Why Question 2 grassroots opposition is growing

Measure allows unchecked charter school growth with no local control

I HAVE SPENT much of my adult life supporting local political movements and promoting direct voter contact as the best way to win elections. I like to think I know what real grassroots campaigns look like. The nearly unanimous vote recently by the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee to align itself with the national Democratic Party platform developed by supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — which says charter schools “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools” — was no surprise to me or anyone who is paying attention to the important issues in this November’s election.

Grassroots opposition to Question 2, which would greatly increase the number of charter schools in Massachusetts, has been building for months. So far, more than 80 elected school committees and city councils have voted to oppose Question 2. So have the Massachusetts Parent Teacher Association and the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Dozens of mayors and other local officials are against passage of Question 2. Even Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a longtime charter supporter who formerly sat on the board of a charter school, opposes Question 2 because of the irreversible harm it would do to the Boston Public Schools.  More and more charter supporters recognize that Question 2 is the wrong solution because it would allow indefinite expansion each year of charter schools, which local government has no say in approving.

When you consider that Massachusetts students rank Number 1 in the US on measurements of student achievement and 96 percent of Massachusetts public school students attend local district public schools, you’ll understand that the grassroots campaign against Question 2 is likely to grow exponentially. As the school year starts during the coming days, families will be faced with another year of fighting budget cuts, fundraising for classroom supplies, and being asked to pay extra fees for basic elements of their children’s education. Neighbor-to-neighbor conversations will highlight why Question 2 is a mistake for families and students.

When a parent hears from a friend how much their community or a neighboring district already loses to the state charter funding formula and then how Question 2 allows unlimited expansion with no local control, the weakness of Question 2’s approach will become clear.  Parents, educators, local taxpayers, and the local elected leaders who must balance school budgets each year are organizing against a state mandate that would allow state bureaucrats to approve 12 new charters schools a year, every year, forever, with no limit on how much money a single district could lose. This would nearly triple the number of charter schools in just 10 years – each year taking more and more resources from local district schools that are educating the highest performing students in the nation.

Last year, 243 local school districts lost a total of $412 million in taxpayer money to charter schools. Local schools face cuts year after year, limiting their ability to provide science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; preserve programs such as music, art, and athletics; or expand early childhood education, which is critical to students’ success later in life.

There are some who think every charter school is bad and others who think charters are the answer to every situation. Most people see the question as less absolute and worry that a policy that allows unlimited expansion of charters without answering the questions about funding and without giving local parents and leaders a voice in the control of education dollars in their community is a mistake. Count me among them. That’s why I’ll be voting no on Question 2 and talking to my friends and neighbors to tell them why.

John Walsh served as Deval Patrick’s campaign manager during his 2006 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party from 2007-2013, and executive director of Deval Patrick’s Together PAC.

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  • everyoneelse

    When people here that there could be a better chance their children can attend some of the top performing public schools in the country. Schools capped by unions trying to protect their jobs at all costs including the future of children, they only care about one thing, their kids.

    • Kathy

      Massachusetts has some of the best public schools in the US. Don’t try to make this about unions — plenty of taxpaying parents of public schools students also oppose Question 2! We can’t afford to have charters drain the life out of our democratically and locally governed public schools. Vote No on 2.

      • Matt

        Some of the best, and still plenty of awful failing schools that leave kids stranded because parents have no choice in the matter. You purport the democratic values of public schools (a charter is a public school by the way run by non-profits in MA). What is more democratic than a parent choosing the school their child goes too?

        • Kathy

          Matt, Question 2 allows 12 new charter schools to open in Massachusetts per YEAR with no extra funding. How is this sustainable? We cannot afford a two tiered education system. Charters get public monies are supposedly non-profit but they don’t answer to the taxpayers in cities or towns that they reside in. This is undemocratic.

          • Matt

            Not supposedly, they are non-profits. The money follows the students, as it should if some districts need to resize that’s all for the better.

            The MA system is already two-tiered. Good public schools for affluent people in the burbs, failing public schools in our inner cities for the poor. Blocking the expansion of charters just further entrenches a broken education bureaucracy that has done very little to help those most in need. The charter schools to date largely have outstanding performance, and are helping kids get better educations. 30K kids are on waiting lists right now to get in to a charter school. This speaks volumes.

            Undemocratic is having no choice in where you send your children to school. If people have choices and they don’t like the direction a school is going they can vote with their feet.

