AT THE OUTSET, I make two admissions: I am not a fan of making public policy via ballot initiative and my children currently are enrolled in private, independent schools. I suppose I should make a third admission: I am a Democrat who believes in public education and thinks teachers are the most put upon – and most important – group of professionals almost anywhere.

With that out of the way, let me tell you why I will vote “yes” on Question 2 and support lifting the charter school cap where it is most needed.

I will vote in favor of Question 2 because as a Democrat who believes in public education, thinks teachers are as important today as they ever have been, and who has the privilege of choice for my kids’ education, it currently is our best option to empower more families to choose the right public education for their children and for the rest of us to support innovation in education, the foundation upon which every innovative idea is built.

Political rhetoric has heated the debate, pitting teachers unions against private citizens. When we divide ourselves along such arguments, we lose sight of what is in the best interest of our students—and thus, the future of our state and nation. This is not a political question about picking a side; this is about investing Massachusetts dollars to close the socioeconomic gap and bring innovation into public education.

My family is fortunate and we have the choice of sending our kids to the local district schools or, if we are not convinced that this choice is best for our kids, we can choose private, independent schools. This choice was not available to my family and me when I was of school age. Instead, because of our financial circumstances and the absence of any other option, I attended my local district school in rural North Carolina. Like too many traditional district schools, mine was under-resourced and over-crowded.

Thankfully, these schools also were full of many dedicated teachers who did the best they could with the few resources they had. Unfortunately, they did not have time or capacity to give all of the kids all of the attention they deserved.

We have 32,000 students on the waiting list for public charter schools in the state. Of this number, 12,000 students are in Boston. This ballot question would give the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education the ability to approve up to 12 new charter schools or charter school expansions a year, giving these students the public school opportunity they deserve.

As priority would go to the 25 percent of lowest performing school districts in the state and districts with significant charter school waiting lists, this initiative will greatly expand opportunity for economically disadvantaged students. By supporting these efforts, we have the chance to help close the socioeconomic gap at one the most critical stages for youth.

Study after study has shown large learning gains in Boston charter schools for black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students, and English language learners in both math and reading. Every child deserves a chance to attend a better school, regardless of his or her background.

President Obama praised charter schools as “incubators of innovation,” something we need to see more of in the public school education system. Massachusetts has been a leader in public education for decades, boosting leading test scores, and college completion and graduation rates.

We can thank our charter schools for contributing to that success and need to further propel these students forward. By bringing innovation into the public school system, we bring high-quality educational options to a greater number of students. Furthermore, we hold ourselves accountable to families, as charter schools must close down if they underperform. In contrast, our public schools have not faced the consequences for underperforming—and we are now facing these consequences ourselves.

Critics will say that charter schools take funding away from traditional public schools but, in reality, the state reimburses traditional public schools for six years after students leave. This is unique to charter schools; districts do not get reimbursed for students who leave for vocational or agricultural schools. We do not rob our public schools of resources when we open charters. And we should not rob tens of thousands of students and families of opportunity by refusing to meet the need and demand for charters where they are most needed.

By investing in our children, we invest in our state, and thus, our future. I support this initiative because I believe in the public school system and I believe in students having a choice. This election, I hope you will join me in voting “yes” for our students.

Mo Cowan, a former US senator representing Massachusetts, is president & CEO of ML Strategies.

60 replies on “A vote for students”

  1. The reimbursement formula to public schools is flawed and underfunded…underfunded since FY2012. Communities can opt in or out of vocational or agricultural schools but that’s not the case with charter schools. Every single time a charter school is opened and operating funds are drained from the public school districts sending students to that charter school. And when did “opportunity” for some students trump fully funding and resourcing public schools for all students? Exactly when did that become a more important public policy? Fully fund the Foundation Budget and ensure all students receive a high quality education…VOTE NO on Question 2.

  2. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education there are 23,601 “Unique (Unduplicated) Number of Students who Applied for Admittance for the 2016-2017 School Year and were Waitlisted” and even that overstates the charter schools waitlist. But more important when it comes to waitlists there are more students on waitlists for public schools in Boston and Lowell than for charter schools in those cities. Also, in Massachusetts there are about 15,000 children on a waitlist for income-eligible subsidized early education. Aren’t those wait lists worthy of discussion too? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  3. No, Question 2 does not give the priority to the 25% of lowest performing school districts in the state unless there are more than twelve applications for charter schools or expansions of existing charter schools in a year. And anyhow, who decides where new charter schools are located or which charter schools expand in Massachusetts? Not the cities and towns…not the local public school districts. Who decides? The charter schools decides. What’s most unsettling about new charter schools is they come out of nowhere…completely out of nowhere. Local Public School Districts have absolutely, positively no control over when or where or what grades a charter school will have. Essentially a group of people get together with no public oversight…no public input…no public records of meetings…and come up with the idea of starting a charter school. That group meets behind closed doors to figure out where they want to put a charter school, the kind of charter school K-8, 5-8, K-12, 9-12 etc. then fills out an application, submit it to the state and the money drains right out of the local public school district’s funding to finance the new charter school. In other words, charter schools are state approved schools funded at the local school districts expense. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  4. The fact is, Massachusetts has a long history of not properly funding public education. In 1978 a court case was brought on behalf of students in certain property-poor communities who alleged that the school finance system violated the education clause of the Massachusetts Constitution. The case took FIFTEEN YEARS to work its way through the court system…with one entire generation of Massachusetts school children attending underfunded public schools…the court finally AGREED in 1993 and the state legislature finally acted…that’s how the 1993 Education Reform Act came about setting education standards, authorizing 25 charter schools and establishing the Foundation Budget…the state’s mechanism distributing aid to local public school districts. Then it took seven years for the state to double its financial commitment to local public school districts from 1993 to 2000. So TWENTY-TWO YEARS after the court case was first filed…Massachusetts met its financial obligation to public education first identified in a 1978 court case and addressed in law in 1993. In 2010 the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education released a report, “School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept How is the Foundation Budget Working?” finding “Over the 17 years since the Education Reform Act passed, there has been virtually no equalization in spending or state aid between rich districts and poor.” Last year the “Foundation Budget Review Commission Final Report” was released finding a massive shortfall in state aid to public education exceeding $1 billion in areas including English language learners, low income and special education. The conversation should be let’s adequately fund public education now…right now…right now! The charter school debate distracts from that conversation. VOTE NO on Question 2

