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Boston City Council urges voters to reject expansion of charter schools

Boston Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George speaks against expansion of charter schools

Essaibi-George explains vote against charter-school expansion after glowering at shuffling charter supporters.

The City Council voted 11-2 today to oppose what two called the pending "catastrophe" of expanding charter schools in Massachusetts.

Councilors Tito Jackson (Roxbury) and Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) said the measure would suck money out of both Boston Public Schools and even the entire city's coffers, because state legislators have fallen behind on promises to reimburse Boston for students who move from BPS to charter schools. Jackson, who sits on the board of the Boston Renaissance charter school, also predicted a "catastrophe" for Boston's Catholic schools if they lose students to charter schools.

"This is actually not a question of pro-charter or pro-public schools, but of sustainable funding for the Boston public schools," Jackson said. He said the city will lose $18.5 million in state education funding because of a state decision to allow 1,000 new charter seats in Boston - a decision, he noted, made by a board headquartered in Malden, not Boston.

"It could be utterly catastrophic for traditional public schools," O'Malley said.

"The state hasn't helped us all and has not held up their end of the bargain," at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George - a former teacher at East Boston High School - said. Essaibi-George briefly stopped her statement to look at pro-charter people in the audience behind her, several of whom were shuffling from foot to foot in a not-quite-silent protest.

Councilor Andrea Campbell (Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale) voted against the proposal. She said she felt this was an issue best decided by voters. She said had heard from parents in her district that they enrolled their children in charter schools because none of their BPS options were good. At the same time, she said, BPS funding needs discussion as well. She added, she wants a broad discussion about education in Boston, "not us vs. them."

Councilor Josh Zakim (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill) also voted against the proposal, saying he doesn't know enough yet to take a stance on the issue. "I'm a little concerned about using a broad brush in this forum," he said.

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I'm admittedly pretty ignorant about charter schools and have some reading that I need to do. I've got a bunch of friends who are teachers though and they all seem to think that charter schools are really terrible.

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http://www.salon.com/2013/02/24/charter_schools_and_disaster_capitalism_...

If you want to go more in-depth, check out Diane Ravich and Reign of Error.

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Are they members of the MTA? If so, I'd expect nothing less. The MTA is leading the opposition to charter schools for obvious reasons.

I'm looking forward to a robust debate on this issue heading into November's referendum. The amount of misinformation that some people are currently basing their opinions on is staggering.

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You may be overly optimistic if you expect the amount of misinformation to go down during the "robust debate". The charter proponents will promise everyone a pony. The opponents will cry human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

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Union teachers are better teachers and typically produce better educated kids.

Look it up - google is waiting for you!

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That is an at best, unproven claim. A variety of studies hold conflicting results for both sides of the argument.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/09/chicag...

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I've been a charter school parent for 10 years and would choose charter over BPS over and over again.

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Be sure to get a transcript of of the speech by Councilor Campbell at today's Public Meeting of Boston City Council
https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council/andrea-campbell

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She received dark money from DFER--Democrats for Ed Reform--a hedge fund backed "non profit" organized for the purpose of making tons of money off of charter schools, even non profit charter schools. See Maurice Cunningham's blog on WGBH for some head swimming financial details of who's behind all this dark money in the campaign to lift the cap.

\http://blogs.wgbh.org/masspoliticsprofs/2016/8/2/hidden-money-behind-gre...

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And Tito and Walsh got how much money from the BTU, MTA and how many other unions? Is that money less dark? Can you name all the contributors? Interestingly neither Tito nor Walsh attended the BPS (their parents didn't even think the schools were good enough back then) and neither have a dog in this race now.

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yes you can find Tito's donors by name. and funds from unions are not dark, not laundered in order to hide who the money is from.

Why would school privatizers want to hide themselves from public scrutiny?

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They'll pull funding from Boston schools if Boston adds charter schools? Shouldn't we be making the rules? Why is the tail wagging the dog?

It's long past time for a lot of borders in this country to be redrawn.

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Those crazy-assed banana republic jurisdictions in the south and west that complain about taxes and then ungratefully accept federal largesse (paid for by us) while advocating for a race to the bottom in education, health, environmental standards, etc. should be relegated to mere federal territories and stripped of their representatives and senators.

That's what you meant, right?

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You may be sarcastic, but I fully agree. The best possible thing for this country at this point would be to finally let the confederate states leave as they'd wanted to.

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At least 11 of the 13 are, which for an organization whose prime responsibility is to approve the budget should be a fireable offense.

