Charter Schools and Education Funding

As a legislator, I was struck by the brass of a recent campaign commercial.

As a citizen, I am voting against Question 2, which would lift the cap on charter schools, because I am concerned about its impact on already-strained local school budgets. When students leave local schools to go to charter schools, the local schools have to pay tuition to the charters. Current law places reasonable limits on charter expansion. Question 2 bypasses those limits. If we bypass the limits on charter expansion, in some communities there will simply be too many schools and resources will be spread too thin among them.

No one should imagine that, as a recent yes-on-2 commercial suggests, a yes vote would result in increased funding for all schools.

The grain of truth in the commercial is that, in theory, when a student leaves a local school and the school has to pay charter tuition, the state reimburses the first year costs in full and at the 25% level for the next few years.

The bigger picture is that charter reimbursement aid competes directly with general education aid through the Chapter 70 formula. To the extent that charters expand, and more education aid flows out through the charter reimbursement formula, there will be less to give out through the general education aid formula.

Further, charter reimbursement is always a question mark in the budget process. The state generally does not make it in full. And whether the reimbursement is sufficient to prevent increased strain depends very much on the actual cost structure of the local school district — how many classrooms it has, how students are distributed across them, whether it is feasible to make savings when students depart.

While local education aid is a passionate top priority for me, as it is for most legislators, it does not seem likely to me that the state will be able to expand the education aid pie so as bail out local school districts that experience disproportionate losses from a Yes vote on Question 2.

The state budget continues to be very tight. We are seven years into our current recovery, but the state has failed to fully rebuild its reserve funds. When I sit through budget hearings at the state level, I am struck again and again that we are not providing the services that constituents expect and demand.  Many agencies have been hollowed out by years of cost-cutting forced by the combination of limited revenue growth and rising health care costs.

The MassHealth program covers 1.9 million people, 27% (read that again) of the state’s population. Rising enrollment has driven MassHealth costs up to $15.4 billion, roughly 35% of the state’s total spending. We could not have a Governor better suited by background and inclination to reform and control the costs of the health care system. But good people have been struggling valiantly to control health care cost growth for decades and it remains very much to be seen whether this administration will achieve better results.

The Senate did manage to pass a compromise charter bill this year, which did not make it through the House. In that bill, we conditioned charter expansion on expansion in education aid, implicitly conditioning charter expansion on passage of the 2018 ballot question that would raise the income tax on millionaires. That approach is more realistic.

A Yes vote on Question 2 would create new schools without creating additional resources to pay for them.

Thanks so much to all who have commented!

October 30

There is some deep discussion going on in the comments below, which I have reviewed. I am especially grateful to Stephen Ronan, Jonathan Kamens, Patty Nolan and Dan Gleason for bringing a lot of information and analysis to the table.

What I come back to is this basic reality: Creating charter schools is creating schools — we are increasing the absolute number of institutions serving children.

By definition that means either closing existing schools or spreading whatever resources are available more thinly across buildings. Anyone with experience in public budgeting knows that, for better or worse, closing anything that is used by people who can advocate for themselves is extremely difficult. Therefore expanding the number of schools creates real risks of increasing the financial stress on existing schools.

This should only be done with great caution and with sensitivity to the needs of particular communities. The problem with Question 2 is that it abrogates community level protections on pacing. Reasonable people can differ on how the state will handle that increased power, but I feel that Question Two creates unnecessary risks of harm.

I am saddened to think is that whatever the outcome is, it will have been decided by a thin vote and will not have had the benefit of a real consensus development process as we attempt (with mixed results) in the legislative process.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

84 replies on “Charter Schools and Education Funding”

    1. You mean like Boston Latin and Boston Latin Academy and the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics? A quarter of Boston public school students in 7th and 8th grade attend one of the exam schools, and they do very well.

      Boston has an uneven school system. It is not uniformly awful.

  1. I appreciate your communications. I heard the advertisements and thought they might be a distortion but didn’t nderstand the implications. Without your information I might have voted against what I passionately believe in, namely a full educational experience for every child, not just the few.

    1. If you are relying on a one side partisian opinion as fact then good lord not much can be done. Why not research amd educate yourself.

  2. I am always impressed by your thoughtfulness on the different issues. I am courious, are charter schools a means towards segreation?