  5. Exactly how much thanks do we owe to charter schools for contributing to the success of public education in Massachusetts? No much. There are 78 charter schools operating in this state and 10 of those charter schools are on probation or operating under conditions. Of the 108 charters granted since 1994, 28 charters closed or never opened. The State Auditor documented the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s failure to develop “an effective process to ensure the dissemination and replication of charter school best practices to other Massachusetts public schools.” So what’s really been gained? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  6. And what about the “study after study” showing large learning gains in Boston charter schools? One of those studies compared real charter school students to “virtual” or not real public school students. That’s how the real charter school students showed “learning gains” while the imaginary public school students didn’t. The charter schools studies are narrow in scope or use outdated data or exclude poorly performing charter schools or exclude charter schools that closed during the study period or exclude charter schools with poor recordkeeping or are financed by pro-charter school groups like The Boston Foundation just to name a few problems with those charter school studies. Having an informed debate begins with having accurate information. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  7. Charter schools operate under a set of laws and regulations that would be unacceptable for public schools. And if Question 2 is approved that would mean an unlimited number of charter schools would be operating under those laws and regulations. Here are some examples: charter schools K-8 are not required to accept students after 4th grade, charter schools K-12 are not required to accept students after 6th grade, charter schools Grades 9-12 are not required to accept students after 9th grade and all charter schools are not required to accept students after February 15th. How will that work out for Massachusetts if hundreds of charter schools across the state are not required to accept students after 4th grade or 6th grade or 9th grade or after February 15th. Exactly how will that work out? It won’t. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  8. Several factual errors and omissions in this write-up. First – under the current rules charters need to be targeted at districts with the lowest 10% of schools. If Q2 passes, it changes that to targeting the lowest 25% of districts ONLY IF more than 12 schools apply in a single year (which has never happened to date). So Q2 takes the focus off urban districts it claims to help.

    The comparison to vocational schools has become a talking point for Yes on 2 since the Mass Taxpayer’s Foundation’s (MTF) “study” was thoroughly shredded by Mayor Walsh, Boston’s CFO, and reality. This comparison is flawed too. Local districts vote on whether to participate in regional vocational schools or METCO, if the funding for these schools starts hurting the local district population – they can opt out. No such mechanism exists for charter schools. Voc schools also aren’t attempting to duplicate local school services, so their appeal is limited to those who want that program.

    The reimbursement mechanism is deeply broken, and if Q2 passes the 75% of urban students and 96% of MA students will feel the pain as their services get cut and cut. Our neediest students, our urban English language learners, special needs, and economically disadvantaged (the state’s term for very poor) will feel the hit the worst.

    For a quick dive into how reimbursement actually works in MA, read this from a school committee member who lived it while turning around their district:

    For a real weighing of impacts on district budgets, read pro-charter Mayor Walsh’s reasons for voting No on 2:

    For a complete debunking of the MTF study, and a real world walkthrough of a Q2 world for city and school budgets, read Boston CFO’s explainer:
    As he states, if Q2 passes municipalities will be legally required to fund charter schools above all other city services.

    The state auditor has found that charter waitlists are vastly inflated – containing many duplicates and students that are no longer interested in attending. This is why you see schools with waitlists soliciting more applicants. Why else wouldn’t they just fill empty seats?

    Why would someone who attended a under-resourced school advocate making the vast majority of MA students attend under-resourced public schools in a Q2 world? I can only hope his heart is in the right place, but the factual errors in this piece lead him to the wrong conclusion.

  9. LOL! How much does the “study after study” showing English language learners in both math and reading having “large learning gains in Boston charter schools” really mean when The Boston Globe’s headline today is, “Many charter schools lag in enrolling students lacking English fluency?” It means nothing…absolutely nothing. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  10. In watching the pros and cons of this issue, I’ve observed no one is saying the MA charter school curriculum and longer hours are producing bad educational results. Quite the opposite. If they were, there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of children who are waiting to go to one right now. Families don’t sign up to go to a place where their neighbors kids have received a poor education. So that’s really the bottom line for me as a voter (and someone who also grew up in a poor school district with failing schools). I care about giving low income children the best education chance that they can, because they don’t have rich parents who can move to a great district at the drop of a hat.
    I figure those kids don’t have a decade or more to wait until their local district school gets more $, or gets more teachers, or gets approval to change their curriculum. By then it’s too late. Until the way we fund public education changes, I think charter schools are an excellent option for kids who want quality education right now.

  11. and geeze, how much was this “Mhmjjj2012” paid to post 8 comments in a row and counting on this issue?

