Massachusetts school committee members bring 'No on Question 2' message to State House - Metro US

Massachusetts school committee members bring ‘No on Question 2’ message to State House

Derek Kouyoumjian/Metro

Alex Pratt mentions his brother when he voices his opposition to raising the cap on the number of charter schools the state will allow to open each year.

His brother was pushed out of a charter school because it didn’t offer special education, he said Monday outside the Massachusetts State House.

“Before we expand charter schools… we need to reform the way we deal with special education in our charter schools and make sure that every school in Massachusetts that receives a penny of taxpayer dollars is a welcome learning place for every student, regardless of their ability, their color or what district they grew up in,” he said.

Pratt was just one of several school committee members from across the state who delivered to Gov. Charlies Baker a stack of resolutions saying “no” to ballot Question 2. The measure would raise the cap on charter schools across the Commonwealth by allowing for 12 new schools a year.

“I stand opposed to Question 2 not because I’m anti-charter school, but because I’m anti- 12 new charter schools a year with no immediate revenue reform,” Pratt said.

School committee members from Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, Framingham and beyond said that more charter schools would siphon money from public schools and potentially force some to close.

Charter schools also aren’t as accountable to the communities that they are serving, said Kathleen Kelly of the Cambridge School Committee. While both charter and public schools are responsible for answering to the Department of Education and Secondary Education, public schools are also held accountable to their school committees, which are elected bodies.

“We hear from parents, teachers and other members of the community all the time,” she said. “There’s that direct community accountability and it’s at multiple levels which the charter schools do not have.”

Nearly 200 school committees, representing rural, suburban and urban public schools, have passed “No on Question 2” resolutions, which they delivered to Baker. The governor has supported lifting the charter cap, saying that this bill won’t affect high-performing districts.

Andre Green, of the Somerville School Committee, said Somerville has expanded music and arts classes, invested money into early reading programs and is currently improving its special education offerings.

“All those things are going to cost money and resources and that’s why I have 19 million reasons to oppose [Question 2],” he said. “Over six years, if we got fully reimbursed, we would lose $19 million to charter schools. And since public schools are never fully reimbursed, it would actually be a $28 million hole in our budget over the next six years.

Carrie Normand, chair of the Somerville School Committee, added that the state awards funds to school districts in October on the basis of student population. If a student leaves a charter school and returns to a district school later in the year, the money doesn’t necessarily follow that student.

Proponents of Question 2 argue that charter schools offer quality education to children in low-income neighborhoods who do not have great access to public schools. Some parents supporting the ballot measure also stood outside the State House Monday.

“My younger two are excelling tremendously to the point where they’re at [my older child’s] grade level, so that’s how much of a quality of education I’ve seen,” said Shellina Semexant of Dorchester, who has one child in a public elementary school and two younger children in charter schools.

Daphne Lawson, who has two children at KIPP charter school, reiterated the governor’s position that the bill wouldn’t affect most school districts.

“We’re talking about nine districts with an overwhelming population of low income black and brown kids who are underserved,” Lawson said. “I don’t know how they in good conscious can send these kids running into schools they know are failing our kids and have the audacity to stop the opportunity we found in the charter system.”

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