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State senator opposes ballot question to expand number of charter schools

William Brownsberger (D-2nd Suffolk and Middlesex, which includes Allston/Brighton and the Fenway), writes today he will vote no on Question 2, which would allow for more charter schools in the state, in part because he fears Boston's unique makeup could lead to a destabilization of its public-school system if the measure passed.

Brownsberger says letting charter schools into the better off towns in his district, where people often move for the public schools, would harm those districts. At the same time, he adds, the measure would hurt Boston, which has a large number of poor kids:

Boston is relatively capable financially and also has relatively high per pupil spending. It also has some high poverty areas. That makes it very attractive to charter operators - Boston charters have relatively high budgets and can focus on high-need kids, which, to their credit, is typically their motivation. The long-term problem that Boston faces is school-system overcapacity. Its resources are spread too thin across too many buildings already and the ongoing transition to lower enrollments means painful decisions to close schools. Question Two places no community-level limit on the expansion of charter schools. It would make possible a too-rapid expansion that would further destabilize the Boston schools.

The legislature has tried and failed to reach a viable compromise on charters. Unfortunately, the proposition that advocates have framed for the voters on November 8 does not provide a good solution either.

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-2nd Suffolk), who was in the middle of the attempts to reach a compromise, has said she dislikes campaigns on either side of the issue and won't say how she's voting next month.

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She was on the radio this morning also coming out against Question 2.

Sen. Warren announced her opposition last week as well, which was heartening.

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All the pols are against it - and from Brownsberger's comments (whom I usually support) it's pretty obvious they don't understand the issue.

Bottom line - thousands of kids will have a better educational opportunity if this passes and it won't take a dime per capita from the public schools.

There are a lot of agendas in this issue - none of which seems to give a hoot about giving the kids the best we can.

This is about the adults keeping their jobs - not the kids.

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only too well. Passage of Question 2 would bring the collapse of our public school system as we know it, public funds would go to charter school boards with no public oversight, and charters still won't educate all the children.

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Passage of Question 2 would bring the collapse of our public school system as we know it,

Oh please. This may or may not be a good idea, but it's not going to collapse anything.

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Senator Sonia Chang Diaz of Boston called Question 2 an 'irresponsible solution.' She and Rep Alice Peisch of Wellesley are co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in Mass legislature.

Let's let that sink in: irresponsible solution

The ballot initiative authorizes Beacon Hill bureaucrats to green light 12 new charter schools a year, year after year, in any corner of the state, from Williamstown to P town, and the law authorizes $0 in new revenue-- it's an unfunded mandate.

It disenfranchises local government including mayor, city manager, selectmen, city council and school committee from school planning even though 90% of funding for district and charter schools comes from local property tax.

It costs more to run parallel school systems and while the money follows the student the costs do not so public school students lose.

96% of the kids in Mass public schools are in district schools, 4% are in charters. Charters are publicly-funded privately operated and state authorized schools. Their legal status is less well defined but the main questions is whether they are contractors or agents of the state. They are not subject to public meeting law.

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at Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia and see what charters have done.

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Here's the relevant law:
http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr1.html?section=12

The reason charter schools are so effective in MA is that they are highly regulated - only the good ones stay open. This is not true in other states, where the charter schools are oftentimes worse. Quoting back arguments applicable to Michigan or Florida law for a situation in Massachusetts is complete and utter nonsense.

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There are a lot of agendas in this issue - none of which seems to give a hoot about giving the kids the best we can.
This is about the adults keeping their jobs - not the kids.

The same thing seems to be said, verbatim, by both supporter and opponents of the question.

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While I agree that there are many aspects of this which are around the jobs perspective vs. the kids perspective (which is why the nursing union lend their very cool huge van to the 'No on 2' folks at the Rosi. parade this weekend), we can't ignore the impact on public schools that charter expansion can have.

Let's assume (incorrectly) that there is a perfect funding mechanism where dollars simply follow students to charters and/or back to BPS. Let's also assume (correctly) that BPS is already dealing with an issue of schools with fewer students than are efficient for their spaces in some schools. If you take (random number) 10% of the kids out of a school, you will get 10% less money for the school but if those kids are distributed, you'll still have the same amount of staff needed. So BPS doesn't save money and the budget expands without reaching more kids. That's the problem with (technical term) willy nilly charter expansion when done by state wide fiat vs. a situational, limited expansion in places where it can work with proven operators.

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That those costs are fixed long term - they are not. BPS needs to close dozens of schools (whether or not Question 2 passes).

Close the schools - or better lease them to the charters so if BPS ever reforms and becomes a competitive choice - the trend will reverse and students will go back to BPS.

There's really only one difference between the charters and BPS - charters aren't union and have huge flexibility on hours and more. You can't replace study time with fancy teaching techniques.

Think about it - we've already funded thousands of kids to go to charters and BPS has MADE money all along the way. Charters haven't cost BPS a dime and I don't see that changing.

Friend just told me we should fix BPS - and I agree - that would be ideal. But they've had 350 years to get it right and this is where we are. In the meantime every year you wait is a year out of some kid's education. Times several thousand. That's not fair to those kids when a fix (for them and their parents) is a vote away.

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BPS needs to be wholly transformed (or fully dismantled) just as much as what used to be called BRA.

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>> they've had 350 years to get it right

Really? What do you know about BPS in the 18th century?

>> we should fix BPS

What does that mean to you other than weakening the teachers unions?

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First in the nation schools (and near the top of the world, actually) isn't "getting it right"?

You are a total kochstooge.

You have no interest in improving education at all - you want to DESTROY public education, just like those moron scions of the WalFart fortune who are only here to help us "fix" our schools.

As in "geld" or "neuter".

If they were interested in education, they would be dumping money in to their own failed systems at home, trying to make them more like ours.

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Closing schools may well be something that BPS should be doing, but it's tremendously difficult to get right. It sounds like you basically agree (or at least didn't dispute) that without school closings there will be fixed costs that will make it difficult for schools to absorb the loss of funding that will occur as the same amount of per-pupil funding is spread out over more and more schools. Question 2 puts charter school expansion on the state's timeline, leaving the city to constantly scramble in response to the state's decisions about where it thinks new schools are warranted. I'm not an educator, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if figuring out how to open a new school is easier than figuring out how to adjust an entire district in the wake of the disruption caused by that opening. It's a shame that the ballot proposal is so aggressive about doing the former while not giving a second thought to the latter. I'd really prefer to see a more comprehensive approach to education that considers all of our schools rather than assuming that dropping in charter schools is always a win-win.

There's more that I could say about some other things you have implied in your comment, but it's a long discussion and I doubt we'd really cover any new ground. Suffice it to say that when I hear people talk about BPS becoming more "competitive" I generally think that there's a whole lot left unsaid about what it means for schools to compete against each other for parent preference. That's especially true in a system where one set of schools has a limited number of seats to fill, the other is obligated to have an open seat for any applicant, and the schools are judged in large part by the number of seats left unfilled.

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People think this is a competition of some kind.

Its not. It's about where the kids can get the best education and it should be the choice of the parents, not bureaucrats running a government monopoly for the benefit of the employees.

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Even your own language-- monopoly --presupposes a market.

Boston Schools enrollment process provide choices. In fact, the mayor wants to make enrollment in charters work like enrollment in district schools. MA senate passed a bill that did that. House did not.

Here's the problem, markets create segmentation-- winners and losers. This is one of the reasons the NAACP recommends we halt new charter growth and study what we've made to date and especially its effect on equity.

Moreover, the "famed" CREDO study has been completely oversold, like so much of the hype pitched by the charter lobby:

nepc.colorado.edu:

By the way, they address the CREDO study which is “the most prominent study of charter schools, and it “has been repeatedly cited by pro-charter advocacy organizations.” They cite CREDO’s “carefully crafted sentence” which states, “While much ground remains to be covered, charter schools in the 27 states are outperforming their TPS peer schools.” Then Miron and Urschel add that reviewers noted: “. . . the study overall shows that less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrollment. With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant, but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.”

Here's an abstract from an academic study on "The Effects of Market-based School Reforms on Students with Disabilities." Competition is implicit in markets. Winners and losers are, too.

dsq-sds:

Neoliberalism is a theory of political economy which holds that the well-being of individuals is best served by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedom in a framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of government is limited to keeping people safe and preserving the rules of the market and leaving to the markets services, including education, that it is assumed will be more efficiently delivered by the private sector. Educational policies in the US and in other countries around the world have been strongly influenced by market-based reforms including accountability, high-stakes testing, data-driven decision-making, charter schools, deregulation, and competition among schools. This paper summarizes current theory and research on the effects of market-based schooling practices on students with disabilities. The available evidence indicates that students with disabilities are not well served by market-based reforms and, further, free-market reforms may be fundamentally incompatible with the needs of students with disabilities.

I agree on one count. Parents aren't looking for choice, they're looking for a quality schools.

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And there is now. We aren't arguing whether it should exist or not. We are argunig over whether government should corral the growth of one successful portion of that market.

Like you said, the parents are looking for quality schools. We owe them that. When tens of thousands of kids opt out of BPS every year and thousands more would opt out if given the choice, there's a message there.

Let our children go!

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Previously, we had a market of schools. They were called private schools. And then we had other schools, public schools, provided as a government service.

To some extent, private schools competed with public, as kids whose parents went to public school were lured away, but for the most part the market and the service didn't interfere with each other. Private schools competed with each other for private school kids, in a market floated by rich parents, and everybody else just went to their local public school.

Charter schools do not belong to that market. They are not competing with private schools, and they are not competing for parents' money. They are competing with public schools, and their target is government money.

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>> We are argunig over whether government should corral the growth of one successful portion of that market.

I thought the relevant issues are:

  1. How to provide the best possible education for ALL Boston children
  2. The impact that expanding one small set of schools has on the much larger set of schools
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The kids in charters do better than they'd do in BPS

And BPS doesn't change in any meaningful way.