  12. No one is paying me anything. Why not comment on my comments instead of the number of my comments? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  13. There are more students on waitlists for public schools in Boston and Lowell than for charter schools in those cities…shouldn’t that mean more than the charter schools waitlists? Shouldn’t it? Also, in Massachusetts there are about 15,000 children on a waitlist for income-eligible subsidized early education. Why isn’t anyone talking about that waitlist? Aren’t those wait lists worthy of discussion too? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  14. I don’t know about those waitlists, but this is a ballot question on charter schools, so I’m guessing that is the focus of these comments and the charter school waitlists.

  15. I do agree that the ultimate education problem in this state (and all others) is the disparate funding that certain districts receive from property tax funds compared to others. We need to end the funding of education via property taxes because it creates an inherently unequal education system. Many other countries think the U.S. is nuts to allow funding schools that way. It is no wonder we have such a segregated system.

  16. pbomass: “targeting the lowest 25% of districts ONLY IF more than 12 schools apply in a single year (which has never happened to date)”

    If you check the text of the proposed law, you’ll find that what’s relevant is not just applications for new schools, but the cumulative total adding in also applications for expanded schools. And if one quickly checks here:
    one immediately finds material like this: “The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education received proposals this month from six groups seeking to open new charter schools as well as requests from twelve existing charter schools to serve more students.”

    It would seem obvious that as more charter schools are created, there will be more requests coming in for expansion and the notion that there will regularly be more than 12 total applications each year seems well supported.

    “‘study’ was thoroughly shredded by Mayor Walsh, Boston’s CFO…”

    Not so much. Believe it or not, the City analyses actually relied on the silly supposition that 3 new schools would be created in Boston each and every year “(which has never happened to date)”.

  17. pbomass said everything I wanted to say. Spot on. And I’m the guy who wrote the letter to the editor re: reimbursement he mentions. Thanks for the shout out! ;-)

  18. Also, I know many think that changing the way we fund education via property taxes will never change, but that is not true. Pennsylvania’s legislature almost did in 2015 because their state was dead last for equitable education funding.
    Canada was able to successfully transition from funding
    system that looked more like those of U.S. states—where local boards set tax
    rates—to a system funded at the provincial (state) level with greater equality:

  19. Why don’t you know about those waitlists? Isn’t that relevant to the ballot question? Your previous comment specifically referred to “tens of thousands of children who are waiting to go” to a charter school “right now” but you are unaware of other waitlists..specifically, the public schools waitlists. Think about that for a minute…just a minute…the demand for public schools in Boston is higher than the demand for charter schools in Boston. Why is there a ballot question for more charter schools given those facts? That’s a story in itself. And what about the 15,000 children on a waitlist for income-eligible subsidized early education? You stated previously “I care about giving low income children the best education chance that they can…” well universal early education is the best chance for economically disadvantaged children. When you really stop to think about this Question 2, and all the publicity surrounding it thanks to Great Schools Massachusetts and its dark money financing, changed how we talk about public education in this state. Funding is off the table even though two reports, “School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept How is the Foundation Budget Working?” released in 2010 and the “Foundation Budget Review Commission Final Report” released in 2015 found massive funding shortfalls in state aid to public education. The conversation should be let’s adequately fund public education now. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  20. The Foundation Budget was established to address the disparity in financing public education through local property taxes. The #1 priority should be for the state to fully fund the Foundation Budget then the #2 priority should be expanding access to early education. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  21. PAY TO PLAY — Governor Baker is responsible for this mess. ““Governor Baker’s political fortunes are clearly tied to the fate of Question 2, and it is appalling that ads starring him are being financed by donations from Wall Street fund managers who have an interest in currying favor with the administration,” said Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

    Much of the funding being used for the “Yes on Question 2” campaign is “dark money” that comes from entities that do not disclose their donors, Madeloni pointed out.

    “The Securities and Exchange Commission has the power to untangle this massive web of hidden money,” Madeloni said. “We urge the SEC to exercise its responsibility immediately and prevent political deals from infecting the integrity of both public pension funds and the electoral process.”

  22. Thanks, that link is now on my reading list. I just took a quick look at it and Canada’s provincial-level funding system reminds me of what the under funded Foundation Budget here in Massachusetts is supposed to accomplish. By the way, your effort shows a willingness to contribute to an informed debate. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  23. Is any news media besides the International Business Times reporting on that? The IBT article, “Wall Street Firms Make Money From Teachers’ Pensions — And Fund Charter Schools Fight” is shocking…just shocking: “firms whose executives are linked to the push for more charter schools have seen an increase in state business amid the Baker-backed ballot fight.” If the public knew…really knew what is going on then there would be complete outrage. That’s where I am right now. There isn’t one good reason for more charter schools…not one. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  24. I wish I had the answer to your point, “Families don’t sign up to go to a place where their neighbors kids have received a poor education.” There’s a charter school in Fitchburg that is a real head scratcher: Sizer School: A North Central Charter Essential School. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports that charter school’s student population is voting with their feet. In 2013 the 9th grade had 69 students but by the time those students reached 12th grade in 2016 the class shrunk to 24 students. In other words, less than 35% of the students in the 9th grade remained at that charter school over the course of four years to reach the 12th grade. So 45 students wanted out and got out…that’s a loss of 65% of students…and yet that’s not even one of the charter schools on probation or operating under conditions. Here’s what’s interesting, Sizer School has a waitlist of 21 students. Granted only 21 students but still it’s a wait list. So the overwhelming majority of students bailed out of that class over the course of four years but that charter school has a wait list. What’s going on? I have no idea. It doesn’t make any sense to me. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  25. If you want students to have a “quality education right now” then charter schools aren’t even an option. Charter schools mostly open only one or two grades at a time. For example, K-8 might open Kindergarten and 1st grade, then the next year the students in those two grades advance to 1st and 2nd grades and there’s a new Kindergarten class. It will take 8 years for all the grades to fill up in that K-8 charter school. It’s the same way for charter schools grades 9-12…opening with grade 9 only. What’s accomplished with that approach? Add to that charter schools operate under a set of laws and regulations that would be unacceptable for public schools…totally unacceptable. Here are some examples: charter schools K-8 are not required to accept students after 4th grade, charter schools K-12 are not required to accept students after 6th grade, charter schools Grades 9-12 are not required to accept students after 9th grade and all charter schools are not required to accept students after February 15th. How will that work out for Massachusetts if hundreds of charter schools across the state are not required to accept students after 4th grade or 6th grade or 9th grade or after February 15th. Exactly how will that work out? It won’t. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  26. “That means most hedge funds and private equity firms — their PACs, their executives, their fund managers and probably their investor relations staff — can’t give to the ticket. If they violate the rule, they face a two-year ban on managing pension money — or at least, on collecting management fees and a percentage of the profits they earn for the funds, which certainly takes all the fun out of it for firms.”