    1. There’s an interesting debate developing that there certainly could be segregation for special ed students and their families. Read this article, especially the topic, “How does the tuition formula treat special education students?”

      http://www.massbudget.org/report_window.php?loc=Charter-School-Funding,-Explained.html

      Note how Chapter 70 and the tuition formula assume charters educate the same number of sped kids. They don’t. Also note that not tracked and reported is the severity of sped students in districts versus charters. The fact is the more difficult cases like autism-specific classrooms are only in districts. Charters don’t have the economies of scale to staff these.

      12 new charters a year anywhere in the state will create district schools that deal largely with difficult special education populations that charters cannot address, including ALL out of district placements. Even if a sped student starts at a charter and is later determined to require an outplacement, that student is first transferred back to the sending/home district, which then places the student in the proper facility/program and assumes 100% of the cost.

  3. Thank you for this article. I knew that commercial had to be misleading but I wasn’t sure how they were “bending” the facts to do so.

  4. Reading that your are struck by the brass of a campaign commercial sounds like Captain Renault being shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on …The real brass is suburban voters deny inner city children a chance at a quality education.
    As I have written on these pages, Question 2 is hardly perfect but a No vote continues a system that condemns inner city youth to schools that have done harm to individual, families and communities. Schools that have not changed and will not until competition forces change. A Yes vote forces change and it is change that is needed.

  5. The question should be, will charter schools give students a better education. It should not be about money.

    1. The question is whether the charter school mechanism in question 2 will improve education _overall_, for _all_ students.

      It may improve education for the few students who are able to attend charter schools. However, at the same time it will damage education for the much larger number of students left behind in the traditional public schools. Overall, the quality of education will go down, not up, because of the disparate impact on the traditional schools and the much larger number of students in them.

      We need to find a solution which doesn’t benefit a small number of students at the expense of many more.

    2. Correct. Hearing people are distressed over these commercials as lies.. i have to sit and wonder dont they know we feel the same about the lies from the no side. Its about the kids fix the problemtic wasteful spending

        1. I am not sure what Jim was referring to, but here are a couple of examples of inaccurate representations of reality from a Save Our Schools4-page flyer

          * “According to a 2015 report by the Boston Opportunity Agenda, students who graduated from the BPS had a greater chance of success in college, with 50 percent of BPS high school graduates — but only 42 percent of Boston charter high school graduates — obtaining a college degree within six

          * “A study of charter high schools in Boston showed that only 40 percent of those enrolled as freshmen made it to graduation, compared to 80 percent of those enrolled in the Boston Public Schools.”

          Please see, for example, my September 12, 2016 8:17 PM comment here for why those statements are incorrect.

          When I started encountering widespread errors along those lines a year ago, I thought they’d be quick and easy to get fixed. But as exemplified here in respect to Christopher Martell’s blog post or here in respect to Mark Weber’s criticism of Q2, these inaccuracies continue widespread and are hard to dislodge.

          My sense is that respected legislators like Senator Brownsberger and Education Chair Sonia Chang-Diaz should be encouraged to more aggressively seek to further help both sides of this controversy come to a common understanding of the facts. The current posting by Senator Brownsberger is a helpful move along such lines.

    3. The anonymous “Tony G” thinks that the only question is, “Which is best, district schools or charter schools?”

      He’s wrong. That’s not the only question.

      3 questions must be answered, in this order.

      1. Do MA taxpayers want good education for all, or just for some?

      2. If MA taxpayers want good education for all, then how much are we willing to spend to get it?

      3. Using whatever we’re willing to spend, what’s the most efficient, economical way to get the best results?

      No matter what the answers to these 3 questions, having 2 separate public school systems (districts vs. charters) is madness, especially when everyone agrees that at least 1 of these 2 systems is unfair, and/or ineffective, and/or wasteful.

  6. “To the extent that charters expand, and more education aid flows out through the charter reimbursement formula, there will be less to give out through the general education aid formula.”

    I’m curious to understand that better. Is it the case that there is an automatic dollar for dollar reduction in the “general education aid” for each dollar spent in charter reimbursement aid? Or is it just, in practice, in your experience, likely to happen given the limited available tax revenues?

    In considering the financial impacts on education of passage of Question 2, I’d think it makes sense to include factors such as:

    * Charter schools by demonstrating impressive success have been drawing more philanthropic support to education via charitable donations.

    * At many charter schools, English Language Learners (ELL) substantially more rapidly learn English than their counterparts who tried unsuccessfully to get into the same schools via their lotteries, and for that
    and other reasons the charter schools are declassified as ELL much more quickly at charter schools… As a result, we as taxpayers pay less for their tuition. And that would free up Chapter 70 money for general education aid?