All in, the city spends roughly $1.57 BILLION to educate 53,500 students. Yes - the state has short-shrifted some of the reimbursements (which is effectively irrelevant because the city just grosses the school funding into its budget and then allocates 35% to BPS regardless of student population, needs, any concept of financial discipline etc.).

Note = that $1.57 billion includes all money I can find attributable to the schools - grants, programs, capital spending, retiree pensions, teacher's pensions etc. which is why it is higher than the $1.03 billion often discussed. This does NOT include the imputed rent on the 10-12 dozen buildings in the school department, youth programs, perhaps some other retirement benefits and other costs that are buried in the bowels of the budget not easily available online.

Oh - and next year's budget reflects a staffing increase compared to 5 years ago of 5% for 3% fewer students.

There will NEVER be enough to satisfy BPS insatiable cravings for money.

If anyone is interested in the letter I sent to Josh Zakim (my councilor - and thank you Josh for being more reflective and less political) and our other at-large councilors - I posted it here the other day:

http://www.universalhub.com/2016/opposition-omalleys-and-jacksons-charte...

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the city just grosses the school funding into its budget and then allocates 35% to BPS

That's a laughable claim, one that reveals that you are in fact too financially ignorant to make that charge against the 11 of 13. If you know anything at all about government finance, you would know this is impossible. Every last pencil must be accounted for and must tie out against any state or federal funding granted to the city. The city can allocate a percentage of budget in the way you've described as a means to establish total BPS funding, but they cannot fail to account for how the state money is actually spent. BPS budget = state + fed + city +private foundation. The city can set its own rules for the third item in that group of funding streams, but it cannot do so for the other three. Given this massive error in your establishing premise, it's hard to bother with the rest of what you wrote.

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so state aid one year is $100 million and 35% of the budget is $1 billion - so they give BPS $900 million from other funds while "tying all the pencils in a string".

Following year state aid is $90 million and 35% is $1 billion so they give BPs $1.01 billion.

+/- a little noise - that's how the budget has been determined for over 20 years.

This has nothing to do with state funding for the schools or how much Boston allocates. May have a little to do with what's left over for the rest - like councilor 6-figure salaries and their staffing - but zero to do with how much eventually gets spent on our schools. This isn't a fight over school funding - it's a fight over how much pie Boston gets from Beacon Hill - all wrapped up in a bouquet of #2's.

Oh and by the way - unlike state funding, federal funding and grant funding aren't included in that 35% (relative to the city's operating budget - we spend about 50% on schools - but that's mixing apples and oranges). Back to budget school for you!

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Kansas awaits you!

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Only about how they are allocated.

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For telling a truth that no one wants to hear, least of all the BTU or MTA or their Quest minions.

In addition, the other reality no one wants to face or answer: why should the BPS continue to receive funding for students it no longer educates? The BPS enrollment has dwindled for decades while the costs of the district have skyrocketed. Even without the full, five-year reimbursement from the state (and no other state has a five-year charter reimbursement) why should the BPS continue to be subsidized for it's horrendous operational practices? You can't lose 40,000 students in 40 years and not change your model, unless you want to hemmorage millions of dollars each year in waste ... sound familiar?

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This feels like it is from the same wikipedia page with no citation. While BPS has lost students, so did the entire city from 1970 until 2010! While changes are needed to the model, let us try not to use stats that pad our argument that may or may not be false. Uhub is better than that.

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Parents are, head over heels, choosing charters over BPS. Shouldn't we support that?

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No. We shouldn't support pie-in-sky promises and profiteering when charters have a poor record of actual results.

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MA State Law: all charters here are nonprofit, but keep those lies coming!

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Non-profits are often a foil for lots of for profits behind them in many areas of business. Not just in MA but across the country.

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They are non-profits that hire for-profit curriculum developers, testing services, management companies, etc. The money passes from tax payer to non-profit charter school to for profit education companies who pay for the lobbyists working hard to take the money out of public schools.

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So does the BPS, genius.

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and yes, I've done my homework. The Charters operate under a different set of rules about how they can spend their money. Quite a bit more of it goes out the door to for-profits. Kindly stick to 4chan if you can only resort to insults to make a point.

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But you don't marry the person you fell hard for at age 14. Not usually anyway.

That's not a situation that usually results in good long-term judgement.

See "dark money" above.