    This issue is well discussed in other states like indiana (Pence)…. we have a republican governor so you will expect that he copies Scott Walker, Pence, Christ Christie (who announced he was taking on the largest union as soon as he got elected in NJ) the FL governor etc…. I am glad that David Sirota wrote the article about Baker because Baker is the same ilk… and he pretends a lot with crocodile tears while he stabs us in the back ; The legislature has to get back to the Foundation Budget review and address the inequities ; the reimbursement formula etc. The amount of dollars lost in my city is close to 3 Million; that is after they give the city the “reimbursements”. This is an intentional, mean spirited strategy for destroying pubic education .
    The best place to find resources is on Diane Ravitch blog and there are usually 100 comments on each article and many of the people name and list the resources in their state and places to seek out. Bob Braun in NJ has exposed Christie; Living in Dialogue Anthony Cody etc. Jonathan Pelto in CT… these individuals dig out the facts and share them.

  27. and no one is paying me for anything; they accuse Diane Ravitch and Mercedes Schneider o being “union shills” and that is a lie. Who is doing that? Dmitri Melhorn (Michelle Rhee’s buddy) and Stephen Ronann who supposedly writes under several nom de plume or avatars and goes after anyone on MA blogs or articles calling us all “union thugs”…. A good article by the way that shows the strategy that Baker has in place is about Pence…. (you can look at articles that write about Christie or Pence and just substitute the name Baker instead) “

  28. “Wall Street must not be allowed to hijack public education in Massachusetts. We must defeat Massachusetts Ballot Question 2. This is Wall Street’s attempt to line their own pockets while draining resources away from public education at the expense of low-income, special education students, and English-language learners.”

    He writes that charter schools already siphon away $450 million from public schools. If Question 2 passes, the hedge fund managers and corporations will take away another $1 billion from public schools.” Bernie Sanders

    The statement by Bernie Sanders and the earlier statement by Senator Elizabeth Warren will certainly put an obstacle in the path of the billionaires supporting privatization and pretending to be progressives. Another who understands all these issues is Angus King Independent of Maine who gave testimony on “social impact bonds” when government does not do it job and the legislature assigns lobbyists to write legislation.

  29. No sure if I have that readily available but I’ll check. In the meantime, WGBH News’ website has an article “Charter School Wait Lists May Not Be What They Seem” that goes into the Boston Public Schools waitlists. The Sun had an article in June 2016 “Lowell schools launching online waiting list” that goes into the Lowell Public Schools waitlists. Hope that’s helpful. VOTE NO on Question 2.


    In Massachusetts, tens of thousands of children are stranded on
    public charter school waitlists – the vast majority of whom are enrolled
    in the lowest performing school districts in the state. As the debate
    continues over whether to lift enrollment caps on public charter
    schools, and give these students fair access to a quality public
    education, it’s important to know the facts.


    Nothing about charter schools is private. Charter schools are public schools.

    Charters are open to all students and admission is determined by
    random lottery; there are no entrance exams or admission requirements.

    Charter teachers are public school teachers; Boards of Trustees are public boards.

    Charters operate independently of local districts, but are overseen by the state.

    Charters must abide by all the laws and regulations that traditional
    district schools abide by. They are subject to open meeting laws and
    their finances are public.


    Demand for charter schools has been strong since they first opened in
    1995. Because parents had to enter enrollment lotteries for each
    school, their children’s names often appeared on multiple wait lists.
    The state implemented new rules in 2013 eliminating all duplicates and
    most names that had been on lists for more than one year.

    More than 32,000 children are still on waiting lists statewide, 12,000 in Boston.

    Questions raised by the state Auditor are being addressed. The
    Auditor reviewed lists as they existed in 2012 – before new rules were


    Public charter schools have consistently outperformed district
    schools all across the state. Independent studies show that they are
    closing the achievement gap between low-income, African American and
    Latino children and affluent, white children.

    A higher percentage of students in charter schools scored
    proficient or advanced in all subjects at every grade level compared
    with their district peers. (2014 MCAS)

    Many urban charters, with a high percentage of African American,
    Latino and low-income students, ranked first in the state, outperforming
    affluent suburban districts. (2014 MCAS)

    A higher percentage of African American, Latino and low-income
    students enrolled in charters are proficient in all subjects compared to
    their peers in district schools. The data showed charters have
    virtually closed the achievement gap. (2014 MCAS)

    studies by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education
    Outcomes (CREDO) in 2013 and 2015 showed that Commonwealth charter
    schools are accelerating the pace of learning at a rate not seen
    anywhere else in the country..