    * When, for example, charter schools in Boston demonstrate results
    equating to more than twelve months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months greater progress in math
    that makes taxpayers more enthusiastic that they are getting great value for their money.

    * Relatedly, passage of Question 2, raising the charter school cap, would seem to increase odds of passage of the millionaire’s tax, yes? Or do you perhaps believe that odds are already high enough that that doesn’t matter?

      1. True, but they have stood up formidably well to extremely intensive post-publication scrutiny by their would-be critics.

    1. Oops… Should have written “for that and other reasons the students are declassified as ELL much more quickly at those charter schools”

  7. Good clarification Will. Your comments on the budget meetings prompts me to ask what have you done to stop some govt funded activities to make room in the budget for higher priority items like education? A good leader makes the tough decisions in order to fund the most urgent needs. I think your constituents might like to know what efforts you have made to stop spending in order to create capacity in the budget for the most important needs.

  8. Will, your comments on Question 2 raise the broader question of the wisdom of passing laws by popular referendum instead of a legislative process. A ballot question generally results from efforts by the interests on only one side of an issue. The general electorate is unlikely to know enough to make good policy decisions in many areas and the dangers of unintended consequences can be large. The brief arguments pro and con in the voter booklet, and TV advertisements, are not enough to understand what is really on the table.

    It seems much more sound to rely instead on legislators who can receive broad public input, conduct hearings, hear witnesses, etc. and also take enough time to study a question. Otherwise we run the risk of “Brexit” style regrets when the voters have not been able to consider an important question thoroughly or dispassionately enough. I am even thinking of voting no on all ballot questions in the future because they seem intended to evade legislative debate.

    1. Absolutely agreed, the default vote for any popular referendum should be “no”. This was certainly the lesson we learned in California — one year we had 3 competing initiatives to “reform” auto insurance, plus 2 competing initiatives changing rules for logging (known as “Big Green” and “Big Brown”). Sheer confusion gives bad laws a chance to pass.

  9. Will,

    Thank you for your continued clear thinking on this issue and so many others.

    I have really been distressed by the lies coming out of the yes-on-2 camp. The claim that the law would cause increased public education funding is just one of the many lies they are telling.

    The most recent yes-on-2 ad I heard said that question 2 should be passed because the current charter school law is “outdated.” That really, really rubbed on me the wrong way.

    Also, their over-the-top pulling on people’s heartstrings is really disturbing.

    I hope people see through the manipulation, but I’m not confident.

    I share Roy Epstein’s concerns about the referendum process. Frankly, a number of referendums that have passed in recent years have been stupid and bad for the commonwealth. There’s clearly a problem; whether there is a solution is far less clear.

  10. Maybe you should overhaul how our taxes are spent. I have several friends who are teachers and i always thought well they are u derpaid. Tuens out they make 6 figures for a 9 month job and pension. So i would suggest thay is fixed before we cry how much money would be lost. Our schools are already over crowded.. they want to increase taxes 3% to pay for new schools.. so whats the difference. The goal is to better educate not wasteful spending or keeping the money local in public schools where they may not educate everyone fairly. Beside it would be nice to see a public figure on the break even cost of qty of students. Since we are already over crowded what’s wrong with a child going to another school

    1. “6 figures” isn’t what’s generally reported — and what was reported this week (by the Globe, which has been a strong supporter of charters) is that a lot of teachers put in much more than 40 hours a week. Given this and the fact that the effective school year is closer to 10 months than 9 means that a lot of teachers are working more than 40 hours a week averaged over the entire year.

      1. Not to criticize teachers in any way, but your math is flawed. You say teachers work 10 months a year and work more than 40 hours per week. OK so far, but they have the entire summer off, which is in excess of 9 weeks. And during the 10 months they work, they have entire weeks off between Christmas & New Years, another in February and another in April. This is in addition to holidays such as Thanksgiving, MKL day, Columbus Day, and more. The average person working in the public sector works in excess of 48 weeks per year and many regularly put in in excess of 40 hours per week. One only has to know that the school year is 180 days (out of 365) and teachers put in a few extra days in addition to that. There really isn’t a comparison of hours worked by teachers vs. an engineer, nurse, accountant, etc. A good friend of mine who is a wonderful teacher once quipped that being a teacher was like getting full time salary for a 9 month job. Even the best teachers work, on average, about 3 hours for every 4 other professions work.

