Marty Walz in The Beacon Hill Times: Why I'm 'Yes on 2'

The following op-ed by Marty Walz originally appeared in print in The Beacon Hill Times.

If all you know about Question 2, the ballot question that would lift the cap on public charter schools, is what you’ve seen on TV – chances are good you’re confused about how to vote.

As the author of the current charter school law when I was a state Representative and House Chair of the Education Committee, I’m voting yes and ask you to do the same. 

Here are the facts. Voting yes on Question 2 would allow more public charter schools to open in the nine cities where new charters can’t open today because of an arbitrary cap imposed by state law. Boston is one of those nine cities. The ballot question has no impact on the 342 cities and towns not near the cap. But, for these nine cities, it would mean that more children would have more access to a world-class public education.

A vocal minority of charter school opponents are doing their best to convince voters that charters drain money from public schools. This is nothing more than a scare tactic. What the TV ads don’t say: charter schools are public schools, and, as with all public schools, the taxpayer funds allocated for a child’s education follow the child to whatever public school is educating him or her.

Moreover, a recent report by the nonpartisan Boston Municipal Research Bureau confirmed that charter schools are not causing Boston Public Schools’ budget pressures. In fact, the BPS budget increased 25% in the past six years. With an annual budget over $1 billion, BPS spends more per pupil than any of the 100 largest school districts in America.

Teachers unions have provided 99% of the funds for the campaign against Question 2. Rather than doing what’s best for kids, they are motivated by self-interested adult-focused policies that protect a status quo that is failing to serve too many children. Public charter schools prove what’s possible academically with low income and minority children.

A recent Brookings Institution report underscores this point. It said “charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.”

Public charter schools in Massachusetts are held accountable for students’ academic achievement in ways traditional district schools are not. If a charter school does a poor job educating students, the state shuts it down – as it should. In contrast, the state can’t force local school committees to close chronically underperforming district schools that are robbing kids of a quality education – a particularly acute problem in cities. Too often the schools carry on, generation after generation, providing a poor quality education.

No wonder tens of thousands of Massachusetts students are on waiting lists for high-performing public charter schools, including 12,000 in Boston alone. Parents desperately want better schools for their children, yet the existing cap on charter schools is blocking the establishment of more great schools.

We hear how Massachusetts has the best schools in the nation. True enough, yet this bragging masks a problem: the large, persistent achievement gaps our state has failed to close for children of color and those from low-income backgrounds. Massachusetts has the third largest achievement gap based on family income in the nation, and it is growing larger. In contrast, public charter schools narrow these stubborn gaps, especially for urban low income and minority children.

Created by liberal Democrats in the state legislature in 1993 to give parents better educational choices, charter schools are now a source of controversy within the Democratic Party as two key constituencies are on opposites sides. While teachers unions oppose charters, minority voters overwhelmingly support their expansion. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, two other House Education Committee Chairs, Patricia Haddad and Alice Peisch, and many other Democrats support children’s access to high quality charter schools.  

I’ve devoted much of my career to improving district schools. Ideally, Boston Public Schools would rank as every family’s first choice. Until that day, we should honor families and their desires for better options for their children. Question 2 maximizes opportunity for students and advances equity, which fulfills our moral obligation to meet their educational needs.

Marty Walz, a Democrat, served as State Representative for the 8th Suffolk District from 2005-2013. Walz currently serves as Chair of the advisory board for Democrats for Education Reform-Massachusetts.

 

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Boston Herald Editorial: Yes on Question 2

“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. 

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Boston Globe: In Salem, a balanced approach to charter schools

This article by Yvonne Abraham originally appeared in the Boston Globe.

SALEM — People have very strong feelings about Question 2 — even in suburban districts where it will have no impact.

The debate has been loud and polarizing, making it harder to think clearly about the pros and cons of the question that would lift the cap on charter schools, allowing the state to OK up to 12 new ones a year in districts that need them most.

