Ballot committee launched to oppose lifting of charter cap

Donna Grady at charter campaign announcement on March 16, 2016

Franklin Education Association President Donna Grady, at the podium, said the $4 million her district is losing to charter schools this year directly affects the quality of public education. Find out how much your district is losing this year to charter schools.

Parents, educators and community leaders from across Massachusetts launched a committee on Wednesday, March 16, to oppose a charter school ballot question that seeks to effectively obliterate the cap on Commonwealth charters, draining millions more in taxpayer money from Massachusetts public schools every year.

The MTA and AFT Massachusetts are major supporters of the effort, known as the Campaign to Save Our Public Schools.

“Charter schools are already draining over $400 million in taxpayer money from our district public schools every year, and this ballot question would allow them to take even more, harming the district public schools that the vast majority of Massachusetts children attend,” said Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP and chair of the campaign.

“Expansion of charter schools is already resulting in two publicly funded school systems, separate and unequal,” he continued. “Allowing additional charter school growth every year, without any end, will result in significant and irreparable harm to our public schools and the students who rely on them.”

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Donna Grady, a kindergarten teacher in the Franklin Public Schools who serves as president of the Franklin Education Association, said her town lost more than $4 million to charter schools this year, directly affecting the quality of public education for students. “We no longer have librarians, and the number of classroom assistants has been cut in half,” she said. “Our public schools are being starved of resources, and expanding charter schools will leave us with less and less funding to improve education for all students.”

Lisa Guisbond, executive director of Citizens for Public Schools, said that “local communities and their school committees have no say in the approval or operation of charter schools, and the state often approves charter schools over the strong objections of the communities that must host and pay for them.”

“We are building a grassroots movement to oppose the expansion of unaccountable charters and to educate our neighbors about the real costs of this ballot question,” Guisbond said.

An online map shows the estimated amount of money each local school district will lose to charter schools in the current fiscal year. A total of $408,672,674 is being diverted to charter schools statewide, with money withdrawn from 243 local school districts. The ballot question would take more taxpayer money from Massachusetts public schools – as much as $100 million more every single year.

“Every dollar that is diverted to a new charter school is another dollar we must cut from our public education budget, which is already stretched far too thin,” said Worcester City Councilor Khrystian King. “We don’t need more charter schools. We need more state resources to support our public schools.”

Charter schools create a two-track system of public schools described by the NAACP as “separate and unequal.” Even though charter schools are required by law to recruit and retain high-need students, studies show that most of them fail to enroll as many English language learners, special needs students or economically disadvantaged students as their sending districts.

“This ballot question would allow the unfettered expansion of charters, without addressing the common practice of charters pushing out students who are more difficult to educate, in order to boost charters’ test scores,” said Marlena Rose, coordinator of the Boston Education Justice Alliance. “The initiative’s passage would trigger a relentless drain of money from our district public schools, leaving us with fewer resources to educate a higher-need population of students.”

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