Voters made their voice heard on this point in defeating 2016 ballot question
Sometimes, losers can write history. Charter school leaders seem to be trying to do that for Massachusetts’ 2016 charter school ballot initiative (“State seeks ways to bolster charter school offerings,” Page A1, Sept. 25). Question 2 lost resoundingly, yet its backers paint themselves as victims of “arduous” teachers-union-led politics.
A Boston Public Schools parent, I spent much of the summer and fall of 2016 volunteering with a diverse coalition in the grass-roots campaign that defeated Question 2. We knocked on doors, made phone calls, and wrote letters, reaching 1.5 million voters.
That 2016 vote affirmed the state constitution’s mandate to spread “opportunities and advantages of education” to all students. It rejected a two-tiered system of disparities in student population, teacher diversity and training, discipline rates, and funding.
The charter/public equity gap remains today, with disparities especially stark for immigrant students. The percentage of English language learners in the Lawrence Public Schools is three times that of the percentage at Phoenix Charter Academy Lawrence. Worcester Cultural Academy is too new to have public data, but its website touts Old Sturbridge Academy Charter as a model. Only 3.4 percent of that school’s students are learning English as a second language. In Worcester Public Schools, it’s 30.4 percent.
Those numbers don’t say politics. They scream inequality.
State needs less harmful funding formula
It is wrongheaded and counterproductive for the state to seek to create more charter schools as a way to improve choices and outcomes for its urban, low-income, at-risk, and overwhelmingly BIPOC students.
Boston Public Schools has already been harmed by the millions of dollars of per-pupil state aid taken away from the public schools to give to charter schools while BPS is still required to provide full school bus service to the charter schools without reimbursement.
The harm to urban, largely Black and brown, low-income, poor, and homeless public-school students done by this charter-school formula, with only about 25 percent of the lost money reimbursed by the state, may be a major reason for the huge political and public opposition to charter schools in Massachusetts. This gutting of urban public schools far outweighs any benefit the needy and struggling portion of the public-school population might gain by adding more charter school seats.
If the state wants to facilitate the creation of more charter schools in a way that would increase educational equity and help students most in need, it must reimburse these students’ school districts by 50 to 100 percent of the state aid taken from them. That would come closer to meeting the needs of the neediest students and families.
The writer has been a BPS teacher (1967-73) and BPS parent (1983-2006).
He’s not against charters, but proposals need careful vetting
The recent article about efforts to increase the number of charter schools in Massachusetts noted that the move comes almost seven years after a ballot initiative failed that “would have largely allowed unfettered growth of charter schools.” At the same time, “Massachusetts has among the highest-performing charter schools nationwide.”
We should connect those two dots because they are closely related. I voted against the ballot initiative not because I am opposed to charter schools but because their success in our state depends on carefully vetting proposals for new charter schools and then conducting thoughtful oversight of those that are chartered. Unfettered growth will do no one any favors, while thoughtful growth is a winning strategy for students and families.
The writer holds a doctor of education degree.