Though most districts have not hit their charter caps, and won’t be affected by Question 2, about 180 school committees have voted to oppose the ballot measure.

Thanks in large part to Mayor Kim Driscoll, Salem’s isn’t one of them. Instead, after some debate, the school committee settled on a resolution both affirming the value of charters and calling for fixes to the problems they raise.

When Salem was designated as a severely struggling Level 4 district by the state a few years ago, “it felt like a punch in the gut,” Driscoll said. One elementary school, the Bentley, dropped into the lowest-performing category, but the whole district needed help. Her school department has been aggressive about innovating and intolerant of the status quo. The Bentley eventually became an in-district charter school. Turnaround status, more state funding, and community partnerships brought longer days, more enrichment, and better community connections through a program where teachers visit kids at home. On a recent morning, the school hummed with engaged students and energetic teachers.

This year, the Bentley shot from Level 4 to Level 1 status. The whole district is on the upswing, even as 51 percent of fifth-grade parents across the city still apply to Salem Academy, a high performing charter school outside the district. Competition has worked as reformers hoped, pushing district schools to do better.

“We desire to build unity in our community and not be divided by a statewide ballot question,” the resolution read, in part.

When Salem was designated as a severely struggling Level 4 district by the state a few years ago, “it felt like a punch in the gut,” Driscoll said. One elementary school, the Bentley, dropped into the lowest-performing category, but the whole district needed help. Her school department has been aggressive about innovating and intolerant of the status quo. The Bentley eventually became an in-district charter school. Turnaround status, more state funding, and community partnerships brought longer days, more enrichment, and better community connections through a program where teachers visit kids at home. On a recent morning, the school hummed with engaged students and energetic teachers.

This year, the Bentley shot from Level 4 to Level 1 status. The whole district is on the upswing, even as 51 percent of fifth-grade parents across the city still apply to Salem Academy, a high performing charter school outside the district. Competition has worked as reformers hoped, pushing district schools to do better.

“It has forced us to look at what we’re doing and how can we do it better,” Driscoll said. “It’s not hostile — maybe because we’re eight square miles and we all know each other.”

Elsewhere, Question 2 opponents have convinced their neighbors that charter schools educate somebody else’s kids. They speak as if charters aren’t public, even though they are; that they’re not accountable, when they’re more closely monitored by the state than district schools; that they’re as shady as bad charters in other states, when in fact ours are among the best charters in the country. Because they have to meet such a high bar, only a few are approved each year, and that wouldn’t change after a cap lift.

But Salem’s experience also demonstrates some of the problems with charters: Though she is a fan of Salem Academy, Driscoll would like its students to more closely mirror the makeup of the district, and she is unhappy that the state has failed to fully fund the reimbursements the district gets when students first leave for charters. Driscoll said she has had to cut other services to make up for shortfalls. That said, it’s important to realize that Salem, like many districts, also loses funding when kids go to the regional vocational high school and to open enrollment districts like Beverly, but it doesn’t get reimbursed for that.

There are more than 30,000 kids on waiting lists to get into charters statewide. Many of them are poor, black and Hispanic. While last week’s MassINC poll found a majority of all voters oppose Question 2, 54 percent of minority voters support it. A no vote tells parents who want to choose charters to wait and see if their schools improve. Opponents, with the teachers unions in the vanguard, are critical of the charters and worried about losing more funding. They see the long waiting lists for charter seats as the lesser of two evils.

Driscoll won’t choose between them.

“It has caused hostility within communities, between unions who feel they need to defend themselves, and people who want choice, who feel slighted,” she said. “It’s not a good environment. I don’t want to be part of that.”

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.

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Statement on Speaker Robert DeLeo’s Support of Question 2

Statement on House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s Support of Question 2 

BOSTON – Massachusetts House of Representatives Speaker Robert DeLeo today announced his support for Question 2. Speaker DeLeo made his announcement during an interview on WCVB’s "On the Record"program, which will air on Sunday. The November ballot question seeks to lift the state-imposed cap on public charter schools in Massachusetts. 

