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.