“I decided to do what I feel is best for students, whatever the political ramifications may be. ... it’s the right thing to do.”
— House Speaker Robert DeLeo, endorsing Question 2.
Sadly, many other elected officials in Massachusetts have decided that “the right thing to do” is to keep cashing their checks from the teachers’ unions that are almost unilaterally bankrolling the No on 2 campaign. In return they’re working to block the expansion of charter schools, leaving tens of thousands of kids, many of them in the neediest school districts, languishing on a waiting list.
Question 2 would allow for the gradual expansion of public charter school seats in the commonwealth, with a particular focus on the lowest-performing school districts. We hope voters aren’t dissuaded by the campaign of misinformation opponents are using to defeat the question.
The Herald urges a “yes” vote on Question 2.
The main argument against Question 2 is that it amounts to a raid on local school district budgets. That argument has gained particular traction in affluent suburban communities (entirely by design) where the impact of charter schools on the budget is actually negligible and would continue to be if Question 2 passes.
It’s families in cities — many of them low-income minorities — who will suffer if the question fails.
And of course the budget argument itself is built on a flimsy foundation.
Of the nearly $12.7 billion spent on public education in Massachusetts just under 4 percent goes to charters, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation reported recently. That lines up with statewide enrollment in charter schools, which is just under 4 percent.
Yes, when a student enrolls in a charter the district technically “loses” funds. But the district is no longer educating that student, and is still eligible for reimbursement payments for years following the student’s departure.
Opponents of Question 2 say that if public schools are falling short we should simply fix them. But the union leaders, lawmakers and local school officials who make that argument have given no indication that they’re willing to embrace the necessary reforms to make that happen. Something as simple as adopting a longer school day (a formula in use by many successful charters) can spark the municipal version of the Hundred Years War.
Families whose kids are stuck in failing schools don’t have time to wait while the grown-ups wage these battles.
The formula here is pretty simple. If you are a voter who supports the right of families, including poor families, to have a choice when it comes to educating their children, you should support Question 2.
If you are a voter who is tired of waiting for government officials and school districts to deliver on their promises to turn around low-performing schools, you should support Question 2.
If you support accountability — charters that don’t make the grade can be and have been closed, unlike failing district schools — you should support Question 2.
There are 32,000 children stuck on waiting lists for enrollment in a charter school. There is a path out for those kids, but for too many families the existing enrollment cap is blocking that path. Question 2 deserves to pass.
This Editorial originally appeared in the Boston Herald.