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“Our public schools are being starved of
resources, and the expanding charter schools will
leave us with less and less funding to improve
education for all our students,” said Donna Grady,
a kindergarten teacher and president of the Franklin
Education Association who spoke at the Save Our
Public Schools campaign kickoff event on March
16. Franklin is losing $4 million to charter schools
In a letter to her state senator, Grady said that
her district could use those funds to restore the
librarians and paraprofessionals who have been cut
and reduce class sizes, which exceed 30 students in
some instances at the high school.
Even in communities not yet hit hard by charter
schools, the threat is real.
“We can hardly afford to repair our own school
buildings in Arlington,” Maureen Crewe, the mother
of four public school graduates, said during a
community forum on March 23 that was organized
by the MTA and Citizens for Public Schools. “Why
should we lose money to charter schools?
“It’s very divisive to have two school systems
going at once,” Crewe added.
In a recent report, the Annenberg Institute for
School Reform found that charter governance is
modeled on private rather than public institutions, with
60 percent of the charter schools in Massachusetts
lacking even a single parent on their boards of
In defending this practice, Dominic Slowey,
spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public
School Association, told The Boston Globe that
some charters are concerned that parents may have
“conflicts of interest” if their own children attend the
schools. By contrast, having children in local public
schools is seen as an asset — not a conflict of interest
— for elected school committee members.
The loss of local control is particularly galling in
Massachusetts, a state with a long and proud history
of excellent public schools. The state often approves
locating charter schools in communities over the
objections of a majority of the local residents and
Brockton is a case in point. Every School
Committee member and city councilor, along with
the entire legislative delegation, opposed a proposed
charter school earlier this year. Hundreds of parents
and educators came to a local public hearing,
with opponents greatly outnumbering supporters.
Nonetheless, the state Board of Elementary and
Secondary Education voted in February to approve
the charter school, which means taxpayers in
Brockton and nearby communities will have to foot
the bill at the expense of their own public schools.
“This is an outrageous undermining of
democracy,” Madeloni said. “We have town meeting
members who painstakingly debate and vote on every
line item in their local budgets because they care
deeply about the services their tax dollars are paying
for. And yet the state can just come in and say, in
effect, ‘We don’t care if this forces you to close one of
your local schools. We are approving a charter school
for your community whether you want it or not.’”
A related problem is that charters do not serve
all students. Unlike public schools, they are allowed
to use enrollment strategies that enable them to serve
fewer high-need students than their sending districts.
One common practice is to suspend challenging
students repeatedly for minor infractions until
frustrated parents transfer them to a district public
Any legislation that would raise the cap would
“subject thousands more children, and their parents,
to a system that purposely shames, blames and
pushes out children,” said Marlena Rose, a Boston
parent who spoke at the campaign kickoff event.
The result of all this? Public schools have fewer
resources to educate a higher-need population. Those
resources are already stretched thin. The bipartisan
Foundation Budget Review Commission recently
found that public schools are already underfunded by
$1 billion a year.
Grassroots campaign underway
MTA members are critical players in the
grassroots campaign that is now underway — first
to stop a cap lift in the Legislature and then to defeat
the ballot question.
Informing the public is essential. While many
voters are initially inclined to support expanding
the number of charters, a large percentage change
their minds when they learn that these schools take
away millions of dollars from local public schools
and are not accountable to the communities that pay
Among other activities, MTA members may be
asked to contact their legislators again, urge their
school committees to pass resolutions, explain the
issue to local parent and civic organizations, send
letters to their local newspapers and promote the
pro-public-schools message through face-to-face
conversations and social media.
Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area
Conference of the NAACP and chair of the Save
Our Public Schools campaign, disagrees with those
who think they should support charters to help low-income minority students in other communities. He
believes the best way forward lies in supporting the
public schools that serve all students.
Speaking at the campaign kickoff event in
March, Cofield concluded, “Allowing additional
charter school growth every year, without any end,
will result in significant and irreparable harm to our
public schools and the students who rely on them.”
Loss of funding and local control are key issues
MTA legal brief calls claims
of charter proponents
— See story on Page 20
Shrewsbury Paraprofessional Association members were among those showing their solidarity with the Save Our Public Schools campaign at MTA’s
recent ESP Conference. In the top row, from left to right, are Janet Johnson, Marion Crouch and Diane Dixon. In the bottom row, from left to
right, are Susan Jennings, Doreen Kelly and Barbara Fink. Signs and stickers promoting the campaign are beginning to circulate around the state.