Ewell Hopkins: Charter School Vote Is About Children

This article originally appeared in the Vineyard Gazette

Election day is nearing, and as we make our way to our polling locations across the Cape and Islands there are a number of critically important ballot questions that await us. Not the least among them is Question 2, the measure that seeks to lift the so-called cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.

Those in opposition have painted a picture of dire straits for local school districts if the measure passes. Of course, the truth is not as gloomy as they would have you believe. On the other hand, at this moment, there are children sitting in classrooms in at least nine cities across our state who are not receiving a high-quality education; now that’s a pretty gloomy picture. A Yes on 2 vote would change that.

Understandably, I’ve heard from throughout the region concerns about protecting district school budgets from charter school expansion. The reality is that Question 2 is not about our school district, but rather a question of supporting our greater commonwealth. The Vineyard and the peninsula of Cape Cod are home to great public school options for families, with both public charter schools and traditional school districts. It is also true that our community wouldn’t be affected by this ballot question, as we are not near the state-imposed cap. Here’s the truth: a Yes on 2 vote is not about us, it’s about thousands of children living in places like Boston, Springfield, Lawrence and Chelsea who deserve a better shot at a quality public education.

Opponents of Question 2 are effective at creating doubt about this measure. Don’t be fooled. We cannot let adult issues get in the way of providing access to better options for kids, the vast majority of whom live in poverty and are families of color.

Through my campaign for state representative, I was fortunate to get to meet thousands of residents across the district. This experience reminded me that we all share the same aspirations for our kids. Imagine our collective power for kids in communities across our state if we joined together. That advocacy is not without champions. In fact, here on the Vineyard, our most prominent summer visitor, President Obama, has been a leading voice for public charter schools, and if elected, Hillary Clinton will carry the torch further. As Democrats, we must be committed to expanding what’s working in our public schools and fixing what isn’t working for our students. No child should be stuck in an underperforming school or denied opportunities just because of what neighborhood they live in.

Massachusetts leads the nation with the best traditional and innovative public charter schools in the country, and we must work day in and day out to continue to earn that title. The choice we make in November will determine the options available to thousands of Massachusetts’ students and families, as well as our ability to continue delivering on the promise of a world-class education for every child. That seems like a pretty bright picture. Let’s paint that one. Vote Yes on 2.

Ewell Hopkins lives in Oak Bluffs.