If you are positive on one group and neutral on the other is a net positive for ALL Boston children.

Think about it - Boston is one of the wealthiest school districts in the country (so charters haven't hurt their funding - in fact - per student it has accelerated growth of the budget)

Boston indeed does have one of the best URBAN systems in the country (although much of it still struggles to compete with privates, charters and METCO) - so it couldn't have hurt them academically much.

If you look at the last 15 years - it seems charters have perhaps had a POSITIVE effect on BPS - although causation/correlation caveats are in order.

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it won't take a dime per capita from the public schools.

Among lots of other problems with Q2, this is one. Not all costs are per capita.

If a school loses 2% of it's kids to charter schools, do its costs go down by 2 percent? In all probability, they go down almost nothing. You can't sell off 2 percent of your school -- you still have to heat it and maintain it. Unless you've got 50 classes in each grade [most communities don't], you can't eliminate a classroom in the grade, so you've got the same number of teachers. Same number of administrators too.

For communities that have growing K12 enrollment, a new charter might help save some bucks by deferring expansion. But for communities with stable K12 enrollment, this takes money "per capita" but doesn't offer any savings -- that means fewer dollars available per student, because revenue goes down but costs don't.

And for districts with declining K12 enrollment, unfettered unplanned charter expansion is a disaster. The district is already consolidating -- moving kids from one school to another, reassigning teachers, spending more effort on administration than usual. Charters in these districts just pour gasoline on the fire.

All for schools that, in Massachusetts, haven't demonstrated improved performance.

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Bottom line - thousands of kids will have a better educational opportunity if this passes and it won't take a dime per capita from the public schools.

While true, that's irrelevant to a union teacher who has an economic stake in preventing more charter public schools. They're looking out for #1.

It should, however, resonate with disinterested parties, like suburbanites.

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Given Healey's track record if she's against it she's got personal or campaign contributions behind it.

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Maura Healey's gives her reasons at the 25:00 minute mark soundcloud.

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A YES vote is recommended by the Bay State Banner, a long-time, respected advocate for the Boston area minority community
http://patch.com/massachusetts/beaconhill/bay-state-banner-supports-ques...

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.

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Make every charter hire Boston Teacher Union teachers, or have their teachers join.

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OK - and they can keep their full salaries and bennies. BUT - then they have to obey work rules at the charters including longer school days and longer school years.

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Question 2 isn't so much about unions as it is about school funding and who gets to decide how to spend it. 90% of school funding comes from local property tax. It is the single largest budget item in most cities and towns.

Charters are authorized by the state without any local authority to say no. Question 2 authorizes 12 new charters a year, every year, anywhere in the state. The impact on the local school district is significant. It requires program cuts and school closures.

Horace Mann charters are in-district charters. So in Boston, Horace Mann charter teachers are BTU members or they pay an agency fee.

The charters that wealthy out of state investors want are Commonwealth charters. Management typically does its best to squash a union but interest is increasing.

Charters that use Teach For American to recruit (instead of hiring certified teachers or seasoned professionals who are starting a new career in teaching) have a different attitude about unions.

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charter schools give parents more choices. Okay but what happens to the already under performing schools when more an more parents choose to leave it? Also if the charter methods are so great why dont we have them take over an under performing school, kids and all?
Why doesnt the BPS go to longer school days? That and reduce busing to save millions that could be used for real education. Hello Mr Mayor you out there???

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Limit all further charter expansion in Boston to turning around state takeover schools.

Goals met, points proven, neediest students served. Turn the school around, with the legacy kids included, and you can keep running it.

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charter schools give parents more choices.

They give some parents -- those lucky enough to win a lottery -- more choices, and leave fewer choices for others. That's the essential, unavoidable fact of charter schools. They get their support for parents trying to get a bigger share of available resources for their kids (and desperately ignoring the fact that this leaves less for others), and those who stand to profit in a more literal way from the situation.

Charter schools aren't fair, and before you put on your wordly-wise hat and proclaim that life isn't fair, there's a difference between recognizing that you can't create perfect justice, and deliberately seeking to further an unjust system.

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It's not remotely true (at least in Boston).

The amount of mis- and dis-information around this issue is astounding.

The only ones fighting this are the teacher's unions - so I have to give them credit for being really good at getting people to believe "untruths".

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ELT has been approved by the BTU and administration, however the implementation is stalling out because of bus logistics. 9:30 start schools would go to 4:30pm, which is a tough sell for kids in inclusion schools. A school's start time doesn't change when a child gets up, and it's hardly fair to expect a special education student up since 7am to be sitting in a classroom at 4:30pm.

In addition, the use of BPS buses by charters greatly limits the ability of those 9:30 start schools to change to an 8:30 start time.

I for one think ELT is a good thing, if it is implemented in a way to give kids extra enrichment in art, music, gym, and outdoor time. I've discussed that at our school SPC meetings, where parents are able to give feedback and set agenda items -- something you don't typically have with many charter schools.

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