More Urgent Than Ever – Call Your Rep!

Dear CPS Members and Education Activists:

Action Requested
CPS urges our members to call their reps immediately and ask these House members to support amendments that provide better oversight of charters, fairer process for approval of charters, and lessen the impact on the students remaining in the sending school districts.  Sending school districts must have a role in the process rather than have outsiders impose schools that will reduce resources for the rest of the district. Teachers need to be part of the solution in improving schools.  Treating teachers and teacher-unions as the enemy, as some of the bill’s provisions do, is counter-productive.

We know that the procharter school forces are well organized and will be deluging the state house with phone calls and emai l- one only has to look at today’s Globe editorial page to see them at work. WE NEED TO HAVE OUR VOICES HEARD!

If you do not know the name of your Representative go to Where do I vote MA and click on Massachusetts: My Election Information.


Who would have thought that with a Democratic administration in Washington, D.C. and with a Democratic administration in Massachusetts, federal incentives could be used to move Massachusetts toward more privatization in public education, chain-run charter schools, less public accountability, more attacks on collective bargaining, and less due process for teachers?   All this appears in the bill passed by the Massachusetts Senate as the Education Reform Act of 2009.

The “Race to the Top” program of the federal Department of Education promises new funds to states that meet a complex series of steps.  Notwithstanding that the regs provide that only 40 of some possible 500 points can be awarded for high performing charter or other innovative schools, Massachusetts political leaders have been racing to pass new legislation to encourage more charters (and they hope — more federal funds).
The Senate version of the proposed legislation in Massachusetts, would remove all caps on the number of charter schools in communities with under-performing schools — the same communities with the greatest financial needs because they serve disadvantaged students. (Charter schools costs the taxpayer more to educate fewer students and leave less funds behind for the rest.)

The House 4410 -(In the House, the bill is labeled “The Achievement Gap Legislation”) addresses some concerns. It retains the current 5 year review process rather than
the 10 year review allowed in the Senate version and also does not require local school districts to sell or lease currently unused school buildings to the charter schools.  Amendments are to be offered that would eliminate ability of a management company to apply for multiple schools with one application, or run multiple schools without local boards; limit the holding of surplus funds to the same extent allowed by regional schools; improve local authorization of charters; address due process concerns for teachers and collective bargaining issues, and will also address MCAS and other assessment concerns.

Athough amendments to the proposed legislation were due by 5:00 yesterday 151 amendments were filed, debate will not take place until Wednesday and Thursday.  This is complex legislation; the final Senate bill was 77 pages. 


Okay, here are the specifics.  Sorry it is so complex, but we really need you to read this and call your reps with our concerns. The numbers are as accurate as we can provide.  Citizens for Public Schools has concentrated mostly on charter school issues, but below we have included some other amendments which we are monitoring.

Ask Your House Representative to support the following amendments to House 4410 (Achievement Gap) that support the needs of all students:


Reimbursement Formula to School Districts Impacted by Charter Schools #61
Each time there is a new charter school, there is a significant movement of public dollars from the school district to the charter school.
To ease the impact on the sending school district, House bill currently has reimbursements from the state to the school district for the first year of the charter school at 100%, 60% following year, and 40 % the year after that.
(That is the current formula).  The Amendment would provide for 25% for each of the two years thereafter.   (Amendment offered by Rep. Sciortino)

Charter School Tuition Payments #3
Charter Schools currently base tuition payments on per pupil costs of sending districts.  Under this amendment, the sending school district would pay $5,000 per student to the charter school (the same as “School Choice”). Any additional tuition (difference between $5,000 and per pupil costs) would be funded from a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education line item, not from Chapter 70 funds.
(Amendment offered by Rep. Sandlin)

Charter School Cash Reserves #62
House bill would allow Charter Schools to retain 20% of their operating budget and their budgeted capital costs in cash reserves.  Regional school districts are only allowed to retain 5%.  Amendment would limit the amount that could be held in reserve to 5% and the remainder would need to be returned.         (Amendment offered by Reps. Garballey, Sandlin, Pignatelli, Sciortino)