          • Kathy

            The money doesn’t follow the students all the time. Districts are still not fully reimbursed for the students they lose to charters even though the legislature specified it. They just never fully funded those reimbursements. Do you also agree that we should have 2 systems of roads, two state governments, two fire departments, two police departments in every state/town?

            There are plenty of people (like myself) who are urban public school parents. In Boston, it’s completely unfair to classify BPS as “failing public schools”. Boston has one of the best urban school systems in the US. Many articles and much research has been done on the detrimental effects of closing schools (see Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago) and the poor excuses for replacement charters that open. The MA State Auditor has debunked the 30,000 waiting list in MA for charters — it’s lower than that.

            Groups that are supporting a NO vote on Question 2: NAACP, 80+ school committees and city/town councils in MA, MA Democratic Party, MA PTA. Plus, National Labor Relations Board just recently ruled charters are private entities: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2016/08/30/national-labor-relations-board-decides-charter-schools-are-private-corporations-not-public-schools/

            Vote NO on 2!

          • Matt

            A lot of entrenched interests are supporting this. No big surprise. Change is hard, that’s why most BPS still under perform in every way compared to other public schools in MA. Does a two-thirds graduation rate sound good to you? I think we can do better. Charters in Massachussets have shown the way. They’ve proven that they get great results despite surveying under privileged populations. Charter school laws in other states vary dramatically from state to state, lucky MA has the proper checks and balances and the results show.

            Great straw man you threw up there while completely ignoring my point that there already is a two tier system. One for the poor, one for the affluent.

            DOE website’s says 33,903 on the wait list by the way. Even if it’s half that still makes my point. The demand for better schools is real. We as a society ignore it at our own peril. The more it’s delayed by people more concerned with keeping their jobs and pensions, the more we harm the youth.

          • smithie30

            @Matt, You’ve made so many uninformed or erroneous assertions, it’s hard to know where to start. I wrote an extremely long response to a bunch of your points, but then decided to just post this link. It covers quite a lot, and has many links to support his statements.

            http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/08/ma-swift-boating-of-public-schools.html

            I urge you to do some more in-depth reading on the subject from a variety of sources, like I have. It may not completely change your mind on the issue, but maybe you’ll at least think a little more carefully about your position. Even if charters didn’t create a two-tiered educational system, they have certainly made it far far worse.

          • Matt

            thank you for sparing me…

            How have they made things worse? By producing some of the highest performing inner city schools filled with primarily the poor and minorities?

            http://www.greatschools.org/massachusetts/boston/2681-Edward-Brooke-Charter-School/

            What I don’t understand is why people are blind to the inequities that already exist, and think that if we just leave the existing systems in place it’ll fix itself despite decades of evidence to the contrary.

            If people are interested, there was a good debate on the subject on WBUR this afternoon.

            http://www.wbur.org/radioboston/2016/09/13/charter-ballot-debate

          • smithie30

            Well already I see the problem. The link you provide for proof is from Great Schools, the group that’s a front for Wall Street investors. Again, please investigate further before you just continue to parrot the false narrative of these profiteers. You can start with the link I gave you.

          • Matt

            yes, Wall Street. No on prop 2 boogie men, some of whom are donating money to non-profit schools. How dare they!

            Oh no! they get tax credits for donations to fund schools and development in neighborhoods most investors steer clear of. The horror…

          • smithie30

            Your sarcasm doesn’t make up for the fact that they’re in it for the money, period.

          • Matt

            Lets say you’re right (you’re not), does it matter that their motives are not purely altruistic if they are helping people? I for one don’t care if they are if it means better education for those who need it. We could say the same thing about no on prop 2 groups like teachers unions. The status quo means job security and therefore money to them; the kids be damned.

          • smithie30

            Define “helping people.” Help them what? Get higher scores on a useless test that has no relation to real life? Even if we agree on that definition of help, it comes at a significant cost to the kids who stay in public school. The charters take money from those schools, leaving them with even fewer resources. Are you fine with only “saving” a small percentage of children? Charter schools are making the two-tier system you rail against much, much worse.

            Public education is not a consumer good. It is there as a benefit to society as a whole, which is why taxpayers have to pay for it whether they have children or not.

            And, since it’s apparently not obvious to you, teachers unions are made up of teachers, most of whom are in it precisely for the kids. Nobody in public ed is exactly getting rich in that job; in fact, many teachers barely make a decent wage.

