M alden music teacher Deb Gesualdo has canvassed, phone banked and worked at tables several times over the summer
to oppose lifting the cap on charter schools. Most
people she talks to are persuaded to vote “no” once
they hear how much money the public schools are
losing: more than $400 million across the state
each year — and $8.4 million in her own district.
In addition, Gesualdo has other compelling
arguments against Question 2.
The following is her description of how a
typical canvassing conversation might go.
Hi, my name is Deb. I teach here in Malden.
I’m here to talk about one of the ballot questions
coming up this fall. Have you heard about Question
2, which would lift the cap on charter schools?
Did you know that Malden’s public schools
lose more than $8 million a year to the Mystic
Valley Regional Charter School?
Mystic Valley has a brand new athletic facility
at a time when our public schools are facing $2.5
million in cuts. We can’t even afford to buy enough
supplies, textbooks and pencils, while Mystic is
buying up real estate in Malden.
If someone says, “I don’t have kids in the
schools so why should I care?” I say, “I don’t
have kids either, but I care as a taxpayer. We have
to pay for this charter school whether we want it
or not, and there’s nothing our School Committee
or City Council can do about it. That’s taxation
If I need a third message, I let them know
it’s a civil rights issue. I tell them, “The charter
school doesn’t serve the same kids — especially
not kids with special needs. That’s just not right.
And when they do get kids they don’t want, they
send them back to the district quickly — usually
right after Oct. 1. It’s basically a private school
In addition to being the only music teacher
at the K- 8 Linden STEAM Academy, Gesualdo
serves as vice president of the Malden Education
Association and as a Senate district coordinator for
She credits her mother — an educator also
named Deb Gesualdo who works in Carver —
with inspiring her to become involved. “I’ve
always been interested in politics,” Gesualdo
said. “My mother taught me the importance of
being part of the community. I learned that if you
want to see change, you have to be part of the
Here are some additional tips for conversations
n Make it clear that voting “no” won’t affect
existing charter schools. It will just maintain the
current cap — which hasn’t even been met yet.
n If voters express concern about “helping”
kids in Boston by approving more charters, let
them know that even Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
— a charter supporter — is strongly against
Question 2. He testified at the State House that
the initiative would “wreak havoc” on the city’s
finances, undermining its ability to support either
new or existing schools.
n Let voters know that the Massachusetts PTA,
Citizens for Public Schools, the Massachusetts
Municipal Association, the Massachusetts
AFL-CIO, the NAACP NEAC, the MTA, AFT
Massachusetts, and more than 70 individual school
committees, along with a number of town and city
councils, oppose Question 2.
SRCP Media. That agency is infamous for creating
the anti-John Kerry “swift boat” ads, which have
been described as “misleading” and “vicious.”
The SOPS campaign is also running ads and sending
The charter campaign is expected to break ballot
initiative spending records in Massachusetts.
A devastating impact
There are currently 69 Commonwealth charter
schools operating in Massachusetts, and more
can be opened under current caps. But Question
2 supporters are looking to expand the number of
If passed, Question 2 would allow the state to
approve 12 new Commonwealth charter schools
each year serving up to 1 percent of the school-age
population, or about 9,500 students.
Question 2 would also eliminate current
spending caps. Under those caps, charters can divert
no more than 9 percent of funds from most districts
and no more than 18 percent from districts with the
lowest test scores. Under Question 2, there is no limit
to how much they could lose: Entire districts could
be “charterized” in just one year.
“Funding charter schools out of local school
district budgets is devastating to the services
that our public schools can provide to students,”
said Madeloni. “Study after study confirms what
educators know: Charters are undermining our
ability to give every student the school that she or
A new study in Michigan found that the
proliferation of charter schools had undermined
the fiscal viability of that state’s traditional public
schools — a destabilization that Moody’s Investors
Service has warned about.
Even Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a charter
school supporter, testified at the State House that the
ballot question “would wreak havoc on municipal
finances, undermining our ability to support either
new or existing schools in Boston.”
Despite those warnings, there are powerful
forces behind the charter model.
Public education is a multibillion-dollar market.
Charter operators stand to make a lot of money,
especially because most charter schools aren’t
unionized and keep wages low by hiring young,
inexperienced teachers who are willing to work long
Turnover is high for both teachers and students.
Teachers are driven out by overwork, lack of job
security and a lack of voice in their schools. Students
are driven out by hyperdisciplinary policies that
weed out students who don’t fit the charter mold.
“Right now, charter schools drain more than
$400 million from district public schools to serve
just 4 percent of students,” said Madeloni. “We
think the state should spend more time and money
supporting the other 96 percent — the students who
attend the schools that educate all students, no matter
when they arrive, what language they speak or what
kinds of services they need. That’s what truly public
schools are all about.”
To learn more about the No on 2 campaign,
please visit www.massteacher.org/charterschools or
Calling all callers!
The MTA is holding phone banks until
Election Day at regional offices, MTA’s
Quincy headquarters and other locations.
Those phone banks will generally take
place from 5 to 8 p.m. most Mondays
through Thursdays. Some weekend
phone banks also will be scheduled.
For information about specific phone
banking opportunities in your area, go to
Continued from previous page
Passage of Question 2 would undermine public education
Deb Gesualdo brought the No on 2 message
to the Danvers Farmers’ Market in July.
Photo by Bob Duffy