“I decided to do what I feel is best for students. I think it is the right thing to do,” the Speaker said. Earlier this year, when asked about charter school expansion more generally, the Speaker said, ”Who am I as a speaker or a Senate president or a governor to tell a parent that no, we're sorry, we're not going to give your child that opportunity? And I've always been a strong supporter of public education.”

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) enthusiastically welcomed the Speaker’s announcement. 

“We commend Speaker DeLeo for having the courage to stand up for kids and families who are desperate for a better public school option,” said Liam Kerr, Massachusetts State Director for DFER. “Speaker DeLeo joins the company of other great Democrats in support of high-quality charter school expansion, including President Obama, Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education John King and Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.”

Recently, Democratic Congressman Steven Lynch announced his support of Question 2. Other prominent members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives have also just recently announced their support for Question 2, including Rep. Alice Peisch of Wellesley, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Education, and Rep. Pat Haddad of Somerset. 

“As a former elected official, I know how difficult it can be for Democrats to withstand the political pressure from those advocating for the status quo,” said Marty Walz, a former State Representative and co-chair of the Joint Committee of Education, who now chairs the DFER Massachusetts Advisory Council. “It is important to remember that Democratic support for charter schools is not new. In fact, it was Democrats in the legislature who first laid the groundwork for charter schools to be created in Massachusetts in the 1990s and Democrats - including Governor Patrick - who lifted the cap most recently in 2010.”

Question 2, a Ballot question that will be decided this November, seeks to lift the cap on public charter schools. Currently, more than 30,000 students are on waiting lists for access to public charter schools in Massachusetts. Democrats for Education Reform is advocating for passage of the measure.

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Auchincloss: Choice in education helps fulfill the American promise

This op-ed originally appeared in the Newton Tab

The American promise is that the condition of your birth should not determine the outcome of your life.

Much of our history is the struggle to make good on that promise for those who were left out of the 18th century social contract: women, immigrants, African-Americans, those with disabilities and those without inherited wealth, among many others. It is a good struggle. As an American, I am proud of the American promise; as a Democrat, I am proud of my party for protecting it during this election season.

Protecting the American promise is not enough, however. Each generation must advance it. I believe the next major advancement will not hinge upon identity as a condition of birth but rather upon location as a condition of birth. Right now, the data is inescapable: our childhood ZIP Codes do, in large measure, determine the outcomes of our lives. That is un-American.

Choice in education brings high-performing schools to low-income cities. Ballot Question 2 would advance choice in education by allowing Massachusetts education officials to approve up to 12 new charter schools per year, bringing high-performing schools to cities like New Bedford and Holyoke. Randomized controlled trials – the gold standard of science – have confirmed that Bay State charter schools, which have no selection bias in admissions, improve outcomes for low-income students relative to district schools. They drive social mobility by making location less important as a condition of birth.

Many critics cede that the Commonwealth’s charter schools are indeed national models, but that the funding formula must be fixed in order to maintain district schools. This is a sidestep. For one, districts receive additional state aid for six years after a student transfers to a charter school, so that they can amortize fixed costs less disruptively. And, the respected Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation finds zero evidence that school districts “are suffering a loss of support, or that the per-student funding of districts is trending negatively” because of charter schools.

More fundamentally, though, the fixation on the funding formula implies that state aid should target certain schools. State aid should target student achievement, wherever it is manifest.

My parents would never have allowed the quality of my education to be subject to the whims of a ballot measure. They had the means to move to Newton when I was born, and I had the privilege of attending world-class schools. Hundreds of thousands of my fellow citizens, however, do not have the means to move to Newton, and so their children will not share my privilege. Our ZIP Codes will determine different outcomes for our lives. Yes on 2 helps Massachusetts solve that injustice, so we can make another stride towards the American promise.

