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Massachusetts Voters Reject Charter School Expansion

Massachusetts voters on Tuesday rejected an initiative that sought to lift the cap on charter schools. With all precincts reporting, 62 percent voted “no” against the measure.

Question 2 would have allowed the state to approve up to twelve new or expanded charter schools a year. 

According to WBUR, “[i]ts defeat means new charter applications will continue to follow the existing rules, which tie the number of charter seats to a percentage of public school funding—9 percent in most districts, and 18 percent in the lowest-performing ones.”

Critics of Question 2 contended that increasing the number of charter schools would have diverted much needed funds from traditional public schools.

The president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association Barbara Madeloni, whose organization opposed Question 2, said to The Boston Globe that “‘[t]here should be no conversation about expanding charters’ . . . until the Legislature moves to ‘fully fund our public schools.’”

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson echoed Madeloni’s sentiment of focusing attention to public schools in comments made to WBUR. “Instead of picking or choosing winners or losers and having that corporate mentality, we need to have a communal mentality—one where we elevate all of our young people," said Jackson.

Proponents of the ballot question pointed to the success of urban charters that have significantly closed the achievement gap and in some instances out-performed schools in affluent, predominantly white suburbs. They argued that charter school expansion would provide families in urban areas with greater choice.

One of those who favors raising the cap on charter schools is Rose Leblanc, a mother from Boston whose six-year-old son is currently on a charter school waiting list. For her, it boils down to an issue of supply not meeting demand. “Because there's so many people that want their kids in a safe, better school, with a better curriculum, smaller class sizes...the waiting list is so long,” she said to Masslive.

Although Question 2 was resoundingly defeated on Election Day, the charter movement in Massachusetts will continue. According to David Scharfenberg of The Boston Globe, “as Boston’s school budget naturally grows, there should be more money available to ship to charters—opening up an estimated 4,000 charter seats between 2018 and 2028, according to a city analysis.”

Richard Conklin, Editor

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