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Do you have reason to think that the parents who want to put their children in charter schools are immature or lacking in adult-level reasoning skills? Charter schools have been educating Massachusetts children for over 20 years, so it's not really a "first love" situation. I don't see any logical connection to the other head-over-heels situation you're referencing.

I think it's reasonable to say that Massachusetts parents should have strong input what the public education system in the state looks like.

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Shouldn't the city council be more concerned with the problems in Boston Latin School the pride of the whole public school system. Lets face the facts anyone with kids in Boston either get their kids into the METCO program, charter schools or catholic schools or moves to the suburbs because the school system is a disaster.

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For all its problems, BPS is one of the top ranked urban school systems in the country. It's not 1974 anymore. It's kind of funny: Jackson has been very active in the BLS issue, and the kind of people who tend to think BPS is "a disaster" tend to hate him for that very participation.

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But the reality is this: you live in Roslindale and you are fortunate to have better school choices than most. Jackson's parents sent him to Brookline for a reason, namely they found the schools of Roxbury not to be up to par for their child. Given the limited number of METCO seats, families who don't live in Roslindale or JP and are without means seek and deserve other choices. Charters offer that choice, and parents pick them in overwhelming numbers. The least the City Council can do is respect what parents demand, especially those like Jackson who would likely follow the same path his parents did, as did Rep. Jeff Sanchez and so many other electeds and BPS teachers who won't put their kids in the BPS.

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We "won" the lottery and got the school we wanted. John Connolly, who lived in the same zone as us, didn't, and his kid got assigned to the Trotter, at the time a failing school. And he still sent her there and it's no longer a failing school, thanks no doubt to work by Connolly and other parents, thanks in part to the administrators there (who transferred there from the Kilmer, one of those "must-get-into" schools - and, yes, the one our daughter, well, got into) and thanks to the teachers.

No question, BPS has problems. Taking millions away from it (because the state isn't paying what it promised when students move to charters) is perhaps not the answer, though, especially when BPS is the "last resort" system, ie, it has to take every one, including those kids the charters manage to get rid of because they're too much trouble or work for them.

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In 1974 there were 100,000 students enrolled in the Boston Public Schools today there is 56,000. The schools are more segregated today than in 1974.

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Just because Wikipedia says it does not mean it is true. Especially since there is no citation. But, if you want to play the Wiki-game, it also states that enrollment fell "from 60,000 to 40,000 during these years." The problem is that wikipedia does not state what total enrollment was, because, well there is not citation for proof. So was enrollment down to between 60,000 and 40,000 students. Today there are currently 53,000 students enrolled in BPS.

http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/domain/238

The only other source I could find with a quick search is from a WBUR article that states enrollment was 86,000 students in 1974. But also no citation.

http://www.wbur.org/news/2014/09/05/boston-busing-anniversary

We can agree on that there are less students, by maybe 30,000, in BPS today than there were in 1974. But let's add in 3,300 (in 2011) from METCO, 56,300 + 7,000 in charters (because they they did not exist in 1974) = 63,300 students attending "public schools" in Boston. Which brings the number closer to 20,000 less students not your implied 46,000 fewer students in BPS.

But the other factor we need to recognize is that the population variance of Boston from 1970 and 2014. According to the BRA both years, 1970 & 2014, the population was over 650,000 but 2010 was the first time since 1970 that the population of the city was over 610,000. Therefore, one can extrapolate that there were far less families and therefore less children in the city. Which concurrently affects enrollment numbers. While on the flip side as the city population continues to grow and is now greater than it was in 1970, one may be to anticipate a greater NEED for BPS in the coming years particularly in the pre-school/K0/K1/K2 levels and strengthening the high schools.

http://prrac.org/pdf/METCOMeritsMore.pdf

http://www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org/getattachment/83972a7a-c454-...

Charter figure can be found in the above BPS link

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Info on enrollment from DESE:
BPS Enrollment
2015-2016
DESE: 53,530

2014-2015
DESE: 54,312

2013-2014
DESE: 54,300

2012-2013
DESE: 55,114

2011-2012
DESE: 55,027

2010-2011
DESE: 56,037
If you add in the 4,000 preschool children on waitlists, BPS would hit 60,000.

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I'm sorry. Meant to say stabilized and would rise if we had spots for the preschool, and didn't lose charter seats. Hit without editing.

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I normally agree with you, Adam. But in this I can't.

My mom sent me to catholic school in the mid-70s because of poor school choices. When it was time to send my son to school in 2006, I visited 9 BPS schools. Some had great reputations and were very popular. Some were "good but not great" - direct quote from a BPS principal. The others were just unacceptable to me. I registered my kids and got my 4th choice, the Lucy Stone. That school closed a year later. So glad I choose the charter.

