Madeloni: Baker administration's support for charter schools is "nothing less than shameful"

MTA President Barbara Madeloni delivered the following testimony to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Feb. 23, 2016, in opposition to the approval of the proposed New Heights Charter School in Brockton and Libertas Charter School in Springfield.

Mr. Chairman and members of the board, my name is Barbara Madeloni and I am president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. I am here to testify against approval of the proposed New Heights Charter School in Brockton and the Libertas Charter School in Springfield.

“It is nothing less than shameful that the Baker administration is seeking to starve public education while promoting an expansion of charters. ”

The Brockton Enterprise ran an editorial this past weekend that begins:

The people supporting New Heights have done nothing to demonstrate a need for the school and have presented no information to show there is a demand for it.”

I would go further. Members of this community not only don’t need or want it — they have made abundantly clear that approval of this school will have an adverse impact on the students attending the public schools in Brockton. If you support New Heights today over the wishes of the community, Brockton and other affected districts will begin down the slippery slope that Springfield is already on.

What does that look like in Springfield?

Springfield is losing more than $31 million to Commonwealth charter schools this year alone, even after taking reimbursements into account. Springfield therefore has much less money to educate a higher- need population. Since he couldn’t be here today, I would like to quote from testimony that Tim Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, has drafted.

Tim explains that charter schools serving Springfield do not reflect the percentage of students in Springfield who:

  • are English language learners,
  • have special needs,
  • live below the poverty level,
  • are refugees,
  • live in foster care, or
  • have been adjudicated in the criminal justice system.

He describes what is happening as the resegregation of his district’s schools based on “economics, culture, language and special needs,” and he calls it “the civil rights issue of our time.”

Approving yet another charter school in Springfield and lifting the cap would further segregate and destabilize the Springfield Public Schools. Springfield, Brockton and our other communities struggling with economic injustice need more resources so that every child has the opportunity for a high-quality public education.

The commitment to use public funds for public schools should be coming from our leaders, our commissioner, our secretary of education and our governor. Instead, Governor Baker has made proposals that would further destabilize public education in three ways, making it even more crucial that you reject new charters as fiscally irresponsible.

  1. First, his budget proposal increases charter school reimbursement funds for one year, but then slashes those funds down the road. If passed, this would lead to major disruptions for many school districts.
  2. Second, he completely ignores the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, which call for increasing funding for public schools by a billion dollars a year.
  3. Third, his budget fails to keep his promise to increase Chapter 70 funding at same rate that revenues have increased.

On top of these problems, I cannot ignore the fact that Secretary Peyser came out publicly and forcefully against the constitutional amendment for a Fair Share Tax to raise nearly two billion dollars a year for public education and transportation.

It is nothing less than shameful that the Baker administration is seeking to starve public education while promoting an expansion of charters. Members of this board can strike a blow for quality public schools for all by refusing to approve these two charter schools and by taking a strong position against lifting the cap in the future.

Thank you.

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