Save Our Public Schools is a grassroots organization of Massachusetts families, parents, educators and students.
We are committed to:
This year alone, charter schools will siphon off
more than $450 million in funds that would otherwise stay
in public schools and be used to improve learning for all students. If some of our schools are falling short, we should fix them, not take money away and give it to charters.
How do charter schools take money from public schools?
Even if a number of students leave from different classrooms across a district, the cost of operating a community’s entire school system is essentially unchanged. Our neighborhood schools are left with less money to cover the same operating expenses, such as maintenance, utilities and transportation costs. To put it another way, one student leaves a classroom to a charter school, the district doesn’t save money because it can’t lay off 1/25th of a teacher.
In cities and towns such as Boston, Holyoke, Randolph, New Bedford, Gardner and Lynn, charter schools can already take as much as 18 percent of a school district’s budget. That jeopardizes our public schools—the schools most families choose for their children—and it causes the elimination of classes – such as music, art technology and foreign language courses– and leads to larger class sizes in district public schools.Lifting the cap to allow more charters would only make things worse.
What does this ballot question do?
The ballot question could allow charters to expand into areas where they don’t exist now, taking millions of dollars away from successful district public schools.
Under the proposed ballot question, 12 new charter schools enrolling up to 1 percent of the school-age population could be approved every year, forever, with no limit. These charters could open anywhere in the state, and there are no restrictions on how many charter schools could be opened in a single community or how much money any one district could lose to these new charter schools.
The amount of money lost will grow: $100 million more the first year, more than $200 million the next year, more than $300 million the year after that, crippling our school system with every passing year. (Go HERE for a simulation of the funding loss.)
What are charter schools?
Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded schools with no local oversight. They are funded by diverting money from local school districts.
The 71 charter schools operating in Massachusetts educate just less than 4 percent of Massachusetts children—only 32,000 students—yet they will siphon off more than $450 million this year alone. This money would otherwise stay in neighborhood public schools and be used to improve learning for all students.
There are no charter schools in my community, so how does this affect me?
Even if there are no charter schools currently operating in your city or town, your school district may already be losing money.
Example: Even though there are currently no charter schools operating in Brockton, the Brockton Public Schools lost$3,489,813 to regional charters this year. The problem will get much worse for Brockton soon. Against the wishes of the community, appointed state officials approved the New Heights Charter School, which is scheduled to open in Brockton in August against the strong wishes of all the elected officials in that city. The impact on Brockton’s public schools and the cost to local taxpayers will be enormous.
If this ballot question passes, many more school districts will be lose money to charter schools. Lifting the cap will allow charter schools to be created in any community without regard to the quality of local schools or the impact on them.The size of the community will no longer matter. Under current law, a charter school cannot open in a city or town with a population of fewer than 30,000 residents (though those towns can lose students to regional charter schools). Under the ballot initiative, even a tiny three-school town could be forced to take – and pay for – a charter school.
Are charter schools private or public?
Most people consider them quasi-public. Approved by the state, charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. Charter schools are not accountable to the local taxpayers who have to pay for them, nor to the communities in which they are located. That’s undemocratic. Local communities should have significant say over the schools they support to educate their children.
More than 60 percent of charter schools in Massachusetts have no parent representatives on their boards. As a result, the dominant voices on charter school governing boards in Massachusetts are from the financial and corporate sectors and do not represent the needs of educators or parents. In addition, the state often approves charter schools even when the communities in which they will be located are opposed to them, as we have seen in Gloucester and Brockton.
Does the waiting list to get into charter schools show there is a demand for more?
Charter school promoters make vastly exaggerated claims about the number of students on waitlists, because they want to lift the current cap and spread more charter schools. State Auditor Suzanne Bump has been highly critical of state waitlist data. One analysis of state data suggests the number of students on waitlists could be less than 15,000.
Many students who apply to charter schools choose not to attend when they are offered seats. A 2013 study conducted for the pro-charter Boston Foundation found that 47 percent of Boston students who were offered seats in charter school lotteries turned them down.
Charter schools also lose many students throughout the school year. Suspension rates for charter schools are among the highest in the state. Charters often refuse to take in new students to fill these slots despite claims that they have long waiting lists.
If we are serious about supporting our students, we should deliver dynamic early childhood education to the 15,000 children who are denied it now rather than spending so much money on charter schools. Early childhood education is an essential component to future success in school and in life. We should be strengthening our schools and opening access to these vital programs instead of cutting even more money from our school districts.
Do charter schools perform better or worse than public schools?
That depends. Just as with traditional public schools, charter school students’ test scores vary – some are high, some moderate and some low. National studies consistently show that charter schools do about the same as public schools, despite having several advantages – such as serving fewer high-need students and receiving a lot of money from wealthy charter school supporters and foundations.
In Massachusetts, there are several charter schools where students do attain high MCAS scores. These schools typically have an intense focus on test preparation and zero tolerance discipline policies that push out lower performing students.
At the same time, a high percentage of charter schools in Massachusetts never even get off the ground after being approved, or flounder once they are opened. To date, 13 Commonwealth charters opened over the past two decades have been closed due poor performance. Today, 10 of the 71 existing charter schools are operating “under conditions or on probation” for poor student performance or governance problems. In short, just being a charter school is no guarantee that students will get high test scores – let alone receive a well-rounded, quality education that prepares them for life, college or work after high school.
Docharter schools serve the same students as traditional public schools?
Charter schools create a two-track system described by the NAACP as “separate and unequal.” Even though charter schools are required by law to educate high-need students, studies show that,in practice, most charter schools fail to enroll as many English language learners, special needs students or economically disadvantaged students as their sending districts.
Charter schools also push out students they don’t want to serve through a variety of methods, including extreme discipline and high suspension rates, allowing them to boost their test scores.
But don’t students in our urban areas need charter schools?
No. Massachusetts is a pioneer in education and our schools have led the nation long before the concept of charter schools even existed. Today, charter schools are creating divisions in communities rather than uniting families to work together for great public schools for all. Expanding a two-track system of schools is not consistent with our values in Massachusetts. It promotes private interests over the common good.
Charter schools actually limit families’ choices. When a district school closes because some families have chosen a charter school, the families who want their children to go to the district school lose their choice. We need to strengthen our public schools so that we can provide a quality public education to all students, no matter their race, their family’s income or their level of need.
Would the Ballot Question only affect the Commonwealth's lowest performing schools?
NO. Question 2 would encourage charters to expand into all areas where they don’t exist now, taking critical resources away from successful public schools.
The ballot language applies to any school district in the state. It says the state could authorize 12 new charter schools a year, forever, with no restriction on where they will be located.
The charter school cap is an obstacle to charter school expansion in Boston, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence and Lowell. Are suburban school committee members, who think themselves champions of education, telling those urban parents to be satisfied with what they’ve got?
Absolutely not. Four of five of these school committees oppose Question 2 and Boston votes this week, because charter schools drained $171 million from those five school districts last year and will take another $186 million this year. Boston City Council also opposes Question 2.
Get reliable data from independent research documenting the truth behind charter school funding, test scores, and waiting lists.VIEW 4-PAGE SHEET