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A final push for, against charter school expansion

Sadatu Mamah-Trawill led a chant prior to a “Yes on 2” rally, which received a rousing reception outside the Roxbury Boys & Girls Club in Boston on MondayCraig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Governor Charlie Baker made an impassioned closing argument for more charter schools at a Roxbury rally Monday night, capping a fervent final day of campaigning for Massachusetts’ four ballot questions.

Baker, flanked by a diverse group of parents and students, pitched a charter-expansion referendum as a chance to bring the high-quality education that prevails in the suburbs to more low-income, urban families.

“This is Massachusetts, and we believe in the transformational power of education,” the governor said, his voice rising. “We believe in equal opportunity, and we believe that everybody, no matter where they live or what their zip code is, deserves a chance for something more.”


The speech got a rousing reception from the charter school advocates gathered for the rally behind the Boys & Girls Club in Dudley Square. But it’s not clear how Question 2, which would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools per year, will fare on Election Day.

Recent polls show the contest is either tied or tilting toward the “no” side, which has mobilized hundreds of traditional public school teachers and left-leaning activists in a sprawling ground game that will reach 1.5 million voters before the polls close Tuesday night, according to strategists with the opposition.

The campaign highlighted that strength with a get-out-the-vote rally and press conference in Roxbury Monday afternoon, sending volunteers into the neighborhood to hang “No on 2” reminders on the doors of voters already identified as opponents of the measure.

“We are here to say ‘no’ to Question 2,” said Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, standing outside the Boston chapter of the NAACP, which has come out against the referendum. “But we are here to say ‘yes’ to elevating all young people in the state of Massachusetts . . . and ensuring that we fund all of our schools and not just some of our schools.”


Opponents of the ballot question say charters drain too much money from the traditional public schools that serve most students.

With Hillary Clinton holding a lopsided lead on Donald Trump in the presidential election in Massachusetts and no major contested races for Congress, the ballot question fights have soaked up most of the political energy in the state.

Proponents of a ballot measure that would legalize recreational use of marijuana handed out literature to hundreds of voters waiting outside Boston City Hall Friday to cast early ballots, knocked on almost 1,000 doors in Boston and Cambridge on Saturday, and planned to air television advertisements through Tuesday.

“We’ve put together a strong finish-line push combining traditional and cutting-edge contact methods to reach as many voters as possible across all age groups,” said Jared Moffat, field director for the “Yes on 4” campaign, in a statement.

The “no” campaign is not as large, but is counting on a pair of striking advertisements to break through — one featuring the widow of a state trooper killed by a driver allegedly high on marijuana, and another depicting a dystopian neighborhood overrun by stoners and pot shops after legalization.

Campaigns for and against ballot measures allowing for an additional slots parlor in Massachusetts and requiring the sale of cage-free eggs in the state have not garnered as much attention. But they have been busy making their final pushes.

Paul Shapiro, a vice president at the Humane Society of the United States, which favors the cage-free eggs referendum, said a group of 125 volunteers knocked on about 15,000 doors in the Boston, Springfield, and Worcester areas during the weekend and was at it again Monday.


Polls show the measure with a strong lead. But Shapiro said, “We are running as if we’re in a dead heat.”

Diane Sullivan, campaign manager for Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice, an agribusiness-backed group opposing the ballot measure, said she’s been trying to raise concerns on social media and at community events about the likely increase in egg prices — and particularly the question’s effect on the poor — should the measure pass. The campaign has also made a modest advertising buy on cable television. But she acknowledged that it’s been hard to make an impression in a busy campaign season.

“My resources are very short,” she said.

The charter school fight has been dominated by a pricey television advertising war. But in the closing days, both sides have also turned to automated “robocalls.”

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who opposes Question 2, said in a recorded message to voters that while there are “a lot of good charter schools in Massachusetts,” she worries that the referendum “sends more kids to charter schools without doing anything to help the vast majority of kids at our district public schools.”

Baker, in personalized robocalls that use voters’ names and hometowns, said, “If you like your public school, Question 2 won’t affect you,” but adds that a “yes” vote would help thousands of students who do not have good schools where they live.


Stephanie Ebbert of the Globe staff contributed to this report. David Scharfenberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe