Boston Council Resolution Would Stop Charter School Growth

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

In Boston, a controversial state ballot could, if approved, allow more charter schools in Massachusetts. But City Councilors Matt O’Malley and Tito Jackson are working on rallying their colleagues to protest the state ballot question.

The two councilors have filed a resolution against the Question 2 vote passed by the state legislature to raise the number of charter schools that can be opened in the state and would allow lawmakers to sanction as many as a dozen new public charters annually in districts showing weak performance.

O’Malley and Jackson will introduce the resolution at Wednesday’s City Council meeting along with Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, reports Astead W. Herndon of The Boston Globe.

Gov. Charlie Baker is a proponent of the charter school movement and believes the schools add competition and afford the state’s families more flexibility and choice. Baker said last year:

“For a state that prides itself on being the originator of great public education . . . the fact that we have 37,000 kids on a waiting list to get into [charter schools] here in the Commonwealth is a disgrace.”

But the councilors fired back:

“Adding 12 new charter schools [per year] statewide would not only harm public schools in Boston, but I believe it will irrefutably harm the current charter schools in the district, It’s unfair, it’s unconscionable, and it’s a recipe for disaster.”

O’Malley and Jackson say there is one account for public education in the state, the Chapter 70 local aid allotment. If this remains the only pot of money and more charter schools are licensed, the growth will result in less money for the traditional public schools that educate most of Boston’s publicly-educated pupils.

In the soon to be decided resolution, the councilors claimed charter schools would take away $158.28 million from Boston Public Schools and $537 million from local districts across the state. The resolution would also lessen enrollment at parochial schools in the city.

Massachusetts Charter Public School spokesperson Dominic Slowey said that charter schools are an answer for those who are looking for more high-quality public educational options.

Supporters of the referendum point out that 32,646 state students are on waitlists for enrollment in charters, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Of that number, 5,557 show up on more than one waitlist, reports the Boston Globe’s Allison Pohle.

Although the state is required to reimburse the district for students who leave their district school to attend a charter school, the state has not lived up to its responsibility, which has created budgetary deficits – especially in Boston. Last year, the city was shorted $18.6 million.

The Boston Herald published an op-ed piece saying that the resolution asks parents to vote in favor of being deprived of their right to choose a better educational opportunity for their kids.

Jackson retorted that charters take away local control. The editors opine that parents ought to be making decisions about their children’s education. They added that parents must agree with this logic since there are tens of thousands of students on waiting lists for charter school enrollment.

The Alliance for Business Leadership has unconditionally endorsed the growth of charters. Jeff Bussgang, chair of the alliance and general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, said:

“As a group of progressive business leaders we tend to be historically aligned with issues of social justice and improving economic equality. We really view this issue as central to that mission.”

The Herald calls the argument one between social justice and pandering to the teachers unions.