    Boston charters provided a typical student with more than twelve
    months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months
    of additional learning per year in math.

    Children in all Massachusetts charter schools gained the equivalent
    of 36 more days of learning per year in reading and 65 more days of
    learning per year in math.

    The academic performance of Latino students enrolled in charters was
    close to or above the performance of White students statewide; the gap
    was significantly narrowed among African American children in charters
    and white students.

    The study compared charter students with district students from the
    same demographic backgrounds, and charters against the district schools
    the students formerly attended.

    Boston charter high school graduates who enroll in college
    complete college at a higher rate (50.6%) than BPS non-exam school
    graduates (35%) according to a study by the Boston Opportunity Agenda.

    graders who attend Boston charters are twice as likely to
    go on to complete college than BPS 9th graders (35% vs. 17%).

    Nearly half (44%) of all high school graduates from BPS’s non-exam
    schools needed remedial courses in college compared to 10% of Boston
    charter graduates.


    Charters receive funding only when parents choose to enroll their
    children and only the amount the district would normally spend to
    educate each student. If districts are no longer educating the children,
    should they keep the funds? Districts also receive additional state aid
    to reimburse them for lost funds.

    Charter schools account for 4% of public school enrollment and 4% of public education spending.

    schools are public schools, so there is no loss of funding for public
    education when money is allocated to charter public schools.

    Districts are reimbursed by the state for six years after
    any increase in funds allocated to charters, ultimately receiving 225%
    of their money back – the nation’s most generous reimbursement.

    While district schools receive state subsidies for their facilities, charters are not eligible for school building assistance.

    The Massachusetts Legislature has funded district reimbursement at 96% or better in 9 of the last 12 years.
    Only in years when every area of the budget experienced deep cuts was
    it shortchanged. To date, districts have received nearly $700 million in

    No locally generated revenues, such as property taxes, are
    transferred to charters; all charter funding is taken from a community’s
    state aid, which leads some to incorrectly argue that charters are
    taking an unfair share of Ch. 70 school dollars. The state could change
    the law to have charters receive their funds from both local and state
    sources, but it would not affect the overall amount of funds being
    reallocated to charters.


    The Boston Municipal Research Bureau concluded in a recent study
    that because the City of Boston shares 35% of its total revenue every
    year with the school department, charter expansion has had no effect on
    the district’s budget.

    Over the past five years, district spending has risen 12% to $1
    billion, while per pupil spending has increased from $14,466 to $16,918.
    Boston spends more per pupil than any other urban district in the
    country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Charters receive less per pupil than the district spends. While BPS
    spends $16,918 per student (FY 2015 General Fund Budget), charters
    receive only $14,937 per student. When you factor in state
    reimbursements, the net cost to the city for each charter student is


    New reports by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary
    Education and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology released in
    January disprove claims that charter schools do not serve students with
    the same level of need, finding that charters are not only attracting
    the same students the district serves, but are educating them at a
    higher level.


    State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data
    for 2014/15 shows a steady increase in the enrollment of children with
    special needs (SPED) and a dramatic increase in enrollment of English
    Language Learners (ELL) in public charter schools.

    Statewide, SPED enrollment in charters is only slightly lower
    than the state average – 14% to 16.3% – and ELL enrollment is higher –
    9.4% to 8.5%.

    In Boston charters, SPED enrollment is 15.9%, compared to 19% in Boston district schools (BPS).

    In mostly urban Gateway city charters, SPED enrollment is 13%, compared to 17.4% in Gateway city district schools.

    ELL enrollment among all Boston charters increased from 3.2% in 2010/11 to 13.8% in 2014/15.

    ELL enrollment among “new” students enrolling for the first
    time in Boston charters in 2014/15 was 22.6%, approaching the district
    ELL enrollment of 29.8%.

    In Gateway cities, the percent of ELL students enrolled at charter
    schools has increased from 7.7% in 2011/12 to 12.1% in 2014/15.

    Gateway charter school ELL enrollment among “new” students enrolling
    for the first time in 2014/15 was 16.0%, approaching the district ELL
    enrollment of 19.9%.

    recent MIT study (“Special Education and English Language Learner
    Students in Boston Charter Schools: Impact and Classification”)
    concluded: “Students across the pre-lottery levels of special education
    classroom inclusion and English language proficiency are, for the most
    part, similarly represented in charter lotteries and BPS (Boston Public


    Children with special needs and English-language learners perform
    significantly better in charter schools than they do in traditional
    public schools.

    The MIT study
    concluded: “Those with the most severe needs, special education
    students who spent the majority of their time in substantially separate
    classrooms and ELLs with beginning English proficiency at the time of
    the lottery, perform significantly better in charters than traditional
    public schools.” The MIT researchers went on to say: “Even the most
    disadvantaged special needs students benefit from charter
    attendance…Special education and ELL students experience large academic
    gains in charters similar to the gains of non-special needs students.”

    A substantially higher percentage of special needs children
    attending public charters achieved proficiency in English and math
    compared to special needs children in sending district schools: 16.4
    percentage points more in English, 10.1 percentage points more in math,
    according to 2014 MCAS data.

    A substantially higher percentage of English Language
    Learners attending public charters achieved proficiency in English and
    math compared to special needs children in sending district schools:
    12.8 percentage points more in English, 12.1 percentage points more in
    math, according to 2014 MCAS data.