Jake Auchincloss is a councilor at-large in Ward 2

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Statement on Secretary King’s Support of Charter School Expansion

Statement on U.S. Secretary of Education John King’s Support of Charter School Expansion 

BOSTON – On Wednesday afternoon, United States Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. expressed his support to lift “arbitrary” caps that limit the expansion of high-quality public charter schools, such as those currently in place in Massachusetts. 

Secretary King, who helped found Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, said, "I think any arbitrary cap on the growth of high-performing charters is a mistake in terms of our goal of trying to improve opportunity for all kids.” Later, Secretary King stated further that his opposition to limiting educational opportunities applies to both the NAACP’s recently passed resolution calling for a moratorium on public charter schools and efforts to oppose Ballot Question 2 in Massachusetts.

In response to Secretary King’s reaffirmation of his support for public charter schools, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) released the following statement:

“Secretary King knows, better than most, the real life consequences of denying kids access to a high-quality public education,” said Liam Kerr, State Director of Democrats for Education Reform. “The Secretary’s comments are in line with the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to growing and replicating high-performing public charter schools and ensuring more children across the nation have access to the world-class public education they deserve. Indeed, here in Massachusetts, it was President Obama's Race to the Top initiative that inspired the most recent charter cap lift signed by Governor Patrick in 2010.” 

Last week, Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton reaffirmed her support for high-quality charter schools, like those here in Massachusetts. 

Next Wednesday, Secretary King’s predecessor under President Obama, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, will headline Democrats for Education Reform’s Education Party in Boston. Secretary Duncan has been a long-time supporter of, and advocate for, high-quality public charter schools, both as Secretary and during his time as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. 

Question 2, a Ballot question that will be decided this November, seeks to lift the cap on public charter schools. Currently, more than 30,000 students are on waiting lists for access to public charter schools in Massachusetts. Democrats for Education Reform is advocating for passage of the measure. 

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Kerr: A Kid In Trump’s America

This post originally appeared on Dems for Education Reform's Medium

At Democrats for Education Reform, we think this is a perfect opportunity, as election day nears, to emphasize just how disastrous a Trump presidency would be for America’s children. As Democrats, we must all come together in determination to ensure that no kid has to live in Donald Trump’s America.

Growing up in Trump’s America would mean living in a world of increased inequality. It would mean a conservative House majority empowered to cutfree school lunches for children who need them. It would mean a greater chance of getting asthma in coal country after President Trump abolishes the Environmental Protection Agency and prioritizes regressive energy policies over clean jobs for the future.

With Trump leading America, a child’s skin color or religion could make him or her the object of public suspicion. Children of undocumented immigrants could be separated from their family by federal agents. These conditions would make access to a quality education all but impossible even before a child entered the classroom.

Once that child got to the classroom, however, Trump’s education policies would be almost as disastrous. The Republican nominee has promised “tremendous cutting” to the Department of Education if elected president, and those cuts would disproportionately affect our most vulnerable communities. Trump wants to significantly limit the federal government’s role in education in favor of a highly localized approach, but federal programs like Title I are crucial to closing the achievement gap for low-income kids.

Similarly, Trump seeks to eliminate federal safeguards on quality education for all students, such as the Common Core. Trump cloaks these proposals in the rhetoric of local control, but they actually would serve to strip back years of progress in making sure our education system is accountable for teaching all students — not just the most privileged.

As Democrats for Education Reform, we champion school choice among high-quality public schools, but Trump’s voucher plan shrinks from that ideal. Under Trump’s plan, public education money would follow students not just to the public school of their choice, like traditional districts and public charter schools, but to private schools as well. The result would be a system in which public money would flow to private institutions whose curricula and admissions practices lie almost completely outside public oversight.

