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Massachusetts Recent History Illustrates All That is Wrong With Deregulated Charters

March 17, 2018

The title of a recent Boston Globe article by James Vaznis describing the “choice” movement in Massachusetts, “For Charter Schools, Recently Its Been Bad News Galore“, could apply to charter schools across the country. The bad news in Massachusetts is summarized in Mr. Vaznis’ first paragraph:

For charter schools across the state, the news has been relentlessly bad in recent months: A Western Massachusetts principal fired after a drug arrest. A Dorchester school placed on probation amid allegations of financial mismanagement. Multiple unionization efforts. A record-breaking campaign finance penalty. Black students in Malden punished simply for wearing braided-hair extensions.

In subsequent paragraphs, Mr. Vaznis characterizes “any proposal tied to charter schools appears… radioactive”, DC noting that both Boston’s Mayor and Governor Baker have experienced losing battles in attempting to expand the availability of charters… and the bad news in the opening paragraph is probably the reason why. And if that’s not enough to squash expansion, there’s the recent spate of bad news about charters out of Washington DC and across the nation. In , the Superintendent was effectively forced to step down when it became clear that he used his position to place his daughter in a desirable school and it was determined that 1/3 of the graduates the prior year failed to meet attendance standards due to intentional misreporting of by several principals in the district. And, as the Network for Public Education’s (NPE) periodic catalogue of charter scandals indicates, one occurs nearly every day and occurs in nearly every state of the union where charter schools are allowed.

At the conclusion of his article, Mr. Vaznis identifies one area where charter advocates, the Boston mayor (a charter advocate), and charter opponents agree: state funding is inadequate!

Charter advocates say there is one issue on which they would like to join their critics: persuading the state to fully fund public education. A legislative committee two years ago found the state was underfunding public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars, but state lawmakers have been slow to respond.

Walsh said he would welcome the help of charter schools in that effort. He said his criticism about the city losing $195 million to charter schools next year is not about dissatisfaction with those (public) schools but with the state not living up to its funding commitments.

Just 4 percent of the Boston Public Schools’ $1.1 billion budget next fall will be covered by state aid.

Despite the black eyes charter schools received in recent months, the Boston Mayor remains a staunch proponent of charters:

“There is a place for charter schools — there is no question in my mind — just like there is a place for parochial and private schools and public schools,” Walsh said. “I think we can all coexist together to bring a top-notch education to all kids.”

There MAY be a place for regulated charters overseen by locally elected school boards using the kind of randomized selection process in place now in Boston… but unfortunately too many charter advocates are also advocates of deregulated for profit charter schools… and when deregulation and the profit motive are combined, bad outcomes inevitably result.

 

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