Election Day is finally here, and for the past few months I've been proudly wearing a bright yellow button that says NO on 2. As a veteran educator who spent 11 years teaching in both district schools and charter schools and almost 30 years working with young people, I know that Question 2 on lifting the charter school cap is a bad idea.
I join the community of advocates that stand against the continual funding cuts that are eliminating teachers, librarians, nurses, and critical support services from our public schools and diverting spending to charter schools that are not held to an equal level of accountability. I am committed to educating the children that charter schools are not equipped to serve in high numbers, such as Students with Disabilities (SWD), English Language Learners (ELL), and disproportionately black and brown boys. Although charters do serve small numbers of high need students they do not have the capacity or the infrastructure that the Boston Public Schools has to serve 29% ELL and 20% SWD students. If Question 2 passes, what would ultimately result would be a two-tier system where students with the greatest academic needs are left in a school district that has lost critical funding to charters.
The greatest need is in traditional public schools, where 97% of students in Massachusetts are educated, and as concerned citizens our commitment to them must coincide with outcomes of any law we pass, which is not the case with this ballot measure. Here in Boston, charter schools will siphon off roughly $135 million from Boston Public Schools this year, which exacerbates the continual budget cuts that schools are forced to endure.
On October 15, 2016, members of the national NAACP Board ratified a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion until the following conditions in existing charter schools are met:
- Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools
- Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system
- Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and
- Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspiration may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious
The Boston NAACP and other advocacy and civil rights groups like Black Educators of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights all stand strongly opposed to Question 2. Rather than lifting the charter school cap, law makers and donors should be focused on providing equitable funding for measures that would truly improve education for ALL students, such as universal pre-kindergarten, extended learning time, and wraparound services for students needing more support.
If the fight for a high quality education is truly at the center of Question 2, let's make sure we're fighting for the 57,000 children in the Boston Public Schools to get what they need and deserve, as opposed to fighting for a small fraction of students in charter schools. We need to focus on the many, and not just the few.