Mass. voters to decide on expanding charter schools

(WPRI) — A new ad featuring Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is advocating for approval of Question 2 on the November 8 ballot, and the expansion of charter schools in the Bay State. But some residents — voting ‘no’ on 2 — would rather boost public schools instead of public charter schools.

Question 2 would lift the charter school cap in Massachusetts, allowing up to 12 new charter schools to be built and existing charter schools to expand.

In the new commercial, Gov. Baker says, “All we want is to give every kid in Massachusetts the chance to benefit from the same thing.”

But Dr. Ricardo Rosa, representing the group Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts, said Tuesday, “Every time a new charter school opens up you’re talking about a reduction of funds to public schools.” This year alone, $450 million was reallocated from public schools to charter schools in Massachusetts, he said. “That’s catastrophic.”

Robert Beatty, the executive director of Atlantis Charter Schools, says that just isn’t the case: “State funding for students follows the student, so if a student goes from a traditional district to a charter school, the state funding follows the student to the charter school. If a student goes to a vocational school, the funding follows them to the vocational school.

“In addition, for students that move from traditional schools to charter schools, the districts are reimbursed 225 percent of that per-pupil amount,” Beatty added.

In a poll of 502 likely voters conducted by WBUR-FM two weeks ago, 41 percent of residents supported Question 2, while 52 percent said they would vote against it.

“I want choice in education, but I want the choice to remain within sort of the parameters of public education,” Rosa said.

“An increase in charter schools contributes more money to public education… Increased choice for kids and families is a good thing in Massachusetts,” said Beatty.

If Question 2 passes, priority would be given to charter school applications who wish to open their school in a poor-performing district.