BPS has had the same issues for decades.

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Does your child have severe special needs? A low incidence disability like vision, hearing loss, or severely multi handicapped? Maybe a newcomer or English Language Learner level 1-2? Because those children are not being serviced by charter schools (the MA Charter School Assn doesn't argue these children have not been serviced or represented in charters). Federal law mandates public schools educate children regardless of disability- FAPE. But they don't, and this has created a two tiered educational system which indirectly is promoting a new era of segregation. I know this first hand, as my colleagues and I teach these children in BPS. I have seen these children denied services in charters, or return to BPS because they didn't/couldn't deliver services. Read the history of Brown vs the Board of Education. This is not so far from separate and unequal for our neediest and costliest students to educate, which leaves little for all our other students.

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Do you actually know any students in a charter school? Been in one? I have, and I recently met a family of a child with severe Autism who pulled their kid from the BPS because he sat in his own waste all day. They couldn't bear their child stuck in a BPS classroom, day after day, with no academic enrichment and no care. The BPS may have a higher percentage of students with disabilities, but that does not mean they are getting the education or treatment they deserve. I have plenty more factual stories but you don't seem so interested in facts.

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Yes, have been in charters, and, yes, I know students in charters. One story, or even 10 stories does not mean that charters should not be held to FAPE. So, because a VERY FEW students with severe disabilities are being served, we shouldn't force them to comply with a federal law? We should not expand charters until they comply with federal laws and the agreed upon provisions of charters when they were established.
As for facts, I am quite familiar with the facts of charters and have spoken with the cofounder of the Boston Compact about these indisputable facts for children with severe special needs. As for suggested reading recommendations for the facts:
1. State Auditor Bump's Report: http://www.mass.gov/auditor/docs/audits/2014/201351533c.pdf
2 MA DESE report on data and demographics:
http://www.doe.mass.edu/research/reports/2016/02CharterReport.pdf

If you'd like to disprove my statements around severe special needs students, please share with me the charter schools who have substantially separate classrooms for children who are severely multi handicapped (nonverbal, cognitive delays, use wheelchairs); those charters with classroom for intellectually Inpaired students requiring high levels of service; severely visually impaired Braille readers. How about high percentages of students who are newcomers and Level 1 or 2 ELLs who need daily support for several hours or are students with disabilities AND English language learners? They don't exist beyond a rare example, the charter associations admit it, the state auditor and DESE have documented it.

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My son is on a 504 plan at his charter school. I found them to be very supportive. His middle school had a support group for parents of special need students. One of the student speakers at his middle student graduation is autistic. He and his mom are very very happy with our charter school.

My experience with BPS - I dealt with BPS SPED program when my son transitioned from Early Intervention after turning 3. His speech therapist was great. The physical therapist was great for the first 2 meeting. She quit after that and was never replaced. Dealing with the SPED coordinator was a nightmare. She was rude, condescending and could not answer any questions.

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Is that they can be great for individual students while damaging the overall system. If your kid gets assigned to a so-so BPS and doesn't have any special needs or behavioral, it makes absolute 100% sense to send them to a charter, where they'll probably, honestly, do a little better. Mostly because charters weed out kids with special needs, behavioral issues, disabilities, etc. So sure, now your kid doesn't have to deal with any of those students taking away teacher time/attention/resources, has a calm and supportive environment, etc. No brainer for the parent, honestly.

Meanwhile all those kids get shunted back into BPS, creating a lower tier of school full of "problem cases". Educational research has shown those kids do significantly better when in mixed classes with higher achieving kids, but those have all fled to Charter schools, so now it's a compounding effect of ADHD and ELL without the community scaffolding of a wide range of cultural and educational experience in the student body. It damages the system as a whole and impacts those kids' opportunities to achieve. The best thing overall for the entirety of the student population would be to have middle class / highly achieving kids take the hit and go to low ranked public schools, which will improve the overall system. But you can't rationally ask parents to do that, it's a nonstarter.

The whole thing reminds me of dysfunctional intersections where you have people disobeying no-turn-on-reds and various other signage because it's the only reasonable way they'll get thru.... but it's only that way because lots of other people are cheating.... if everyone worked together to follow the traffic rules everyone would get thru just fine, but, nobody is going to be the one to sacrifice ten minutes sitting there as other jackasses block the box.

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