    The attrition rate in Boston and in Gateway City charters “has
    remained lower” than the attrition rates of district schools in those
    communities, according to 2014/15 DESE data.

    The attrition rate at Boston charters (9.3%) is significantly lower than in BPS (14.2%).

    In Gateway Cities, charter attrition rates (6.2%) are lower than Gateway districts (11.4%).

    From 2012-2014, an average of just 82 students
    left charters and returned to Boston Public Schools, according to BPS
    numbers – one-tenth of one percent of BPS total enrollment.


    There is no evidence to support the claim that charter suspension
    rates lead to higher attrition or dropout rates. Parents overwhelmingly
    support high standards that create a classroom environment that is
    favorable to learning.

    Boston charters have higher out-of-school-suspension rates than BPS
    schools (12.6% vs. 4.8%), Boston charter attrition rates are much lower
    than BPS (9.3% vs. 14.2%), according to 2014/15 DESE data. Boston
    charters’ stability rate,
    which measures students who stay with the same school all year, is
    higher in Boston charters than BPS (92.2% vs. 86.5%), countering claims
    that children leave in droves prior to testing season, according to
    2014/15 DESE data.

    Boston charter high schools have lower dropout rates than BPS high schools (4.1% vs. 11.9%), according to 2014/15 DESE data.

  31. Only you believe that!! Getting paid by corrupted unions! Let people choose for themselves!! You are flooding this website with all this negative campaign against charter school!!! Don’t like the questions address to you. You have this dark and evil cloud over your head. Think people haven’t noticed. November 8 is 7 days away and the pendulum is swinging in our favor just vote yes on 2!!!

  32. Why, again, are public schools unable to close the “socioeconomic Gap”. That closing of the gap process has been taking place in public schools for decades. Did it actually stop? How did it happen? It can’t be funding. That would affects Charter and public schools. Was it curriculum change? Too many immigrants? Too much community illiteracy outside of the schools to support the children in schools? I see no reason for two systems when one can do the job.

  33. Yes charter schools are the best choice for kids trapped in failing schools! We believed in BPS 20 years ago!! Teacher’s unions are more interested in defeating question than our kids!! No significant changes in education just renewed the fat contracts and business as usual. No more creating our kids of an education. My respect to the teachers who work hard and deserve better educational guidelines.. for those teachers who have given up on our kids .. shame on you for collect a check without even trying!

  34. Those charter schools which are not meeting what is expected of them will be closed.. you can’t say that for those public schools protected by unions!!!

  35. Hey, aren’t you contradicting yourself? I thought district public schools are taking everyone by default?
    $15Billion dollars taxpayers spend on education in Massachusetts and public district schools want more money thrown at you?? Your numbers don’t add up!! HIGH rates in high school dropouts.. no accountability monetarily and no educational accountability neither. That is what you are advocating for


  36. Are you talking about the 15,000 children on a waitlist for income-eligible subsidized early education in Massachusetts. What doesn’t add up? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  37. Have you read the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s report released one year ago? VOTE NO on Question 2.

  38. The law does not require charter schools K-8 to accept students after 4th grade or charter schools K-12 to accept students after 6th grade or charter schools Grades 9-12 to accept students after 9th grade or any charter schools to accept students after February 15th. That’s the law. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  39. The only thing we’re in agreement on is November 8th is the election. It’s also the opportunity for voters to VOTE NO on Question 2.

  40. One issue is funding. First, the Foundation Budget Review Commission identified a shortfall of more than $1 billion in state aid to local public schools…that was last year and nothing has been done about it. Second, three of the underfunded areas in the Foundation Budget.are English Language Learners, low income and special education students. Guess where the majority of those students live? In urban areas. So the public schools that should be in a position to close the achievement gap are not receiving adequate funds to do the job. Third, special education costs are ballooning in Massachusetts. Read WBUR’s “‘There Is No Yelp’: Why Parents Struggle With The State’s Special Ed System” (be sure to click on the “According to state data” link) stating: “According to state data, the number of special ed students with severe disabilities is increasing. Since 2003, enrollment of students with autism, for example, is up more than 300 percent. The number of students with severe neurological impairments is up almost 150 percent in the same time frame. The numbers of kids with complex and severe disabilities is increasing in America and in Massachusetts, and it’s increasing dramatically and it’s a real challenge not only to our members but to public school districts.” Gee wiz, if special education is underfunded and the costs are escalating isn’t that affecting public school districts ability to provide services to those students and to all students? Fourth, charter schools will drain more than $400 million in funding from more than 200 public schools in Massachusetts this year! Boston alone will lose $136,715,535 to charters! Fifth, now add into the mix the fact charter school students demographics are not reflective of the sending public school districts. That was confirmed the other day in a Boston Globe article “Many charter schools lag in enrolling students lacking English fluency.” That means while charter schools get the money the students they have don’t come with the costs which leaves public schools to educate more higher cost students but do it with less funding. That’s a very brief response. I’d be interested in your comments after reading the suggested report and articles. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  41. Thanks for checking into that.
    My guess is that the waiting lists are concentrated in respect to a relatively small number of truly special schools, like New Mission High.
    Thankfully, if Q2 passes, those on a very long waiting list like that one will have a better opportunity to choose from some other excellent schools. And the odds for those hoping for a New Mission High seat will improve!

  42. OMG! “The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service is warning Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken the municipalities’ financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.” That’s directly from today’s Boston Globe article, “Charter school vote may hurt ratings, credit agency says.” VOTE NO on Question 2.