The venue of Trump’s education speech also underscores just how much he perverts the ideal of public school choice. As an ideal, choice is meant to ensure that all students have the option of attending a high-quality public school — that is what charter schools are primarily for. The Ohio charter school where Trump gave his speech, the Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, gives students no such option. The school, like many in Ohio, fails to live up to the promise of quality education, instead garnering failing reviews from the state. In the 2014–2015 school year, fewer than half of its students scored proficient or better in math and reading.

Under any good charter school law — such as the one here in Massachusetts — the Academy’s existence would be threatened: a cornerstone of progressive charter school policy is strict accountability for learning. In Ohio, however, charter regulation is lax, and the schools can often be for-profit. The strong public oversight of Massachusetts’ public charter schools, combined with their demonstrable progress in closing achievement gaps, is why we support them so strongly here.

It’s not surprising, however, that Trump would favor a lack of accountability in education, given that Trump University would certainly fail the accountability standards of any progressive charter school proponent. Charter schools have a major role to play in closing achievement gaps, but Trump’s rejection of accountability and regulation would destroy their ability to play that role effectively.

As Democrats for Education Reform, we are especially sensitive to the disaster that a Trump presidency would be for America’s children. That disaster would be borne primarily by students who most need federal- and state-level intervention to secure their civil right to a quality education. As Democrats, we certainly sometimes disagree on what is best in education, but all Democrats — and indeed, all Americans — should recognize the need to unify on behalf of our children against the prospect of a President Trump.

If that prospect doesn’t scare you enough, you need only consider the prospect of a kid in Trump’s America.


Liam Kerr is DFER’s Massachusetts State Director.

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Peisch: Charters are working for children who need them most

This op-ed originally appeared in the MetroWest Daily News.

On November 8, voters across Massachusetts will head to the polls to decide whether to raise the cap on charter school enrollment. Question 2 would allow the state to approve up to 12 new charters a year across the state with a priority to site these schools in the state’s lowest-performing districts. It is ironic that the outcome of a vote that will decide the fate of poor communities’ access to more high quality educational opportunities may very well be decided by voters in high–performing suburban school districts that will not be affected by a cap lift.

Like the overwhelming majority of public school districts in the state, the suburban communities that I represent are not even close to the statutory cap and there is little to no demand for charter schools there. In the same way raising the credit limit on a credit card has no impact on the spending of someone who never spends close to his/her credit limit, raising the cap has no impact on districts that are far below the cap. Lifting the cap, however, will have a positive impact on districts that are at or near the cap. For children in these communities, where the overwhelming majority of the 32,000 currently on waiting lists reside, the stakes could not be higher.

Let me be very clear. I am a strong supporter of high quality district public schools for all children and started in the Legislature as a charter school opponent. However, my legislative colleagues who represent poorly performing urban districts changed my perspective and as the House Chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education, I have seen firsthand the ways in which charter schools have not only provided educational opportunities for those who otherwise would not have such opportunities, but also have demonstrated to traditional districts that the low-income children that had been failing in district schools could perform at high levels given the chance.

I believe that charter schools are just one of the many tools that are needed to close the gap between students in our high performing suburban schools and those in our low performing urban systems.

Legislation that I helped to craft with input from all stakeholders including school committees, superintendents and teachers unions that would have given district schools significantly more tools to improve educational outcomes and allowed a modest expansion of charters passed in the House in 2014. However, the same interests that are now opposing Question 2 successfully pressured the state Senate to reject the compromise bill.

The argument of those opposed to charters that they are motivated by a concern for all children rings hollow to me. These groups were so opposed to even a moderate, incremental charter expansion that they killed common-sense legislation that would have benefitted public school districts across the state. Had that legislation passed, we would not be in this divisive ballot campaign today.

Massachusetts charter schools, the best in the nation, have demonstrably closed the achievement gap in low-income, minority neighborhoods. A recent study from the Brookings Institute, a liberal think-tank, found that “charter schools in the urban areas of Massachusetts have large, positive effects on educational outcomes. The effects are particularly large for disadvantaged students, English learners, special education students, and children who enter charters with low test scores.”

