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Charter school backers launch massive TV ad campaign

The pro-charter school referendum campaign is starting a massive, $2.3 million August television advertising campaign aimed at persuading residents to vote yes on Question Two, which would allow for the creation or expansion of up to 12 charter schools per year in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts public charter schools are among the best in the country,” says a Boston charter school teacher identified as Mrs. Ingall, sitting in a classroom with sunlight streaming through on the desks behind her. “Our charter schools are public. And we have longer school days with more personal attention.”

In the first ad of the campaign, over images of a racially diverse group of children in a classroom, Ingall says “we have a proven record of helping students in underperforming areas succeed.”


Later in the 30-second spot — which will run on broadcast and cable television in the Boston and Springfield areas, including during the Olympics — comes the hard pitch, from a gravely-voiced man: “Vote yes on Question Two for stronger public schools.”

The ad is to begin airing during the opening ceremonies of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, according to Great Schools Massachusetts, the ballot group.

According to the legal disclosure on the ad, several pro-charter groups, including Families for Excellent Schools, are the top contributors.

The spot comes on the heels of the opposition campaign launching its own television ad — backed by more than $800,000 — against expanding the number of charters, which use tax dollars from local school districts, but tend not to be unionized and usually operate with state, not district, supervision.

Opponents of the measure, including teachers unions, say the effort will drain money from regular public schools, hurting the vast majority of students who attend them.

“It is a fact that local public schools will lose more than $400 million this year to privately run charter schools,” said Steve Crawford, a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Our Public Schools, the main opposition organization. “To suggest that charter schools somehow create more funding for the public schools that educate 96 percent of Massachusetts children is, frankly, laughable.”


Traditional public schools do lose money when students leave them for charter schools, because funding follows the students. But proponents argue that charters increase overall funding for public education — both traditional and charter schools — because the state reimburses the traditional public school for a period of time after students decamp for charters.

If voters approve it, the measure will mean significant additions to the state’s existing count of more than 80 charter schools.

The charter school referendum is one of four ballot questions that voters will have a say on in the Nov. 8 election. The other issues Massachusetts residents can cast ballots on: legalizing marijuana for recreational use, prohibiting the sale of eggs and some meat from animals raised in tight cages, and allowing the state to establish a new slots casino.

Joshua Miller can be reached
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