  43. Holy mackerel! “The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service is warning Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken the municipalities’ financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.” That’s directly from today’s Boston Globe article, “Charter school vote may hurt ratings, credit agency says.” VOTE NO on Question 2.

  44. I live in Everett. We have $3million less this school year. Why this “Ballot Question”, when in fact, the State Dept. of Ed. has a mammoth funding shortfall? In that case , the most fair solution is TO AFFECT ALL. Specialized NEED of Charter school students may be argued, but that may need to be sacrificed. We are implying means testing. The employees on Beacon Hill should be figuring out the means, not the public. I tilt to just having public schools for now. When there is more money; reopen the subject of charter schools. Close them if we can’t afford them. Provided we have the classroom space. What a mess.

  45. What does “opportunity” mean to you? All it means to me is a chance…so that means nothing to me. Every student in Massachusetts should have a high quality education…period… not just an “opportunity” for a high quality education. Public schools like New Mission High will keep experiencing a drain of funding to charter schools so what if “odds” improve to get a seat? At some point no one will want a seat because New Mission High will no longer be a well-resourced public school. And yes, it’s official, charter schools in Massachusetts drain funding from public schools. Yesterday’s Boston Globe has an article, “Charter school vote may hurt ratings, credit agency says,” reporting “The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service is warning Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken the municipalities’ financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.” VOTE NO on Question 2.

  46. When charter schools drain funds from public schools that’s not only a bad thing for public schools but also a bad thing for the bond rating of the city or town those public schools are in! Today’s Boston Globe article, “Charter school vote may hurt ratings, credit agency says,” reports “The credit-rating agency Moody’s Investors Service is warning Boston and three other Massachusetts cities that passage of a ballot measure to expand charter schools could weaken the municipalities’ financial standing and ultimately threaten their bond ratings.” VOTE NO on Question 2.

  47. You can’t have a good education if you have no opportunity for a good education, correct?
    Re: Moody’s… it remains a question whether the traditional district schools systems can effectively manage their budgets… But meanwhile, I’ll defer to Sam Tyler on this:
    “I would think that, between the city and the state, steps would be taken to mitigate the impact and not create a negative credit situation in the city,” he said.

  48. You have repeatedly made false allegations like this: “calling us all “union thugs”, repeatedly been asked for any supporting evidence, have always failed to provide it.

  49. Do you realize the pro-charter schools nonprofit The Boston Foundation financed the Boston Municipal Research Bureau and the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation’s reports finding there’s no problem with charter schools draining funds from public schools? BMRB stated “Charter expansion has not been a revenue issue for Boston Public Schools” and MTF “Finds State Funding On Par With Student Enrollment.” The Boston Foundation got the results it paid for. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  50. In my somewhat limited experience, the folks at The Boston Foundation are quite sensible. That has proved true in education and other matters. So, if they are supporting local charter schools that’s a good point in favor of both (TBF and the schools).

  51. sbrb… you obviously have several Nom de Plume /atavars…. I always put my in the newspapers and I have repeatedly offered to have my experience and testimony notarized . It has been going on continuously. I first wrote about it when the Bush leadership called the teachers unions terrorists; then another Bush appointee said “the teachers’ colleges should be bombed”. These ridiculous comments continued all through the negotiations for NCLB and Ted Kennedy had to get angry because the funds were not forthcoming to support the mandates (ask George Miller since T.K. died). Even the men with suits and college degrees have repeatedly insulted the teachers and professional educators. They have a favorite the call women like me “little ramona from the 1960s rock band” because most of my cohort has been around with experience in the field and we have earned 3 or 4 college degrees; my best friend is professor emerita and she has to renew 5 different certificates. I don’t need to document any of that as it is public statements from neo-liberals and neo-conservatives. People use avatar/nom de plume to find the professional women like me (a large portion of the professional field of teaching is female) and they repeatedly use insults like “little Ramona” and the “think tank” at Fordham Institute (which is NOT the University) calls some of us older females “marriage wreckers”. The younger teachers have been harassed out of the profession. Given that no one can fire me I can be more vocal in rejecting this constant attack on teachers and students and schools. Jeanbeana is my auntie-grandmother name. You can look up my pension in the Herald as Jean Sanders and it is right at the state average (this is another thing that Fordham I. likes to say that we are all at bloated pensions because we are old). The race-baiting in the current ads against teachers is not subtle and it is not a dog whistle. It has become more common in this campaign because of people like Trump. Some people are like Trump and they hide behind crocodile tears and that is what you will find I accuse Baker of because he cries to get elected and then he stabs us all in the back. When you see the teachers on strike as in Boston and Chicago you will find they are asking for NURSES, counselors, librarians, RESOURCES for schools and students. So that is why I resent being called a “union thug terrorist”.

  52. you call us “silly” then you tell parents we are “silly” and “foolish”… You do everything even race baiting (naturally I am using YOU in a general sense) to get those ads on TV. Well I still listen to my Mayor Jim Fiorentini in Haverhill and the 30+ mayors and the 200 school committees. And, the Mayor in Lawrence because I have been doing volunteer work for thesse campaigns in several places now. You can call them “silly” or “foolish”… but I trust the budget numbers in my city. I have worked with superintendents and school business officials for years in public ed and my former supervisor now deceased was the president of the MA Assoc of School Business Officials for some part of his extensive career. I know he was never “silly” or “foolish” yet people like you totally discredit us (attacking my profession). I have also a recognition of statistics and I can often interpret when there are “Rigged” statistics numbers and today’s test scores are seriously flawed; the tests are not valid; they are not reliable and they have no predictive validity and the further you go down in he age/grades they are the less predictive validity they have about anything in a child’s future. I refuse to pick apart the stupid “legislation ” you talk about written by lobbyists (usually from corporations selling stuff) because I have had major experiences in research with school achievement data.

