hosted by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Coakley said average electricity prices in New England — covering both commercial and residential consumers — have increased 49 percent over the last five years.

Government officials who represent ratepayers in all the New England states need to work together to exert more influence over state and federal regulatory boards, which set energy prices, she said.

“We believe ratepayers can do much more than we do to influence what we pay for electricity and the amount of electricity that we use,” Coakley said.

Regulators also need to consider providing incentives to businesses to create their own electricity onsite and to educate consumers about how changing their energy habits might lower their bills, she said.

John Farley, executive director of The Energy Council of Rhode Island, said it is critical that the New England states work together to influence the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and ISO New England Inc., the Holyoke-based nonprofit that oversees the region’s wholesale electricity market.

“The reason ratepayers are at a big disadvantage now is that we’re organized almost exclusively at the state level, and that really needs to change,” Farley said.

Jed Nosal, chief of the Attorney General’s Energy and Telecommunications Division, said the increase in the price of natural gas helps drive the cost of electricity. About 40 percent of the electricity in New England is generated by natural gas.

(Associated Press)