Vote NO on Question 2!
I’m a public school teacher with experience working in both public and charter schools in Boston and I’m going to be voting no on Question 2, against lifting the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts. I’m going to be voting no because I think the best way to improve public education is to invest in our public school system. For years, we’ve been cutting budgets and draining resources from our public schools, and then using the resulting damage as “evidence” that public schools have failed. That’s why over 150 school committees and over a dozen city councils have come out against question 2; because regardless of your feelings about charter schools themselves, it has become clear to more and more people that this massive divestment does nothing to help build a sustainable public school system.
High quality public school systems have highly trained, professional, well paid, and unionized teachers, and they are funded by public tax dollars. Charter school supporters are right to say that Massachusetts has some high quality charter schools. But charter schools also enjoy substantial amounts of private money from corporations and foundations that are at least as interested in undermining the public sector as they are in improving educational outcomes for kids. (If you are skeptical of this claim, look at the board of directors or list of major donors to any local charter school, or to the yes on 2 campaign. Why is the finance industry so eager to promote charter schools? Probably not because of an overwhelming interest in young peoples’ well-being.) This vision of a privatized system that relies on the changing whims of billionaire donors and the exploitation of non-union teachers does a real disservice to the ideal of public education.
Charter schools are able to achieve their impressive test scores in part because they serve a student body with disproportionately few English language learners, students with special needs, and students with major emotional and behavioral challenges. Students in those groups deserve the same quality of education as other students, and they need the most resources in order to succeed. That means that when public schools are reimbursed for funding lost to charters on a per-pupil basis, they have significantly less money available for the programs that are necessary to educate those students. Just ask families at Boston Community Leadership Academy, an amazing Boston Public high school that serves a large number of students with major special needs, and had to cut $500,000 from their budget this year.
Having worked in a few different Boston charter schools, I think there are some that do really amazing work. But the time has come to direct all of that creative energy back into the public school system. Charter schools were initially established to be “laboratories of innovation,” to come up with good ideas that could be transferred to the public school system, not to supplant that system. If we want to improve schools, we should support the innovative and inspiring work happening at public schools throughout Boston — and we should organize with students and families to hold the district accountable for school improvement and equitable funding! Supporting public schools doesn’t mean pretending they’re perfect. It means working collaboratively to improve them, not to drain their resources and privatize the mess that’s left behind. I hope you’ll join with me in voting no on question 2 on November 8th, so that on November 9th we can get back to the real work of fighting for equitable funding for our schools. And I know I will be working day in and day out to improve the quality of education for my students, because that’s what our public school teachers do.