With the exception of our vote for president, our most important vote on November 8 will be the one we cast on Question 2. Most of our school systems are already short of money. In January or February, there’s also a good chance that Governor Baker will cut money already promised to us in this year’s budget. These Chapter 9C cuts will likely increase the deficits many of our school systems already face (in the past, special education circuit breaker and regional transportation funds have been cut). There will be more pressure on our property taxes. And for what?
The proliferation of charter schools. And why? That’s the billion dollar–and I mean billion dollar–question. Charter school proponents, largely the business community and billionaires:
- Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation
- Democrats for Education Reform
- Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
- Alliance for Business Leadership
Proponents of the question pitch this question in Orwellian fashion:”Lifting the cap on public charters is a social justice issue. … Massachusetts may have one of the best public school systems in the nation, but for too long the achievement gap has prevented our kids from reaching their true potential.” Advertising by proponents is almost as disconnected from the truth as Donald Trump, claiming that the bill will bring in more money to public education. If charter schools were public schools–rather than some weird quasi-public hybrid–this might be true. The fundraising done by new charters will bring more money to… charter schools. Presumably through donations, since charter rely on both public and private subsidies.
The Commonwealth spends almost half a billion dollars a year on charter schools. Money that would otherwise go to the public school districts. Some of this money reimbursed, but to public school districts that are already underwater, the reimbursements still don’t allow them to breathe. Cash-strapped school systems like Holyoke, Springfield, and Boston lose millions in funding. Smaller school districts lose less, but the loss is no less painful. As a selectman in Granby, I witnessed our school district try to deal with an $800,000 budget gap. It was finally reduced to $350,000 and paid for out of our shrinking stabilization fund. We’d already raised taxes by 7.7% to pay for a very necessary school building project. The $223, 000 we lost to charter schools would have come in handy.
Voting NO on Question 2 is NOT a vote against existing charter schools. It’s a vote against adding up to 12 more a year forever. It’s against adding additional siphons to every public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.