Public school district losses to charters jump to $450 million

MTA Save Our Public Schools

As students begin returning to class, local public school districts are poised to lose more than $450 million to charter schools this year, according to new Department of Elementary and Secondary Education projections. This is a $38.5 million increase from last year, and it comes as Question 2 on the November ballot threatens to triple the number of charter schools in just 10 years, and take away billions of dollars each year from local district public schools statewide.

“This year’s increase in money lost to charter schools is forcing schools around the state to cut their budgets.” said Mayor Robert J. Dolan of Melrose, which will lose $2.5 million to charter schools this year. “Every dollar sent to charter schools is one less dollar that can be spent on the schools 96 percent of families choose. I can’t imagine how we would handle losing millions more each year, which is what will happen if Question 2 passes.”

Every time a new charter school opens, it takes funding away from the public schools in that school district. Last year, $412,810,702 in taxpayer money was diverted to charter schools statewide, with money withdrawn from 243 local school districts.1 New projections show that local school districts will lose a total of $451,338,729 to charter schools in FY17, even after state reimbursements, an increase of $38,528,027 over FY16.2 A breakdown of the projected loss in each district can be found here.

“Every dollar sent to charter schools is one less dollar that can be spent on the schools 96 percent of families choose.”

— Melrose Mayor Robert J. Dolan

“My daughter has never been to the library at her middle school because there is no librarian. The position was cut a few years ago. We have to donate supplies just so her classroom can have tissues and markers,” said Ricardo Rosa, a parent in New Bedford, which will lose more than $10 million to charter schools this year. “Our schools can’t handle the amount of money we’re already losing to charter schools, and if Question 2 passes, it would have a devastating impact on the schools in New Bedford and other communities around the state.”

If passed, Question 2 would allow the state to approve 12 new charters schools a year, every year, forever, with no limit on how much money a single district could lose. This would nearly triple the number of charter schools in just ten years, and take away more than $1 billion a year from our local public schools. After 20 years, local public school districts would be losing nearly $4 billion a year to charter schools.3 A statewide commission recently reported that public schools in Massachusetts are already underfunded by more than one billion dollars, even before Question 2.4

Local communities and their school committees have no say in the approval or operation of charter schools. The state approves charter schools even when the communities where they will be located are opposed to them. This has happened in Brockton, Gloucester and many other communities.

1. http://massteacher.org/issues_and_action/charter_schools/~/media/Files/charter_schools/district_payments_to_charter_schools.pdf
2. http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/finance/tuition/fy17/projection-distsum.xlsx
3. Simulation of funding loss under charter school ballot question, http://www.massteacher.org/issues_and_action/charter_schools.aspx
4. http://www.mass.gov/legis/journal/desktop/2015/fbrc.pdf  

This post was prepared by the Save Our Public Schools coalition, which includes the MTA. The coalition is a grassroots organization of Massachusetts families, parents, educators and students. Visit the MTA's toolkit on charter schools for more information.