By Scott McLennan
and Laura Barrett
A s the MTA presses legislative efforts for a three-year moratorium on Commonwealth charter school expansion, a pro-charter
advocacy group is pushing a ballot initiative that
would open a path to the rampant growth of the
publicly funded, privately operated schools.
If the pro-charter question passes, said MTA
President Barbara Madeloni, “then over time public
schools in any given district — currently governed
democratically by local school committees — could
be wiped out and turned over to private charter
school operators over the strenuous objections of
The ballot initiative would give the Board
of Elementary and Secondary Education, whose
members are appointed, the authority to approve
up to 12 charter schools annually by getting around
existing caps. Supporters of the initiative are aiming
to have it included on the state’s November 2016
Current law limits the number of
Commonwealth charter schools to 72 and controls
how much a district can spend on tuition.
As legislative activity picks up again, the MTA
is advocating for Senate Bill 326, filed by Senator
Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), which would place a
moratorium on all charter school expansion while
the state assesses the impact of these schools thus
far. The bill would also require all teachers hired by
Commonwealth charter schools to obtain teaching
licenses. A hearing on that measure and other charter
school bills is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the
The MTA is also working with community and
parent groups to ensure that all public schools have
adequate resources and are governed by locally
C ommunities that send students to Commonwealth charter schools lose large amounts of crucial Chapter 70 state
education funding through tuition payments to the
charters. Initial data for fiscal year 2016 shows that
approximately $423 million from Chapter 70 — the
major source of state public school funding — will
be spent on charter school tuition.
In addition to the money being spent on
Commonwealth charter schools, the list of criticisms
against them is long.
Locally elected school committees have no
authority over Commonwealth charter schools.
Instead, charter schools are overseen by boards of
For the most part, charter schools do not have to
hire fully licensed educators, and staff members are
employees at will, not represented by a union.
In communities such as Brockton and Fitchburg
where charters were recently proposed, local
residents and elected officials have banded together
in opposition, arguing that charter schools drain
funding and hurt the education being provided to
students in traditional public schools.
In 2014, a report by the Office of the State
Auditor concluded that charter schools have not met
their intended goal of developing curriculum models
and teaching practices and sharing that information
with district public schools. The auditor’s report also
found that the charter waiting lists kept by the state
are inflated and inaccurate.
Another major criticism is that many charter
schools artificially boost their student test scores by
using enrollment practices that allow them to serve a
disproportionately small number of English language
learners and special education students.
“Charters are deeply undemocratic and sap
funds from public education. Massachusetts must
not fall into the trap that allows private corporations
to profit from public funds through ownership of
schools that systematically push out students,”
She said that an increase in Commonwealth
charter schools means that “public schools,
committed to serving all students, are left with fewer
resources to serve our students.”
“Charters are a theft of public funds,” she said.
“Lifting the cap will mean our students, public
schools and communities will suffer.”
Somerville special education teacher Jackie
Lawrence, president of the Somerville Teachers
Association, said she has long been concerned about
charter schools’ poor record of working with students
who are on Individualized Education Programs. She
said she knows of families with students who were
selected by lottery to attend a charter school and
then told that the charter school was not equipped to
provide sufficient services.
“These kids end up losing valuable time in
getting the resources they need,” Lawrence said.
I n addition to disrupting the education of students who are pushed out, charter schools take a toll on all students because of the
amounts taken from districts’ traditional public
schools to pay for them.
“We don’t have librarians in our K- 8 schools
anymore,” said Bonnie Page, president of the Malden
Page added that the loss of Chapter 70 funds to
the charter school enrolling students from her district
has led to staff cuts and increased class sizes.
“The charters were supposedly started for
innovation and sharing, and I haven’t seen that
anywhere,” she said.
“There must be no lifting of caps on charter
school expansion,” said Madeloni. “We see how they
are undermining public education and fostering a
two-tiered education system that does not serve our
students or our communities.”
For more information and updates, please visit
State House hearing is set for Oct. 13
T he Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing on an MTA-supported bill calling for a
moratorium on Commonwealth charter schools
at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The hearing provides an opportunity for
public school educators, parents and other
community members to speak out about how
charter schools are affecting students and school
districts across Massachusetts.
The session — which will focus on other
bills related to charter schools as well as on
the key MTA-supported bill — will be held in
Gardner Auditorium at the State House.
Senate Bill 326, “An Act establishing a
moratorium for Commonwealth charter schools,”
is two-pronged. It places a three-year moratorium
on charter school expansion and requires all
teachers hired by Commonwealth charter schools
to obtain teaching licenses.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Marc Pacheco
(D-Taunton) and co-sponsored by 26 other
It’s important for legislators to hear from
members on this issue.
Here are some questions to consider:
n Has your school or district lost funding
as a direct result of a charter school opening in
your district? Have programs, teachers and staff
n Have students been accepted into a charter
school and then returned to your district as a
result of minor infractions?
n Has a charter school in your district turned
away a student with special needs or an English
To learn more, to testify at the hearing or
to submit testimony, please call MTA lobbyist
Julie Johnson at 617.878.8315 or e-mail her at
‘Charters are deeply undemocratic
and sap funds from public education.
Massachusetts must not fall into
the trap that allows private
corporations to profit from public
funds through ownership of schools
that systematically push out students.’
— MTA President Barbara Madeloni