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Monfredo: On November 8 … Question 2 – Vote No!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

 

The voters of Massachusetts will be asked to vote on whether Charter Schools in Massachusetts should be expanded.  The Massachusetts Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion Initiative, also known as Question 2, is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Massachusetts as an indirect initiated state statute. 

A “YES vote supports this proposal to authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansion in existing charter schools by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education per year.

A “NO” vote opposes this proposal to authorize up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansion in existing charter schools.

I’m urging voters to VOTE NO on this ballot question!!

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.  I’d like to see a full day pre-school program funded in our urban systems but we don’t have the money.

A ballot referendum that would lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts would destabilize public schools because it would drain millions more in taxpayer money from Massachusetts public schools.  Although the funding formula is based on a per pupil dollar amount, districts cannot / do not budget classrooms on a per pupil basis.  Uplifting the cap, adding more charter schools, ABSOLUTELY would take funds away from school districts!

Charter Schools drain off hundreds of millions of dollars a year from public school.  This means larger class sizes and less enrichment for students in district public schools.

Local school committees have no authority over these charter schools and no recourse if a charter school’s practice has a negative impact on students who attend the district’s public schools.  Charter Schools are run by a board of trustees and they are the public agents authorized by the Commonwealth to supervise and control Charter Schools. 

Just recently the NAACP stated that Charter Schools create a two-track system of public schools as “separate and unequal.” Charters typically under serve special needs students, English Language learners and economically disadvantaged students.  According to an article in MTA Today from the Massachusetts Teachers Association, rather than innovate, most Charters focus on test prep and drill.  In addition, they have high teacher turnover rates as a result of poor working conditions, long hours, and lack of teacher autonomy.  

Interesting to note… Great Schools Massachusetts, the group spearheading the campaign to lift the cap is prepared to spend a record-breaking $18 million to support the ballot question.  Much of the organization’s funding comes from Families for Excellent Schools, a New York based group with strong ties to Wall Street.  The committee also received a $240,000 donation from billionaire businessman and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.   The question… “Why would these outside organizations want to fund the Charter School expansion question?  What interest do they have in our schools in Massachusetts?”

Various research studies and reports on Massachusetts charter schools have revealed a number of troubling findings. Examination of Charter School Governance in Massachusetts,” found that approximately one-third of charter school trustees in Massachusetts are affiliated with the financial services and corporate sectors, and less than one-quarter have educational expertise. Another finding: parents of students in charter schools comprise only 14 percent of charter trustees statewide.

Locally, according to Brian Allen, the Worcester Public Schools Chief Financial Officer, in Worcester the Charter School Tuition Assessment is $25,118,461 million or 7.6% of the Foundation Budget.   That’s a huge drain on the Worcester Public School budget!

As a former principal, I do believe in competition and in school choice, if we have a level playing field.   We do have private and Charter Schools to compete with but expanding more Charter Schools is not the answer.  Charter Schools funded with public dollars are draining much needed funds from our already underfunded public schools.  Just look at one of the many cuts in Worcester as we had to figure out how we could provide teacher assistants to our kindergarten classes.  We still need additional secondary teachers to expand our curriculum and to do away with study halls. 

In addition, are you aware that Charter Schools can be imposed by the state against the will of the community – the parents and other taxpayers who have to pay for these schools?

According to Citizens for Public Schools in their research  found that Charter Schools are cost ineffective… for an evaluation of a study from the Center of Research and educational Outcomes found that the achievement difference between public and charter schools are very small, less that 1/10 of a standard deviation unit.  

In addition, the central argument that we hear and what the Charter proponent said, “that 34,000 students are “trapped” on waitlist because of the cap.  This is untrue for the lists published by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is inflated because they include schools that are not subject to the cap.  They are further inflated by the practice of rolling over old waiting list year after year, a practice that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has repeatedly warned and stated, “The education of our children is too important to base these important decisions on misleading information.”

Stop and think about this… our state is ranked number one in the nation in the National Assessment  of Educational Progress and most states look at education in our state as the example of what to do. Massachusetts has the highest reading and math scores in the nation.

However, the school year has begun with angry parents looking for smaller class size and being asked to pay extra fees for after school activities and for the basic elements of their children’s education.  So why would we want to drain additional dollars from our public school system?  We need additional dollars not less!  VOTE NO ON QUESTION TWO!

 

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