          • Matt

            For the record I could quibble over the biases of sources you linked to as well…

          • rjheckma

            Can I scream now

        • rjheckma

          Paying just the amount of taxes they want to pay, not what the invoice says

          • Matt

            Are we talking about Boston area colleges or charter schools now? Sounds like you are conflating the two.

  • Sue Hople

    This article led me to a quick search on the Mass. DOEd site for school district profiles. I can easily find Per Pupil Expenditures for traditional public districts, but can’t find similar information for the random charters profiles I clicked on. On the three charter school profiles I randomly checked, there was either NO ‘Finance’ tab for the charter, or that tab was blank. (Abby Kelley Foster Charter “No data reported.” http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/finance.aspx?orgcode=04450000&orgtypecode=5&) Trad public schools are simply held to a higher level of accountability, and this is one example.

    Additionally, I thought charters were conceived to mirror the demographics of the district they draw from. But again, DOE site profiles show that every charter IS its own district, so voila, it mirrors itself. I don’t subscribe to the idea that all charters are bad, but I do believe they are dividing communities and the benefits of public education that should be available to all. Why not increase charters to 100% of Mass. schools since we need more and we could circumvent those cushy union jobs? How exactly would that work, financially? Until all students have the same opportunities, we have a divided model of education.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Question 2 would allow the unlimited expansion of charter schools…unlimited. How does that make any sense? VOTE NO on Question 2.

    • Matt

      Why does it not make sense?

      • rjheckma

        sorta like the difference of medicare and traditional private insurance companies, working for profit

        • Matt

          Charter schools in MA are non-profit.

          • Mhmjjj2012

            Except for the Massachusetts charter schools managed by a private, for-profit company like SABIS that is based in Minnesota and has roots in Lebanon.

  • DimsumMA

    There is another side of this debate beyond oversight and whether or not charter schools philosophically increase options for public school students. Given that there are major tax credits available to the wealthy to support charter schools, why ask taxpayers to fund them?
    http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/030916/inside-hedge-fund-infatuation-charter-schools.asp

  • Jack Covey

    The latest is that over $21.7 million of out-of-state money from the most
    ruthless capitalists who have ever walked the Earth — Eli Broad, the Walton
    family of Walmart, Wall Street hedge fund managers, etc. — is pouring into
    Massachusetts to pass Question 2.

    Read this well-researched article here for that $21.7 million figure:

    https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/ma-question-2-funding-hits-21-7-million/

    These profit-minded plutocrats who are pouring in this money obviously …

    — do not live in Massachusetts,

    — have no children, grandchildren, or other relatives that attend public
    schools in Massachusetts

    — have never given a sh#% about the education of middle or lower income until
    recently, when they realized they could make a buck off privatizing
    Massachusetts schools via the expansion of privately-run charter schools,.

    They want to these corporate charter schools to replace truly public schools
    — the ones that, for generations, have been accountable and transparent to
    the public via democratically elected school boards, and which are mandated to
    educate ALL of the public… including those hardest or most difficult to
    educate … special ed., English Language Learners, homeless kids, foster care
    kids, kids with difficult behavior arising from distressed home lives.

    Are proponents of Question 2 seriously making the argument that out-of-state
    billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers are pumping in all this money
    because those folks care so much about the education of kids in Massachusetts?
    You really think they are NOT seeking a big money return on these ($21.7
    million campaign donations?

    Does that pass the smell test?

    Can you provide an example of JUST ONE TIME in the past where they poured in
    this kind of cash to something … no strings attached, and with no expectations
    of return?

    If, as Q 2 supporters like Marty Walz claim, the most ruthless capitalists that
    have ever walked the Earth are now kicking in this kind of cash to pass
    Question 2 merely because they care about children’s education —

    … and if they are not about their profiting through the privatization of
    public schools brought about by the expansion of privately-run charter schools,

    … then I’m sure one of you Q 2 supporters could google and find a past example
    where they have done something similar .. .again out of generosity… with no
    expectation of an eventual monetary return…

    Something like …

    “Well, back in 2000-something, or 1900-something, these same folks donated
    $20 million to the (INSERT CHARITABLE CAUSE HERE). Here’s the link that proves
    this.”

    No, I didn’t think so. When this was brought up in a debate, Mary Walz
    refused to address it, saying, “We need to talk about the kids, not the
    adults.” Well, keeping money-motivated scum from raping and
    pillaging Massachusetts public schools IS CARING ABOUT THE KIDS, Marty!