Charter School Waiting Lists #65
In the past, some Charter Schools have claimed large waiting lists, but there have also been schools with empty seats.   Amendment would establish a waiting list at the DESE and schools will have to report to the DESE when they have offered or filled seats from the waiting list. When there is no waiting list the charter school must publize the vacancies and make an effort to fill them. Vacancies should be filled in all grades, as traditional public schools do.                       (Amendment offered by Rep. Falzone)

Solicitation of Students #25
Bill provides for names of all students to be made available for charter School solicitation via a 3rd party mail house.  Amendment would eliminate this provision.    (Amendment offered by Reps. Pedone, Fresolo, O’Day, Spellane, Binienda)

Payment Formula #  100
Current statutes limit the total tuition that any school district would have to pay to charters at 9%.  House 4410 raises the cap in the lowest performing districts from 9% to 18%   (thereby leaving even fewer resources for the remaining public school students).
Amendment would limit the rise in this cap to 14%.                                     (Amendment offered by Rep. Smizik)

Approval of Commonwealth Charter Schools #59
BESE members have said they have no responsibility for the financial impact of charter schools on the sending school district.  Amendment would require Board to take into consideration the financial impact of a new or expanded charter on the sending school district.   (Amendment offered by Rosemary Sandlin )

Several amendments deal with the approval process #99
Amendments would add local input to the approval process, such as a local public hearing, local referendum, approval by the local school committee, and/or approval by the local executive branch, and an appeals process.  Amendment would also bar networks of schools from submitting one application for multiple schools. (Amendment by Smizik, Garballey, T. Stanley, Clark, Grant, Provost, Fagan, Sannicandro, Smith, Sciortino, DiNatale, Pignatelli, Gregoire, Guyer, Balser)

Protection of Collective Bargaining Agreements #42   and   #44
An amendment that would protect collective bargaining agreements in under-performing districts and chronically under-performing districts. Another would protect teacher dismisal rights   (good cause).               (Amendment offered by Rep. Katherine Clark)

Request to Attorney General for an Advisory Opinion #109
on relationship of Charter School Funding and provisions of the State Constitution which require public monies to go only to locally controlled schools  (Constitutional Amendment XLVI.  (Amendment offered by Rep. Sciortino)

Effort to require a study of the MCAS as an assessment tool.  #  105
(Amendment offered by Rep. Sciortino)

Effort to eliminate Graduation requirement of the MCAS #106
Ban on the use of MCAS in determining eligibility for high school graduation (Amendment offered by Rep. Sciortino)

Oppose efforts to eliminate teacher input
Horace Mann Charter Schools
We are opposed to an amendment that would remove teacher input into the approval of Horace Mann Charter Schools.

A little background

In Massachusetts, we started charter schools with a number of “for-profit” companies.  Many of the Board of Directors of the Charter schools did not renew the contracts.
The promises of charters being “incubators for new innovation” did not work as advertised   (Extreme example: one school copyrights its materials and wants to be paid to share them.)  While charters provided important satisfaction to many school parents, exit data on the many families that have left charters has not been provided.  Immigrant populations and special needs students are specifically under-represented in existing charter schools. Attrition rates for students, teachers and administrators is extremely high in many charter schools.  The legislature has not provided the study of existing and past charters that many have requested.

This week’s report from the Commonwealth’s Inspector General indicating that the Gloucester charter had been improperly given shows the weaknesses of the current system for charter approval and oversight.  See the editorial in today’s The Gloucester Times Editorial: IG’s charter report is last straw for Chester’s credibility – or yesterday’s Blue Mass Group reminding readers that the proposed bill gives new authority to the same people who were responsible for the Gloucester charter mess.

Marilyn J. Segal, CPS Executive Director