  11. Why do charter schools have a better record of improved education? It is all about education , right? I don’t trust the teachers union. What are they trying to protect? JP

    1. I’m a school committee member in a district. We have a very good charter next door. On last spring’s MCAS they were 3% higher in ELA proficiency, but we were 6% higher in math and 19% higher in science. That’s only one measurement, but the Yes on 2 folks like to say charters produce better standardized test scores. In aggregate it’s about even. In some urban areas they may produce slightly better. But they also educate less special ed and English language learner students.

      We are not a rich suburb by any means and are not on anyone’s short list of best school district’s in MA (although that is changing). And the charter next door is considered one of the better ones in the state. Our towns (we are a two town region) send about 20% of their students. So I know many of the families and the kids. They do not go to different or better colleges.

      We have a good and trusting relationship with our union. They are reasonable. They have worked with us as we put together a new school region, merged separate staffs/unions, merged middle schools, and built a new high school. Lots of disruption, yet they were a solid partner.

      So based on my personal experience over 9 years on a school committee, your generalized statements are false. They may be true in some places, but they are certainly false in others, including our district.

    2. You’re right – the fact is for low-income students of color, the evidence is clear: charters work better. MIT, Harvard, Stanford all have done independent studies and found large positive affects for those students. Interesting, the studies don’t find overwhelming evidence for non-urban charters in Mass.

      Look up the studies. And two of them corrected for selection bias. Meaning they looked at all students who applied to a charter and then compared the outcomes of those who got in and those who didn’t.

      How is it than in this state with our proud record of supporting crticial thinking and analysis that studies by Harvard, MIT AND Stanford are dismissed? I am stunned that many people opposing the expansion wave their hands and ignore the statistically significant positive results – in test scores, in graduation rates, in college attendance and persistence. In Massachusetts and especially Boston charter schools serve low-income students of color better than traditional public schools.

  12. Please correct me if I’m wrong…

    The proposed amendment regarding charter schools states (in my mind, clearly) that it will not affect the original law on charter schools and any subsequent amendments. That means that a school’s per/student allocation will not change.

    However, if a school loses some students to a charter school and thereby receives less total funds on the per-student basis, they will have less money for admin costs that don’t change. THEN I see a financial impact on non-charter schools — but not a big one. No one school in the state will lose many students to a charter school.

  13. Dear sir,

    With all due respect, you do not understand charter reimbursement. So the situation is worse than you describe because the “grain of truth” you reference is not true. It is false.

    I am taking exception with this comment – “The grain of truth in the commercial is that, in theory, when a student leaves a local school and the school has to pay charter tuition, the state reimburses the first year costs in full and at the 25% level for the next few years.”

    Tuition reimbursement has nothing to do with per student cost and it does not cover 100% of charter tuition in any year.

    What it does is compare the prior year TOTAL charter tuition owed any and all charters and compares to the current year’s TOTAL charter tuition. If the current year is more than the prior year, a district is eligible for 100% of the DIFFERENCE, not the total amount.

    So assuming $100,000 tuition year 1 and $125,000 year two, the sending district gets $25,000 in reimbursement year 1 and 25% of $25,000 or $6250 in years 2-6.

    Let’s say the third year the tuition falls to $110,000. As happens in our district, sometimes graduating seniors at charters are more than new students leaving for charters. In this year they get $0 reimbursement because charter tuition fell. No increase, no reimbursement. The district still gets $6250 for the prior year increase, but nothing on the $110,000 they owe this year.

    Over three years that district paid $335,000 in charter tuition, but only got back $37,500 in reimbursement, about 12% of the total charter tuition cost.

    That’s if Ch 46 reimbursement is fully funded. As you correctly note, it has not been for 5 straight fiscal years, the current FY and prior two at under 70%. So the hypothetical district isn’t even getting $37,500 back. More like 67% of $37,500 or about $25,000.

    Then there is the cost side. If about 10 kids leave per year, there is nothing to cut. They’ll be spread across grades, so you can’t cut teachers and staff. Their neighbors still need bus transportation, so you can’t cut a bus. It’s simply lost revenue.

    I find this Mass Budget article to be helpful in breaking down a complex topic, especially the topic, “What is the charter reimbursement formula?”

    http://www.massbudget.org/report_window.php?loc=Charter-School-Funding,-Explained.html

    As a school committee member I appreciate your No on 2 position and this blog. I just wanted to point out how charter tuition reimbursement really works. It’s a common talking point of the Yes On 2 people to say a district gets back 225% of what it spends per student on charter tuition. That is totally false. The formula is not student based and it does not cover 100% of the tuition. It is 100% of any INCREASE in a current year over a prior year, and 25% of that increase for 5 additional years.

