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While most voters will be focused on the presidential election on November 8th, Massachusetts’ voters also have an important decision to make on Question 2. If approved, it would lift the cap on charter schools currently in place across the state, allowing 12 new ones to be formed. This issue was placed on the ballot due to thousands of citizens signing petitions after the General Court voted down a similar proposal. Opponents of Question 2 claim that charter schools drain money from traditional public schools and harm public education. But in fact, charter schools lead to increased public school funding and provide a superior level of education to thousands of at-risk children. Here are the three most compelling reasons that you should vote “Yes” on Question 2:
1. Charter schools are in high demand and incredibly effective.
First off, charter schools are public schools that are operated independently of a local school district. They are open to every child in the state and are free to attend. Unfortunately, the number of charter schools in Massachusetts is not meeting demand, so schools have to hold lotteries for enrollment. As of 2015, 32,000 students in Massachusetts are currently on waiting lists to get into charter schools. Clearly, families want to send their children to these schools, and lifting the cap will give far more parents the opportunity to do so.
Parents want their children in charters in large part because they’re so effective. In Massachusetts, charter school students receive the equivalent of over three more months of learning in math and almost two more months of learning in English per year than their public school counterparts. These are among the best results of any state in the country. In Boston, the gains are even more pronounced, with charter school students receiving the equivalent of 13 months of math learning and 12 months of reading learning per year more than their Boston Public School peers. Lifting the cap means more quality public schools across the Commonwealth.
2. Charter schools help the most disadvantaged among us.
Charter schools predominantly serve the most at-risk students in the state. While 37 percent of students in Massachusetts’ public schools are racial or ethnic minorities, 68 percent of charter school students are people of color. Charter schools serve a higher proportion of students with a first language other than English, students with limited English proficiency, and students from an economically disadvantaged background. In addition, students with special needs have seen significant gains in charter schools compared to their public school peers. Question 2 would give priority for new charter schools to the poorest performing school districts in the state, meaning that thousands of the neediest children in Massachusetts would have a chance to attend a quality school.
3. Question 2 will lead to more funding for public education
Question 2’s critics have claimed that charter schools take away funding from traditional public schools. This claim is completely false. In fact, the state government will continue to give traditional public schools funding for students who have left for a charter school for up to 6 years. This means even students not attending public schools will continue to have their education subsidized—and it means that public schools will actually see an increase in their per pupil spending. Since charter schools were introduced in Massachusetts in 1995, this subsidy program alone has provided $700 million for public school districts. A “Yes” vote on Question 2 means more funding for our public schools.
So if you care about making sure that every child receives a quality education, if you care about the 32,000 children on charter school waiting lists, if your care about social justice, and if you care about putting more money into our public schools, vote “Yes” on Question 2 on November 8th.
W. Kent Haeffner '18, a government concentrator, lives in Quincy House.
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