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Charter school poll shows support for ballot measure

Three-quarters of Boston parents in a new poll support a proposed ballot question to allow more charter schools in the state, according to a survey paid for by charter advocates.

The poll, commissioned by the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, shows support is particularly strong among black, Latino, and low-income parents.

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But not all parents, of course, are voters: The survey finds support tailing off substantially among white, highly educated parents, who are more likely to cast ballots than black, Latino, and poorly educated parents.

The proposed ballot measure, which would go before voters in November, allows for the creation or expansion of 12 charter schools per year, clearing the way for significant additions to the state’s existing stock of 81 charters.

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Critics say charters drain millions of dollars in state funding from traditional public schools. But the poll found the argument has not yet taken hold among Boston parents. Just 31 percent said charter schools “are one of the major causes of the Boston Public School district’s budget problems,” while 48 percent said they are not.

Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for the charter school association, said support for expanding charters has held steady since its last poll of Boston parents in 2014, even amid a sharp public debate on the issue.

“All of the noise that’s happened around this issue hasn’t really driven down support among this group,” he said.

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Marc Kenen, executive director of the charter school association, said the strong backing by black and Latino parents is not surprising, given that so many charters serve heavily minority communities and “have been tremendously successful.”

The survey also found that three in four Boston parents support Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s controversial plan to create a single, unified system for applying for seats in charter and traditional public schools. Critics say the unified enrollment plan could lead to charter expansion and the closure of traditional schools.

The Globe reviewed all of the questions in the poll to ensure that it wasn’t pushing respondents toward support for lifting the state’s cap on charter schools.

Seventy-nine percent of poll respondents said they send a child or children to the Boston Public Schools. The balance send their children to public schools outside the district, charter schools, and private schools.

The poll of 403 parents, conducted March 12-17, has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe.
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