STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
REJECTED BY THE voters in his bid for an expansion of charter school access, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday he will explore other means of reducing the gap between the achievement levels of white students and students of color.
Speaking to reporters a day after Question 2 went down, with 37.8 percent in favor and 62.2 percent opposed, Baker mulled extensions to the school day or models similar to a Springfield partnership where schools within a public school district have authority over making their own hiring, scheduling, budgeting and curriculum decisions.
“That achievement gap is something that we need to continue to work on, and my view at this point is that that means we need to pursue what the voters said we need to pursue – other alternatives,” Baker said Wednesday afternoon. “I mean charter schools will certainly continue to be part of the mix, as they have been, but maybe this means we need to do more of the empowerment-zone type approaches that have been pursued in Springfield, or maybe we need to do some things to lengthen school days.”
The Republican governor had backed the ballot question, which would have allowed for up to 12 additional charter schools per year beyond statutory caps, asserting that charters “have been in many cases the single biggest thing that have closed the achievement gap.”
Charters receive public funds and educate public school students, but they are run by private organizations that operate autonomously from the school district. The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership is a collaboration of the school district, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the local teachers’ union, the Springfield Education Association.
“We’re going to have conversations with people about this and make sure we continue to work on this,” Baker said.
A popular Republican governor who was elected by a 40,000-vote margin two years ago in a predominantly Democrat state, Baker campaigned for Question 2 and against Question 4, legalizing marijuana. Voters sided against Baker on both questions.
“As governor it’s incumbent on me to pursue policy prescriptions that I believe are going to be in the best interests of everybody,” Baker said Wednesday. He said, “I wasn’t making a political calculus when I decided to pursue Question 2. I wasn’t doing that with Question 4, either.”
While Question 2 had immense financial backing – spending $24 million compared to opponents’ $14 million – local school committees, mayors, and teachers unions mobilized against it. Despite the roughly $10 million spending advantage, the question was defeated by a substantial margin. Only Question 3, which mandates protections for farm animals, had a more lopsided margin.
A town-by-town map of results published by WBUR-FM shows opposition was widespread and nearly unanimous through cities and rural towns. A string of support in a prosperous part of Metrowest stretches from Lincoln to Sherborn, while other towns supporting the measure include Nantucket, Cohasset and Manchester-By-The-Sea.
State Education Secretary James Peyser, among the governor’s closest advisors and political confidants, told the News Service he preferred to let Baker address the politics and ramifications of the charter vote. Peyer said he hadn’t any time to think about next steps, and “Not even much sleep.”
Craig Sandler contributed reporting