URGENT – Contact Your Rep Today!

Dear CPS member and education advocates:

Below is an analysis of the Ed Reform bill that is expected to be debated in the House the first week of January. However, the house Democrats will be caucusing this Wednesday about the bill.

If you are concerned about these sweeping changes, please contact your Rep. Tuesday or Wednesday morning (December 15 or 16) and urge them to consider the consequences of the changes outlined below. See also a sample letter below the analysis of the bill.

This is URGENT!

Marilyn Segal, Executive Director, CPS

CPS Analysis of the S2216

Education Reform Act of 2009

The “Education Reform Act of 2009,” already passed by the Senate, represents the most devastating changes ever proposed to public education in the Massachusetts. These “reforms” are being sold to the legislature as necessary to compete for federal “Race to the Top” funds, which, in any case, amount to barely $250 per student. Careful analysis of the Federal regulations make it clear that Massachusetts does not need to open more Commonwealth charter schools or abridge collective bargaining rights to qualify for RTTT money.

If approved by the House, the “reform” package will:

1/ promote corporate chains of charter schools

2/ double the amount of state aid diverted to charters from dozens of struggling districts

3/ double the number of years charter schools can operate without renewal

4/ require public schools to make the names and addresses of students available to charter school marketers

5/ force districts to sell unused buildings or even unused sections of buildings to charter schools, all while reducing reimbursements to districts hit by escalating charter costs. This costly expansion of the charter initiative is being proposed even as virtually every school district is eliminating programs, laying off teachers and increasing class size in the face of unprecedented budget cuts. Charter schools mean higher taxes and less accountability. CPS believes both are unacceptable.

Passage of this bill would dramatically accelerate the shift in oversight for both education policy and for hundreds of millions of public dollars from democratically elected school boards to privately-run boards of trustees. The public’s right to know would be further sacrificed to the closed-door policies of the powerful charter lobby.

Experience over fifteen years has shown that compared to the public districts from which they draw their students, charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of children from low income families, substantially fewer children with special needs, no children with severe disabilities and almost no children learning English as a second language. Disadvantaged children will be further hurt by this dramatic expansion of charter schools.

Here is a look at several troubling provisions in the bill:

* Education management organizations (EMOs) could apply directly for charters, a change from the current law, and these EMOs could operate networks or chains of schools under a single board of trustees, again, a change from current law which prudently limits a board to operating a single school. In fact, the board of education would be directed to give preference to charter operators applying to run schools in more than one city. Under this bill, a single EMO could control many of the schools in several cities, turning public education into corporate cookie cutter curriculum and, in the process, making millions of dollars on everything from text books to school uniforms. This consolidation of corporate control makes a mockery of claims that charter schools are “grass roots” initiatives.

* Making EMO involvement more problematic, the bill doubles to 18 percent the amount of a district’s state aid that can be diverted to charter schools in more than 30 districts – primarily urban centers – that post low standardized test scores. So the very districts struggling to meet the needs of disadvantages students would be financially penalized, losing millions of dollars to charter schools that enroll relatively few special needs and ESL students.

* All public schools that are receiving or have received state school building assistance would be required to sell or lease the building to a charter school, if no longer used by the district, denying municipalities the chance to explore all options and to assure taxpayers the best return on their property. Districts trying to consolidate operations because of declining enrollment and budget cuts, would be forced to let charter schools move into their former buildings. Meanwhile, these schools, renovated or built with public funds, would become the property of EMOs or other private entities.

* Would allow charter schools which, state-wide, are holding more than $100 million in cash reserves, to keep reserve accounts of up to 20 percent of their annual budget, after setting an unlimited amount of funds aside for capital projects. By comparison, regional schools can keep no more than 5 percent of their budget for reserve. No public interest is served by allowing charter schools to amass such huge reserves while public schools are starved for funds.

* Would require public school districts to turn over the names and addresses of their students to a “third party mail house” which would make the student information available to charter schools for outreach and marketing.

* Would extend the length of a charter renewal to 10 years, from the current 5 years, thus, virtually eliminating the notion of “accountability” for charter operators.

* Would dramatically reduce tuition reimbursement to struggling districts. The current formula covers 100 percent of a district’s increased charter costs in the year the increase occurs, 60 percent of that increase the second year and 40 percent the third. Under this bill, districts would be reimbursed 25 percent of their increased charter costs each year over five years. Since a district’s charter costs go up most sharply in the first three years a charter school is open, the new formula would substantially cut the dollars going back to public school districts, adding to their already severe budget woes.

The Education Reform Act of 2009 appears to have been crafted by the charter school lobby itself to promote the privatization of public schools. If enacted in its present form, the bill will tragically undermine the Commonwealth’s once proud commitment to the greatest good for the greatest number. Substantial revisions and added protections are needed before this bill is approved by the House.

Barbara E. Fields                                  Ruth Rodriguez Fay

CPS Co-Presidents


December 15, 2009

Dear Representative:

CPS is very concerned about the speed that is associated with this major education reform bill. The RTTT funds have been touted as the reason that Massachusetts must drastically change its public education system (the most successful in the country). Ironically, Federal regulations for RTTT funds do NOT require changes in our charter school laws.

This legislation would mean a massive privatization of our public schools.

The limited RTTT money will not even go directly to local school systems. Half of it will be kept by DESE. The other half will not be evenly distributed to local communities. Much of it, in fact, will be offset by the increased dollars going to charter schools, further shortchanging our most vulnerable students in traditional public schools.

I want to again call attention to two recent reports on charter schools in Massachusetts. One highlights the sky-high attrition rates in Boston Charter Schools. The other reports on the lack of ELL (English Language Learners) in charter schools throughout the state. These reports can be accessed at:


www.Massteacher.org, click on Report Calls Boston Charter Schools “drop-out factories.”

I trust that if you examine these reports you will not choose to expand these costly and “selective” schools.

Best wishes,

Marilyn J. Segal, Executive Director
Citizens For Public Schools
18 Tremont Street, Suite 320
617-227-3000 x16
fax: 617-227-3453