The Great Charter Schools Debate
This fall, it’s going to get ugly in Massachusetts. We’re prepping for a projected $30 million public fight with all the attendant invective and hyperbole, so keep the kids away from the TV. That’s what I hear again and again as I travel from the State House to Roslindale schools, from noodle shops in Jamaica Plain to downtown nonprofits, Brighton coffee shops, Harvard professors’ offices, and drab union halls in Dorchester. The proverbial poo’s gonna fly, people warn me. And none of this has anything to do with Trump’s comb-over.
In November, Massachusetts voters will decide whether the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) can raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed, or increase enrollment in existing charters in underperforming districts. If the referendum is approved, the city of Boston—which currently has 27 Commonwealth charter schools that operate independently of the district and educate about 14 percent of the student population—will likely see an increase in charters over the next several years. It’s an advance that charter advocates firmly champion but opponents see as another little push in the direction of a very steep cliff.