    Thank you.

    1. Got it. I do understand how it works.

      You are right that the reimbursement it is not a function of the individual student, but rather of the change in levels. I simplified the computation to keep the piece readable. But your clarification is helpful for the attentive reader and well taken.

  14. My son, who went to a Boston public high school, learned more about homosexuality, drugs and what a creep Columbus was than any academic subjects. I want other parents, particularly minority and inner city parents, to have an some choice, an alternative to the mediocrity and political correctness that passes for public education in this state.

    I agree with Tony G’s post below: “…it should not be about the money.”; I would add it should not be about the demands of the Teacher’s union either.

    1. Eric Anthony may not realize it yet, but sexuality, substance use/abuse, and Christopher Columbus’ flaws and failings are already part of the “academic subjects” he’s so fond of. So his complaint isn’t that his son learned what he learned; it’s that he didn’t learn more.

      When it seems like there are too few subjects in the curriculum, and too much mediocrity, then the problem is not the curriculum, but the facilities and the teachers.

      Whenever a teacher seems substandard, it’s because the pay is too low to attract professionals with higher standards, greater skills, more experience, and better results.

      Vowing to keep teacher pay lower than other professions just guarantees more of the same mediocre results that charter fans are always complaining about.

      The best educational results are seen in societies that invest heavily in their facilities and their teachers. As that investment declines, so do the educational results.

  15. Thank you, Senator. I applaud you standing up for MA teachers and students against the corporate interests trying to turn them into commodities, bought and sold for profit.

  16. No on more charter schools because charters leave behind many students. The students left behind for reasons of lack of parental knowledge etc are often the children who most need the support of their schools and teachers. Public education is a cornerstone of our democracy charters drain resources undermine our democracy.
    Cathy Brennan

      1. Thousands of families don’t want to be in charter schools. Thousands of families want to be in better schools. They don’t give a flying fig whether those schools are traditional public, charter public, private, or what-have-you. They just want schools that they can afford that will give their kids a good education.

        What I say to them is, “Given the current funding model, charter schools benefit the few at the expense of the many. Furthermore, even if question 2 passes, there will not be enough room in them, ever, for even a small fraction of the children who need and deserve a better education. Charter schools alone are not enough to make public education in Massachusetts better, and charter schools combined with the current funding model will actually make public education worse overall.”

  17. Numbers will help illustrate the strain on local budgets. Senator, would you mind giving us one concrete before/after example where a district’s average funding per student went down due to charter school exodus?

  18. Is it true that the push for charter schools is to basically break the teacher’s union? I don’t have a favorable view of the union as it seems to want more & more for less & Less.

    1. No -one charter in Mass. is unionized. Charters were started to have teachers be more involved. Many charters allow for more teacher voice. But, it is true that most have longer hours than traditional schools. I support them – see my post above on why.

  19. I am also a current Boston Public School parent, and I am getting a little bit tired of other people speaking for me. I am also against Question 2.

  20. Thank you very much Will.
    I work in Boston Public Schools and this is very accurate information. I will be voting no and urge others to vote no on Question 2.

  21. I am loathe to wade into the issue raised in comments below of whether public-school teachers are compensated appropriately, because it tends to be one of those issues where people’s minds are made up and their confirmation bias prevents them from being able to incorporate any contradictory information into their worldviews.

    Having said that:

    1) In my experience, one does not tend to find teachers living in expensive houses, driving expensive cars, taking expensive vacations, etc.

    2) I know plenty of people in various professions who freely and readily admit that they are compensated well for the amount of time and effort their jobs require. I have never encountered a single teacher — and I know quite a few — who holds that opinion. I could conclude that teachers, unlike people I know in every other profession, are greedy liars, or I could instead conclude, I think more reasonably, that they are being just as honest with me as the people who work in other professions.

    3) Teachers do not just work on the days and hours when school is in session. Teachers are at school every day before the students. They leave school every day after the students. They bring papers and assignments home to grade on nights and weekends. They chaperone school field trips and sporting events on weekends. They often have wrap-up work to do at school after the school year ends, and they return to school before the school year starts. In many districts, school extends into the middle of June and starts before the beginning of September, so the claim that teachers get three months off is wrong on its face. Teachers are required to attend continuing education classes to maintain their certifications, often at their own expense, over the summer. Teachers spend much of the summers preparing their lesson plans and curricula, a never-ending task because they are regularly assigned different classes to teach and because the material they are required to cover changes regularly due to requirements imposed on them by the administration, school board, and state legislature, and due to the fact that our knowledge of the world changes and teachers do their best to incorporate current knowledge into their lessons. In short, claiming teachers are overpaid based on the fact that the school year is only ~180 days long is absurdly wrong.

