Charter school math

It’s unlikely to change many minds because, like who won the presidential debate, facts mean little when it comes to perception and opinion.

But a new study by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation could give pause to those opposed to lifting the cap on charter schools based on the argument it hits traditional school districts in the area it most hurts – the budget.

According to the report, which was handed solely to the Boston Globe and was not available on the group’s website early Wednesday, the bottom line is simple and telling: 3.9 percent of the state’s public school students attend charters and charter schools account for 3.9 percent of state spending on education.

“While people can disagree, certainly, on the educational merits of charter schools, the data doesn’t show that charter schools have taken funding away from traditional public school districts in any way that’s disproportionate to the charter school attendance,” Eileen McAnneny, president of Massachusetts Taxpayers, told the Globe.

Certainly, it gets a little more complicated than that. Critics of the ballot question to lift the cap say districts struggle because money follows the students when they leave to go to charter schools, putting a hole in budgets that still have to support salaries and maintenance. But the study shows per-pupil spending at both charters and traditional school districts – both deemed public schools – have risen roughly the same over the past five years.

The report, though, does not say how traditional districts have been able to maintain the spending levels. A study by the watchdog Boston Municipal Research Bureau earlier this year showed the city diverted money from other departments to bolster school spending.

There are some spending disparities among districts most affected by charter growth. The taxpayers foundation study looked at eight of the state’s districts that comprise three-quarters of the growth in charter school enrollment over the last five years. Overall, the group found charter school spending increased by 11.8 percent while per-pupil spending in traditional districts rose 10.1 percent. But while Boston, for instance, had a slight difference (19.2 percent increase for charters vs. 18 percent for district schools), Springfield saw a yawning gap (12.3 percent increase for charters vs. 5.8 percent for district schools).

But no matter the numbers, it’s doubtful it will sway any of the partisans. The study, for instance, cites Marlborough, the home of the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School, as a typical district where charter school spending increased by 13.3 percent while the city’s school budget went up by nearly 26 percent.

But the Marlborough School Committee approved a resolution opposing Question 2, citing the argument of teachers’ unions and districts around the state that charter schools drained $450 million from traditional districts last year. That argument, though, fails to incorporate the money the state sends back to districts that lose students through a complicated reimbursement formula.

Marlborough Mayor Arthur Vigeant, chairman of the school committee, refused to sign the resolution.

“It is false that charter schools deprive district schools of funding; since [the math and science charter school] opened its door, state tax dollars make up a greater portion of Marlborough’s school budget than it did previously,” Vigeant said.

It is one more log on the fire.



Gov. Charlie Baker signs legislation designating Billerica as the “Yankee Doodle Town.” (Lowell Sun)


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The Lowell City Council approves raises for its members and members of the school committee. (Lowell Sun)

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The Arizona Republic editorial board, saying Donald Trump is neither conservative nor qualified, endorses Hillary Clinton, the first Democrat the paper has ever endorsed.

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How meaningless are opt-in online polls? The margin of error is plus or minus 100.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s toughest foe in a hypothetical 2018 match-up? Joe Kennedy III, according to  the recent UMass/WBZ poll. (Boston Globe)


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The University of Massachusetts plans to spend $2.5 billion on capital projects across its five campuses over the next five years. (Boston Herald)

Jack Schneider proposes a more holistic approach to evaluating the performance of schools. (CommonWealth)

The state appears poised to pull back from plans to have student test scores figure prominently in the evaluation of teachers. (Boston Globe)

The Framingham School Committee revealed it voted in May not to renew the contract of Superintendent Stacy Scott, who is on leave. The committee gave no reason for the decision. (MetroWest Daily News)

The Boston Globe Magazine talks to a district and charter teacher about Question 2 and the pros and cons of charter schools. (Boston Globe)


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The owners of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant are bracing for a comprehensive inspection by officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine the struggling plant’s safety and ability to maintain operations. (Cape Cod Times)


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A 46-year-old Canton man who, as a teen in 1986, lured a classmate into the woods and beat him to death with a baseball bat because he wanted to see how it felt to kill someone, was denied parole. (Patriot Ledger)


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Former Israeli prime minister and president Shimon Peres, the last connection to the country’s generation of founding leaders, died Wednesday at age 93. (Haaretz)