Still, while urban parents are in dire need of more options, Question 2 opponents have been cynically urging suburban parents to limit them. What suburban parents are being asked to do is deny parents in Boston, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence and other low-income, low-performing districts the same access to high quality opportunities they now enjoy.

I do not believe that charter schools are the only answer, but they can be part of a comprehensive public education system that improves outcomes for all students. Even if the cap is lifted, we will still need to work together toward system-wide improvements. The goal of ensuring that every child in the Commonwealth has access to a high quality public school will not be achieved in November, but should this referendum pass, it would be a step in the right direction and one on which the Legislature will build moving forward.

I ask you to join me in voting “Yes” on Question 2 so that all children will have the opportunity to access high quality public education regardless of where they live or what their parents’ income.

Rep. Alice H. Peisch serves the 14th Norfolk District, which includes Wellesley, Weston and Wayland, and is House Chair of the Joint Committee on Education.

 

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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.

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Andrea Silbert: Yes on Question 2 the right choice for Cape Cod

This article originally appeared in The Cape Cod Times

This fall, voters across Massachusetts will have the opportunity to increase the access to great schools for more children in the commonwealth. The opportunity will come in the form of Question 2, a ballot question that will allow the state Board of Education to approve a modest increase in new charter schools or expansions each year, with preference given to the lowest performing school districts.

As a Harwich resident, I support Question 2 for two simple reasons:

First, Massachusetts’ charter public schools are great public schools. In fact, they are considered among the best in the nation, including our own Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis and the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Harwich. Sturgis was ranked the best high school in Massachusetts and the 33rd best in the nation by US News and World Reports in 2016. The Sturgis school’s International Baccalaureate program has become a model for other schools, and now Nauset Regional High School, which two of my children attend, is planning to add the IB diploma.

Second, students and parents need choice. We are the consumers of education and as consumers, we should demand different options for different kids. One size fits all doesn’t work in most industries and especially not in education. We are extremely fortunate to have school choice by district on the Cape and I believe it has raised the bar for all schools.

As a nonprofit executive, I’ve dedicated my career to creating more opportunity for all – from fighting poverty in our inner-cities to promoting equality for women in the workplace. I’ve worked around the state in some of our poorest communities helping district and charter public schools fight hunger and improve educational outcomes. I support Question 2 because I believe opportunity starts in the classroom.

And the data are clear: charter classrooms are some of the highest performing classrooms in the state. With a 20-year track record of improving outcomes for all children, particularly students of color and those from low-income families, studies from Stanford to MIT have shown that Massachusetts not only has the best charter public schools in the country – but that these charters represent some of the very best public schools in a state education system that is already ranked first-in-the-nation.

Central to the success of Massachusetts charters is the longer school days and more personal attention they offer. Each year, public charter schools across the commonwealth give children hundreds of additional hours in the classroom. This not only provides students with the strong culture of learning all children need to succeed, but ensures each child leaves school prepared to contribute to our increasingly diverse — and competitive — global economy.

I also support expanding access to charter public schools because I know first-hand what an impact the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School has had on thousands of children over the last 21 years since its founding. I have one daughter who just graduated and is better prepared for high school because of CCLCS and another son who just started and is thriving. And while we have other good schools on the Cape and CCLCS may not be the right school for every kid, for some of our children, it is a true lifeline. I have heard countless stories about kids who had turned off from academics until they got to CCLCS where the experiential and project based approach the school offered grabbed them and turned them around.

So for me, it’s simple: a Yes vote for Question 2 is a vote to strengthen public education in Massachusetts – and one step closer to giving every parent the right to choose the right public school for their child.

It’s the right thing to do for kids – and the smart thing to do for our future.

Andrea Silbert of Harwich is vice chair of the Alliance for Business Leadership, a coalition of business leaders advocating for social responsibility.

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