Education Legislation Alert: Act Now!

Dear CPS Members and Education Activists:

CPS will be delivering the memo below to all legislators. We urge you to read it and call your Senator and Representative immediately. The Senate is expected to take up the bill today, Monday, Nov. 16 (Tuesday at the latest). The House immediately after.

The legislation is on a fast track—The 65-page bill was released on Monday night, embargoed to the public, and passed without debate (no amendments allowed) by the committee by an email or vote by phone.

If you don’t know who are your legislators go to

Best regards,

Marilyn J. Segal

To:  Legislators

From: Marilyn J. Segal, Executive Director

Re: Proposed Education Reform Act of 2009

Date: November 13, 2009

Yesterday the Federal Department of Education released regulations for the Federal Race To The Top funds. These regs do not require expansion of the current cap on charter schools. In anticipation of the regs requiring a lifting of the cap, the Education Committee jumped the gun and passed the reform bill on Tuesday.

There are major concerns with the proposed expansion of charter schools. Given the mediocre academic record of many charter schools, coupled with their sky-high attrition rates for both students and teachers, CPS opposes such an increase. Charter schools have high costs and limited accountability – like privatization of so many other services. The funding and regulations penalize district schools and the children that attend them. The cost of charter schools has more than tripled – from $83.3 million in 2000 to $286 million in 2010. They add a huge new financial obligation to communities because the costs far exceed any savings to the district.

Because we already have Pilot Schools and Horace Mann Charters – designed to be innovative and flexible in their functioning – we do not need the new category of  “innovation schools.” Their cap could be raised without hurting district schools.

We wonder about the process for granting charters. The case in point is the situation in Gloucester. This year, even though nearly every elected official in Gloucester opposed the charter school and the DESE charter school office did not recommend this school, it was approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education by one vote. The widely publicized message implicit in the e-mail from Secretary Paul Reville to Commissioner Chester should cause some deep reflection on how just and transparent is the entire process. This particular Charter School is expected to eventually cost the school district an estimated $2.4 million annually in diverted state school aid. This could happen in any district!

Even though the legislation makes some attempt to control for “cherry picking” of students by charter schools, their record so far is dismal in this regard. They have, as a group, failed to serve the same cross-section of students as public schools, leaving districts with a higher and higher percentage of students with more challenging issues and fewer resources to offer them* (see the recent reports by the MTA and META). Hardly the laboratories of innovation promised in the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993!

Lifting the cap will not stop the initiative petition and may, in fact, embolden the petitioners by implying legislative agreement. This bill is bad law. It will affect school systems throughout the state (not just Boston). In these difficult financial times we cannot afford more charter schools now.

The Ed Reform Act of 2009 also denies our professional educators the reasonable rights to collective bargaining which exist under Massachusetts state law. There are over 100,000 public school educators in Massachusetts who have reason to be outraged that their rights are being drastically changed under this proposed legislation.

We need to recognize that our current laws provide ample capacity for development of schools which meet the needs of all our students. We hope that you will take a careful look at this legislation and vote against it in its current form.