  53. for 3 or 4 years we have had this information: “The fact is, Massachusetts has a history of not properly funding public education. ” Vazniz wrote about it in the globe 2013-2014; a Northeastern U. Law study wrote about it in 2014 -2015 ; the mayors know it as fact. Yet, these guys keep wanting me to go back into the archives and dig up the “proof”. It is often distraction and red herring. They hide under their nom de plume and write in different places. Now we have Gov. C. Baker making ads pretending he is a parent who always had a dream about a school quality that he expected. Well if he doesn’t find it today, then he had better better get busy because he sits in the Governor’s chair and he has major responsibility; just as M. Chester does and he wastes precious R&D money and then they all attack the teachers. Same with Stephen Lynch; if parents can’t find a decent school in his district then he is culpable because he has been around a long time and those men sit on the powerful chairs. Instead of doing their job, they find ways to show teachers are worthless, parents are feckless, and the kids are lazy and unmotivated. I for one am sick of it and I refuse to look through the past ten years of archives to prove some point to srdbs or whatever his name is; we had another one like him for a while who wrote as Virginia/Brian/aspx or something and they are constantly on the attack yet they believe their flawed logic designs about charter schools are the only way to go. One of my colleagues called out a candidate this week who was advocating the charteryesparade and he cited the MA Supreme Judicial Court definitions. I also like to look at the League of Women Voters descriptions of the funding mechanisms as well as the sources the MA School Committee cites when it comes to the actual facts about how these policies impact our cities. Moody’s seems to know something about Lawrence and Haverhill that C. Baker must have forgotten because C. Baker is such a recognized financial genius.

  54. sbrsb is one who writes frequently in different places.
    constantly trying to set up a debate to prove he has superior debating skills. I will stand on my testimony and my evidence from my work experiences . I hold him to account for having a flawed logic design and we have a Governor who is namby pamby and wants to bring in all the corporate lobbyists to run an educational monolith called “The Commissioner’s District” under state control…. thereby destroying the value of local democracy through locally elected officials who are accountable to voters that New England residents have had since the Pilgrims and the Puritans (and yes, from Horace Mann). When I cite the local control value people like sbrsb insult “old” stuff but this particular value and the principles of local control go back through New England history — the best source is Colin Woodard a prize winning journalist.

  55. It’s interesting you described The Boston Foundation as “quite sensible.” In 2014 The Boston Foundation…a nonprofit….paid its President/CEO about $600,000. In that same year, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau…also a nonprofit…paid its president Sam Tyler (the person you previously quoted) $265,205 out of $639,424 in revenue while the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation…also a nonprofit… paid its president Michael Widmer…$524,887…or almost half its $1,096,787 in revenue. To me it looks like The Boston Foundation found a way to spread its wealth around ensuring lucrative paydays for those nonprofits’ presidents while their organizations crank out reports undermining an informed public debate on charter schools. VOTE NO on Question 2.

  56. they already created the negative situation because Boston sits on the funds and the legislature hasn’t done the job; Stop blaming the school system; we have an integral system of Mayor, City Council, School Committee, School Superintendent and Business Officials and I trust them more than I trust baker and sagan and Peyser and Chester…. They want to run a monolithic “state system” and cancel out our locally elected officials. The schools are called “commissioner’s district” and he is building himself a nice little empire… He has already blossomed the testing staff (actually it is in Malden not Boston but we think of it as the “boston politicians” who are so arrogant to cities in the state; the “libertarian” (euphemism) “think tank” Pioneer even passes out reports saying that Leominster Haverhill, Lawrence etc. have no “functional purpose other than their previous housing of immigrants and manufacturing.” When politicians come out to honor a military casualty they don’t even get the pronunciation of the town correct; Boston is noted for snobbishness but not Albany NY — they have a different set of political problems but this elite Boston attitude. When I was in the doctoral program at BU the students at Harvard would say “I am headed to policy level in Washington and you will be back in the classroom teaching with all the other women”… One of the Harvard doctoral students took my work, put his name on it and submitted it… the men in the outfit where I worked gave him permission, so Mr. Stephen Ronan I have decided to be a “nasty woman” in this campaign… it’s not too late. Mr. Ronan asked on Diane Ravitch blog why I was pointing out these things implying that he is
    “innocent” of the attacks.. But it is Baker and the Pay to Play; it was never about the kids.

  57. It’s actually funny you bring up vocational schools. Some districts send just 2% of their high school kids to vocational districts and others send as much as 35%. From Dracut’s experience, when you suddenly shift more than 20% of the high school to a vocational district, it completely disrupts facilities planning for the regular high school.

    The lesson from this shift, which occurred in 2010-12, is that it a vocational school probably needs some caps similar to those now in place for the charters. A cap of 25%, phased in over time, might make sense. If there is no CAP on something which is better funded (i.e. given an incentive) that is a recipe for unlimited growth of the better-funded entity.

    It is ironic that Baker and his DPU were up in arms about continued funding of incentives for people to add solar to the grid, fearing that if we got too much solar it would make it more difficult to manage the grid. Yet they have no concern whatsoever about suburban communities getting blindsided by the opening of a charters, communities which are already dealing with low birth rates and declining school enrollments.

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