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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Stopping charter school special interests in Massachusetts


Massachusetts teachers rally for increased public school funding and against charter expansion.Christopher Martell, a professor of social studies education at Boston University, wrote a thoughtful explanation of why he would vote NO on Question 2 in November. Question 2 would allow the state to open 12 new charter schools every year forever.

Christopher Martell gives five reasons for his decision.

Here the first three reasons:

“This is not a post about the merits of charter schools. Just like their public school peers, some charter schools provide an excellent education, while others are failing their students.

“The reality is that charter school students perform equal or worse on standardized tests than their peers in the public schools.

“In Boston, while charter school students perform better on state standardized tests, their public school peers are more likely to graduate college.

“Overall, Massachusetts has the nation’s best public education system, which is something we should be very proud of, but also something we must carefully protect.


“Instead, this post is focused specifically on the upcoming Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts. If this question passes, it would remove the current statewide cap on charter schools and allow up to 12 new Massachusetts charter schools every year.

“If it does not pass, the state legislature will continue to decide how many new charter schools can open in the future. Considering all of the negative consequences of the ballot question at hand, I am using this post to discuss the five reasons why I will be voting NO on Question 2 during this November’s election.

“1. This ballot question will decrease funding for traditional public schools. Despite the “Yes on 1” campaign’s claims in television commercials that voting yes will result in “more funding for public education,” there is no evidence that this is true, especially since communities continue to receive less state educational aid.

“Even the ballot question’s most vocal supporter, Governor Charlie Baker has stated that Questions 2 will not change the current school funding formula.

“Currently, more than $450 million is being drawn from public school districts and with an increase of 12 charter schools per year (which according to this ballot question can happen indefinitely), it could cost local school districts close to $1 billion by the end of the decade.

“While charter schools are approved by the state, their funding comes largely from charter school tuition reimbursements from public school districts (see here, for more on charter school funding).
“Boston had a $158 million charter school tuition assessment, which was 5% of the entire city budget. 

If this question passes, it could lead to almost all of Boston’s state education aid being diverted to charter schools.

“Moreover, there are other costs that local districts incur related to charter schools, including transportation. Last year, Boston spent $12 million on charter school busing, while the district has been dramatically cutting its own students’ transportation (middle school students now use public transportation instead of buses and the school assignment policy was changed so more students would attend schools closer to their homes. Boston charter schools also get first pick of school start times).

“2. This ballot question will contribute to growing educational inequity in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts (and nationwide), there is strong evidence that charter schools do not serve all students. They typically have higher student attrition rates (which some attribute to charter schools “pushing” or consulting out students) than public school districts.

“They serve smaller numbers of English language learners and special needs students. They are more likely to use “no excuses” discipline procedures that can be harmful to children (to understand what this looks like, consider this in-district charter school in Boston or these two charter schools in New York).

“They are also contributing to an alarming trend of racial resegregation in schools nationwide. It makes sense to correct these inequities before any major expansion of charter schools occurs in Massachusetts.

“3. This is about privatizing public education. This ballot question is being pushed by well-funded special interest groups (who do not have to reveal their donors and many are from outside Massachusetts with no previous advocacy work for public education), who would like to see more private entities running public schools.


“Many of these special interest groups are supported by wealthy families (who do not typically have children in the public schools) and investors (who profit from investments in charter school companies and other attempts to privatize public education). If you believe that public education is essential for democracy, then this should raise serious concerns.”