I have worked for 10 plus years in traditional public schools, charter schools, and the central office of a large urban school district. I have worked in schools in three states. Based on my experience as a teacher, as a student of education policy, and now as a parent, I think that Question 2, which would lift the existing cap on charter schools in Massachusetts, is not only a bad idea, but a dangerously irresponsible one.
We will all be asked to vote on Question 2 in November, and I’m going to keep talking about this until then. Here are the reasons I feel so strongly about this, and what I hope you consider before you vote.
First, the majority of kids who go to charter schools are students of color. Students of color have always been and continue to be given the least educational opportunity in our country. The majority of the discipline systems at charters schools are harsh and punitive, and more often target students of color and those with disabilities.
Second, creating a competing system robs the kids who stay in public schools. Every time a student leaves a traditional public school to attend a charter, the traditional school loses money. If these were competing businesses, that would be fair, and could spur healthy competition for consumer dollars. Schools are not businesses. They are unique organizations that are trying to meet all kinds of needs for tiny, growing humans, and they are already working on a shoestring budget. They can’t afford to lose the $400 million that is already being taken away each year — let alone the more than $1 billion more annually if Question 2 passes. When you have a class of 20 students and 4 of them leave, there is no good way to cut costs. You still need to pay the teacher. You still need a clean, healthy learning environment. You still need to pay the electric bill. Instead, the remaining 16 kids end up losing. They lose an art class, or a counselor, or don’t get broken equipment replaced. These 16 kids represent the vast majority of our students.
Third, most teachers can’t afford to teach at charters once they start a family, because they pay so much less. Being a parent has made me a better teacher, and I do not believe in a system where you can’t be both.
Fourth, some of the smartest, most dedicated educators I have ever been lucky enough to know and learn from are life-long charter school people. But these schools only serve a small fraction of our students — only 4 percent. We need to invest in quality education for ALL students.
Traditional public schools have plenty of their own issues, but lifting the cap does not address any of them, and would only exacerbate the current issues that exist in our school systems. This is why I am asking everyone to join me in voting No on Question 2.
Jamaica Plain resident