Senate President Stanley Rosenberg is right that funding is “the big enchilada” in the charter debate (“To understand the charter cap battle, follow the money”). Public school districts are losing an estimated $408 million to charter schools this year. Charter advocates claim this loss is not a problem, but parents, students, and educators beg to differ.
When they lose funds to charter schools, districts are forced to reduce art and music programs, increase class sizes, and restrict or defer services for preschool and dropout prevention. The state's Foundation Budget Review Commission recently concluded that Massachusetts must add more than $1 billion yearly to meet its obligations for funding local districts.
As Moody's Investors Service explained in a 2013 report, charters threaten the financial stability of school districts. Moody's wrote, "Charter schools can pull students and revenues away from districts faster than the districts can reduce their costs. . . . As some of these districts trim costs to balance out declining revenues, cuts in programs and services will further drive students to seek alternative institutions, including charter schools."
If the cap on charters is lifted, this downward spiral could irreversibly damage the oldest and most successful public education system in the country.
The writer served as general counsel to the state's Executive Office for Administration and Finance in the Dukakis and Weld administrations.