Eagle-Tribune: Yes on charter schools

This editorial originally appeared in The Eagle-Tribune

In addition to the presidential and local elections, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on several ballot questions that will directly affect their daily lives.

Question 2 asks voters to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. If approved, the measure would allow Massachusetts to add as many as a dozen charter schools a year, with the focus being on communities with low-performing schools.

We urge a yes vote. Massachusetts has some of the best charter schools in the nation, many of them situated here in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore. At their best, they drive innovation at traditional schools and give worried parents another option when they feel local districts are failing their children. Multiple studies have shown Massachusetts charter school students make real gains in math and reading.

One need only look to Salem, Mass., for an example of how charters and traditional public schools can co-exist. The Salem Academy Charter School, is a strong, innovative school with a track record of success. Meanwhile, Salem's traditional schools, once facing a state takeover, are now ranked "Level 1," in large part because of the success of the Bentley Elementary School, an in-district charter where educators are encouraged to try new approaches.

Supporters of traditional schools argue that districts lose funding to charters. But in a report released last month, the highly respected Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation noted that charters receive about 4 percent of the roughly $12.7 billion the state spends on education — and educate about 4 percent of the state's children. The funding mechanism is similar to that used for school choice students, or those who attend regional schools like Essex Tech.

There are more than 30,000 children on a waiting list for a charter school in Massachusetts. It is time they had an opportunity to receive the education their parents wish for them.