    So the real question is:

    To whom do the schools of Massachusetts belong? The citizens and parents who
    pay the taxes there?

    Or a bunch of money-motivated out-of-state billionaires and Wall Street hedge
    fund managers who are trying to buy them via Question 2, and the expansions of
    privately-managed charter schools which they control, or also profit from their
    on-line and digital learning products that will be sold to these charter school
    chains?

    If you believe the former, THEN FOR GOD’S SAKE, VOTE “NO” ON QUESTION 2.

    Send them a message: Massachusetts schools are NOT FOR SALE!!!

  • Jack Covey

    During the remaining three weeks leading up to Tuesday, November 8, as you see or listen to the slick and expensive Madison Avenue-level TV/radio commercials promoting “YES” on Question 2 promulgating such lies as …

    “Question 2 will add more money to public schools (LIE: it won’t. In fact it will do just the opposite.

    or

    “Question 2 won’t take money away from existing public schools (LIE: it will… a lot of money, in fact.)

    … or when view the slick mailers you find in your mailbox, or when listen to robo-calls, think about this following post about EXACTLY WHO is paying for those ads:

    The latest is that over $21.7 million of out-of-state money from the most ruthless capitalists who have ever walked the Earth — Eli Broad, the Walton family of Walmart, Wall Street hedge fund managers, etc. — is pouring into Massachusetts to pass Question 2.

    Read this well-researched article here for that $21.7 million figure:

    https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/ma-question-2-funding-hits-21-7-million/

    These profit-minded plutocrats who are pouring in this money obviously …

    — do not live in Massachusetts,

    — have no children, grandchildren, or other relatives that attend public schools in Massachusetts

    — have never given a sh#% about the education of middle or lower income until recently, when they realized they could make a buck off privatizing Massachusetts schools via the expansion of privately-run charter schools,.

    They want to these corporate charter schools to replace truly public schools— the ones that, for generations, have been accountable and transparent to the public via democratically elected school boards, and which are mandated to educate ALL of the public… including those hardest or most difficult to educate … special ed., English Language Learners, homeless kids, foster care kids, kids with difficult behavior arising from distressed home lives.

    Are proponents of Question 2 seriously making the argument that out-of-state billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers are pumping in all this money because those folks care so much about the education of kids in Massachusetts?

    You really think they are NOT seeking a big money return on these ($21.7 million campaign donations?

    Does that pass the smell test?

    Can you provide an example of JUST ONE TIME in the past where they poured in this kind of cash to something … no strings attached, and with no expectations of return?

    If, as Q 2 supporters like Marty Walz claim, the most ruthless capitalists that have ever walked the Earth are now kicking in this kind of cash to pass Question 2 merely because they care about children’s education —

    … and if they are not about their profiting through the privatization of public schools brought about by the expansion of privately-run charter schools,

    … then I’m sure one of you Q 2 supporters could google and find a past example where they have done something similar .. .again out of generosity… with no expectation of an eventual monetary return…

    Something like …

    “Well, back in 2000-something, or 1900-something, these same folks donated $20 million to the (INSERT CHARITABLE CAUSE HERE). Here’s the link that proves this.”

    No, I didn’t think so. When this was brought up in a debate, Mary Walz refused to address it, saying, “We need to talk about the kids, not the adults.” Well, keeping money-motivated scum from raping and pillaging Massachusetts public schools IS CARING ABOUT THE KIDS, Marty! (By the way, those are many of the same folks who raped and pillaged the housing/mortgage industry a decade ago … go watch the film THE BIG SHORT to get up to speed on that … they’ve just moved on to new place to plunder.)

    So the real question is:

    To whom do the schools of Massachusetts belong? The citizens and parents who pay the taxes there?

    Or a bunch of money-motivated out-of-state billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers who are trying to buy them via Question 2, and the expansion of privately-managed charter schools which they control, or also profit from their on-line and digital learning products that will be sold to these charter school chains?

    If you believe the former, THEN FOR GOD’S SAKE, VOTE “NO” ON QUESTION 2.

    Send them a message: Massachusetts schools are NOT FOR SALE!!!

    Oh and go watch the John Oliver charter school video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_htSPGAY7I
    Oh and listen to this dissection of a “YES on 2” radio ad:

    http://wrsi.com/monte/dissecting-the-great-schools-massachusetts-ad-on-question-2/

  • cheryl345342@mail.ru

    To developed the education we need free from politics. It help us to get more better result in the field of education. I think government should be take step for good result in a institute.