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Dear Neighbors,

Many people are confused about Question 2.  My recent newsletters discussed Q2  and a better alternative.  In this one, I'm sharing other people's answers to FAQ.

But first, if you follow no other link and read no further, please watch this short video made by Boston parents.  They don't have millions of dollars to put it on TV, so please share it.

Will Question 2 harm students in district schools?

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, although he's a strong supporter of charter schools, says Question 2 is "a looming death spiral for our district budget, aimed squarely at the most vulnerable children in our city." 

Boston CFO's report and the School Department's projections.

Moody's Investors Service says Question 2 threatens cities' credit ratings.

Mass. Teachers Association map and list showing how much money each district loses to charter schools. (The data come from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.

Somerville parents Stephanie Hirsch and Joe Calzaretta designed an interactive tool to allow you to compute the effects of a new charter school in your town.

The Boston School Department produced a report on the likely effects if Q2 passes.

Letter from 100 Boston parents to suburban parents
Does Question 2 advance civil rights?
NAACP resolution calling for a moratorium on new charters.
Black Lives Matter platform calling for a moratorium on new charters.
Mel King video statement: "A no vote on Question 2 is critical to caring for all our children."  "How can the governor describe children as trapped in failing schools and then say he wants to free only a few of them?... He’s telling parents of children left behind that it’s ok for their children to be trapped in those schools that he disparages.  And take money away from those children."

Highlight reel from Dorchester rally featuring Juan Cofield (New England Conference NAACP), Gabby Correia (South Boston High student), Mel King, Mayor Walsh, Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Tito Jackson, SEIU 1199 Executive VP Tyrek Lee, and Minister Rodney Muhammed of Mosque 11 of the Nation of Islam.
Are 33,000 students really on charter waitlists?

WGBH article by Isaiah Thompson (apparently the only reporter who has actually read the state waitlist report) shows there are far fewer and compares them with waitlists for Boston Public Schools.​ (You didn't  know there are waitlists for Boston district schools? That might be because there's no $20 million advertising campaign telling you about them.) 

The waitlists for BPS are at least as long as those for Boston charter schools.  And there are over 1000 children waitlisted for Boston's successful early kindergarten program.
Why are 210 School Committees and the Mass. Assn. of School Committees (MASC) asking public school supporters to vote No?
Arlington School Committee member Paul Schlichtman tells about having to say no to great ideas because of budget constraints.

MASC resolution
​ ​

Are charters selective schools?

Boston's CFO David Sweeney's report on Boston finances is worth reading for many reasons.  It says
"BPS serves a greater percentage of high-need special education students (for instance, an aggregated 2.5% of BPS students are blind, deaf, or autistic versus 0.9% of students in Boston-based charter schools) and English Language Students (30% of BPS students versus 13% of the students in Boston-based charter schools)."

Charter schools admit by lottery, but many students leave.  The schools don't admit students after Feb. 15, or in their upper grades, so far fewer students graduate than enter.  Harneen Chernow, former member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said:​

“When charters apply to open a school they include an enrollment table.  It shows how many kids will be enrolled in each grade. Most applications we reviewed showed a reduction in students per class each year. When some of us asked what it meant when a school plans to lose a third of their kids, we were told that the charter schools have such high standards, it isn’t for everyone and so kids and families leave.

Do charter schools work miracles?


It certainly helps your scores when you avoid students who score low.  Charters probably help some students. On the other hand, the absolute obedience students learn in "no excuses schools" may hurt them later on.


Roland Fryer of Harvard, a charter supporter, published a study that found “no-excuses” charters like the ones that are growing in Massachusetts did raise test scores but did not help students earn higher incomes later on. He speculates that the methods the schools used to raise scores may hurt their students’ job skills. The study is very technical, but read his concluding paragraph on page 27.

Is it just about Boston?

Three of the four communities in my district are effectively at the cap -- there's not enough room for another charter -- so far more than 9 districts are at risk.  All of my communities pay for more than 75% of their budgets out of local property taxes, with no local accountability.  That's why many school committee members call it "taxation without representation."

Mayor Curtatone says "We would have to cut back in our local public schools if Question 2 allows more charter schools to open."  Every elected leader in Somerville is against Q2.

"In communities where schools are working relatively well, charters could deplete hard-won school resources,"  writes Sen. Will Brownsberger, an extraordinarily thoughtful representative of both Boston and suburbs like Belmont.  He's concerned about both.

"It would be devastating,"  says Worcester School Committee member Molly McCullough.

New Bedford School Committee member Josh Amaral explains how his district could do better by all of its students if it weren't for this drain.

"Lowell paying a high price for charters."

Denise Hurst, a Springfield School Committee member and chair of MASC's Minority Caucus said, "I believe that what would essentially happen is we'd have a two-tiered educational system, and it would really be unfair."

Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons,  City Councilors Marc McGovern and Tim Toomey, and School Committee members Fred Fantini, Richard Harding, and Kathleen Kelly write that "The present funding system does not take into account the needs of the students attending district schools and the overhead costs of running an effective school district... If the Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education wishes to invest in charter schools to offer families and students an alternative to public schools, the state should fund the charter schools directly."

Cambridge School Committee member Emily Dexter compares Q2 to the Unz referendum, where an out-of-state millionaire funded a ballot question that has hurt English language learners.

Are 40% of the state's children "trapped in failing schools?"

The ballot question prioritizes students in the "lowest 25%" of districts.  Those districts have 40% of the children in the state with the highest achievement scores in the country.  There are schools that aren't doing a great job, but it's quite a stretch to call all these schools "failing."   

Denise Provost's Facebook post demonstrates the close correlation of poverty and low test scores.  If you look closely, you'll see that Boston doesn't rank in the bottom 25% of districts on "growth" (how much students' scores change over a year).  That's the measure used in all the studies cited to show charter school effectiveness.  Boston, incidentally, has 21 "Level 1" schools.

Does President Obama support Question 2?

You'd think so from the mailing and TV ad from "Advancing Obama's Legacy," a new committee just formed and funded by ... well, I don't have time to trace the interconnected multi-million dollar funds.  Keep an eye on Prof. Maurice Cunningham's blog about money in politics. 

But "
A White House official said the president has not taken a position for or against Question 2. He also said the president is not affiliated with the Advancing Obama’s Legacy Ballot Committee."

And some of the clips in the ad aren't about charter schools at all: they're from his speeches to the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers about how we have to educate all children.

Doesn't the state pay transition costs?

Charter school advocates continue to say that the state pays the community for six years.  That's the law but not the reality. The DESE website says: "The appropriation for charter school tuition ... covers 88.7 percent of the first year increase in tuition; the remaining five years of reimbursements are not funded."

Worth reading: Jonathan Kozol

Copyright © 2016 Committee to Re-elect Pat Jehlen, All rights reserved.

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