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Panelists clashed over the ways in which Massachusetts ballot measure Question 2—a proposal that would "approve up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools each year"—would impact educational funding and quality at an event at the Graduate School of Education Tuesday night.
Part of GSE’s Askwith Forum series, the event featured four panelists including a Boston city councilor and the head of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. Scores of people stood in line to watch the debate and many attendees were directed to an overflow room.
Education School professor Paul S. Reville moderated the debate. He said that although charter schools were founded with high goals, their legacy and impact has become controversial.
“Imagine the world of public education… if every family had access to high quality schools and the capacity to choose the school which was best suited to meet the needs of each of their children,” he said of initial hopes for charter schools. “But the devil is always in the details. How would these new charter schools be funded and governed? How would they coexist with mainstream schools?”
Panelists disagreed on the issue of charter school funding. Marc Kennen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, argued that charter schools should receive state funding because they are still public.
“This is still the core of the debate today, are these schools public?” he said. “The answer to that question is yes. We are not taking money away from public education because we are public education.”
However, Tito Jackson, the Boston City Council’s education committee chairman, voiced concerns about the financial consequences the ballot measure could have on non-charter public schools.
“We are talking about taking funding away from existing schools and moving funding to schools that don’t even exist yet,” he said. “It is 12 new commonwealth charter schools each year, every year, anywhere, forever.”
The discussion also touched on issues of race and socioeconomic status in the educational system. Kennen said he believes charter school proponents advocate for students of color.
“Our goal, and who we are trying to serve, are those black and brown parents and young parents, who are trying desperately to get alternatives for their children,” he said.
Jackson, however, disagreed, and questioned charter schools’ relations with minority students.
“Are we pushing out young black and Latino students, and who are we actually keeping in [charter] schools?” he said.
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