Charter Cap Battle Boils Over

Tempers flared and fingers stabbed out vitriolic editorials at the news that the Joint Education Committee wanted time to hear from voters and think about proposed charter cap and school turnaround legislation.

First, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz released a statement announcing the one-week extension. The statement was posted at the Blue Mass Group blog, prompting an interesting series of comments, including an excellent post by CPS member Shirley Kressel.

The Boston Herald then printed a vicious editorial attack on Senators Chang-Diaz and Jehlen, saying there should be “a special place in hell reserved for those who would deprive children of a way out of a failing school.”

On behalf of CPS, my letter to the editor points out, “It takes courage to resist and not kowtow to deep-pocketed charter proponents. Parents see how charter school growth has constricted resources available for basics like art and music, gym and social workers. Lifting the cap will make this bad situation worse.

Meanwhile, tempers flared at the Pioneer Institute, which launched this public attack on Secretary of Education Matt Malone, saying his views on charters are “characterized by bigotry and demonization.”

Some groups kept their decorum and stuck to the issues, including the Black Educators Alliance Massachusetts (BEAM), which wrote this letter on lifting the charter cap. It says, in part, “The state should not lift the cap on charter schools without addressing the funding inequities imposed on districts such as Boston and the disproportionately lower number of English language learners and students with disabilities enrolled in charter schools.”

Finally, we got a needed dose of delicious satire from EduShyster, who wrote, “a funny thing happened on the way to the charter cap-lifting fête. Lawmakers began to hear from some actual constituents-upon whom they actually depend for actual re-election-about devastated public school budgets, the loss of local control and a growing fear that more charters means dual, and dueling, school systems that educate very different students.” A tip of my cap to you, EduShyster!

Don’t forget that the State Auditor’s Office is close to completing a comprehensive audit of charter school finances and practices. We remain convinced that it would make sense for legislators to read that report before considering changing the charter school cap. 

Meanwhile, if you want to add your voice to the fray, here‘s a petition from the Boston parent group Quest, seeking investments in Boston public schools and maintaining the cap on charter school growth. And don’t forget to sign on to the Boston Truth Coalition’s Principles of Unity, which include this: “We believe in investing in public schools, which serve the majority of students in Boston, and we oppose lifting the cap on charters, which drain resources from district schools and don’t serve ALL students and their diverse needs.”