Hearing Summary: Charter Schools

On Tuesday, October 3, in the Massachusetts State House, the Joint Education Committee heard testimony on the following bills:

You can read about the other Bills open for testimony here: https://malegislature.gov/Events/Hearings/Detail/2710

S.298 would require local approval of the new Commonwealth Charter schools. H.2065 would require that applicants to the school are not discriminated against based on identities such as race, class, sexual orientation, gender, age, and disability. H.308 would mandate that Charter Schools refrain from excluding certain students with learning disabilities or low income.

The hearing was not well attended and lasted just 50 minutes. The first panel included several charter school proponents, including Tim Nicolette, the new executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. Though the panel had signed up to speak in favor of H.2876, they focused their remarks on concerns that bills aimed at increasing charter school accountability and transparency would undermine the ability of charters to succeed.

Megan Wolf, of Quality Education for Every Student (QUEST), and a Boston Public Schools parent, testified next. She said:

“[Alice Peisch’s Bill H.2876] provision to allow charter schools to define their geographic boundaries (at their behest and under their conditions) is extremely problematic, especially in a city that has doggedly resisted neighborhood schools, for a whole host of reasons. What would be the consequences, both intended and unintended, on greater racial and socioeconomic segregation, especially given the highly segregated neighborhoods we live in? Would it put additional pressure on local district schools, especially given the private resources currently (though not permanently) being poured into charters? And what of the concern some parents who seek access to charter schools have about new limitations to their access to schools that were previously citywide?”

Representing Citizens for Public Schools and the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, Lisa Guisbond said the No on 2 victory last year “reflected a broad-based, widespread concern among Massachusetts voters about the impact of Commonwealth charter school expansion on traditional public school resources.” Alluding to last week’s protest at Harvard against Betsy DeVos, she asserted that “here in Massachusetts, the birthplace of public education, we can and must do better than follow the Trump- DeVos agenda.”

Also on the MEJA panel, Johnny McInnis, political director of the Boston Teacher’s Union, spoke about the deficit in transportation for public schools because of funding going to charter schools. Students in charter schools, he said, are transported all across the city, requiring public funds to cover those exorbitant costs. Charters, he argued, should absorb their own transport costs and leave public funding for public education.

Finally, Edward Doherty, representing MEJA and President Tom Gosnell of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in Massachusetts, reiterated the overwhelming support in Massachusetts for capping expansion on charter schools that continue to drain money from schools that already have a lack of funds.

After the hearing, a reporter for 22News interviewed Lisa Guisbond about S.298. Lisa told 22News that “it’s unjust and unfair that an appointed state board decides where new charters open up or expand, a move that could impact resources for traditional public schools, describing it as “Taking millions of dollars of resources away from district schools against or irregardless of the communities’ feelings about the issue.”