    4) I’ve never met a teacher who didn’t use a good chunk of their own money every year to pay for classroom supplies not provided by the school.

    5) The studies which purport to prove that teachers are overpaid prove this by arguing that (a) people who go into teaching are, statistically speaking, not the cream of the crop, and (b) teachers are supposedly overpaid compared to people of comparable intelligence and talent in other professions. Now, I want the people teaching our children to be the cream of the crop. I want them to be incredibly intelligent, talented people, because teaching well is really, really hard. If the profession of teaching isn’t attracting the best people, then that isn’t proof that teachers are overpaid, it’s proof that they’re underpaid, because if we paid them more, then better people would be attracted to the profession.

    6) I would be interested in hearing the people who claim that teaching is an easy, cushy, overpaid profession to explain, in that case, why they are not teachers. I’m pretty darn smart, and there are a lot of things I’m pretty darn good at, and you couldn’t pay me a million dollars a year to teach, because I’d be awful at it and miserable to boot. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for teachers, because they’re doing an incredibly hard job that needs to be done, and done well, for our society to flourish. In fact, I can’t imagine that there is any job more important to the future of our society than teaching.

    7) Finally, here’s some additional reading on this topic, for anyone who is interested:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2011/11/are-teachers-paid-too-much-how-4-studies-answered-1-big-question/247872/
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-study-teachers-are-overpaid/
    http://www.secondcity.com/network/5-reasons-teachers-overpaid/ (snarky, tongue in cheek)
    http://educationnext.org/the-compensation-question/ (long, dry, academic, makes the point that experts disagree strongly on this question)

  22. The issue is not what is right for individual children.

    This issue is what is best, overall, for all children.

    Given the current funding model, charter schools may improve education for the students who are lucky enough to attend them, but at the same time they definitely damage education for all the students who aren’t.

    Since there are far more students in traditional public schools than in private schools, the overall result of increasing the number of charter schools, without changing the funding model, is that more students will be harmed than helped.

    Charter school advocates know this. The yes-on-2 movement is nothing less than a back-door attempt to create a vicious cycle which decimates traditional public schools and, ultimately, leads to the complete privatization of public education.

    1. “Given the current funding model, charter schools may improve education for the students who are lucky enough to attend them, but at the same time they definitely damage education for all the students who aren’t.”

      Seems plausible to me that the reverse would instead be true.

      Would you have expected that non-charter schools would damage traditional public schools when the Education Reform Act of 1993 started public charter schools in Massachusetts, and would you have expected damage to occur when each of the several charter school cap lifts were implemented?

      Do you think charter schools have indeed had an overall damaging effect up until now? The Boston Public Schools certainly makes an argument that I find quite persuasive that BPS has steadily, substantially improved alongside a growing charter sector over the past twenty years. Doesn’t mean there’s been a causal relationship of course.

      I have wondered what we can learn from academic research… I’ve read Dmitri Mehlhorn argue along these lines:

      “In Florida, traditional public school performance has improved as school choice has expanded. Ditto in Denver. Ditto in New York City, especially in the boroughs with the highest charter penetration. Ditto in the 2008 study I cited from Texas, which Jazzman agreed was well done…”

      “As for the tipping point, how does Jazzman explain away the studies of Washington, D.C., as summarized by Clinton Administration policy wonk David Osborne here? In D.C., two thirds of students attend a different school than their closest traditional school, and 44% of students attend charters. Both traditional and charter schools are improving dramatically, faster than any other city in the nation, and faster than any state other than Tennessee.”
      http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2015/10/charter-schools-exchange-part-iii.html

      The 2008 study Melhorn references appeared in the Journal of Urban Economics: “The effect of charter schools on traditional public school students in Texas: Are children who stay behind left behind?”/a> by Booker et al. It stated: “We find a positive and significant effect of charter school penetration on traditional public school student outcomes.”

      I am not sufficiently directly familiar with the data to be able to concur or argue with Mehlhorn on these points, but am interested to learn more.

      p.s. William J., your references to your sister, whom I had only met on brief occasion, impelled me to go back and read the Globe obituary. Wow! Inspiring indeed!
      https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/17/linda-walczak-dorchester-longtime-elementary-teacher-went-far-beyond-school-day-hours/k71jYR3RT3JJUms2qA1YuJ/story.html

      1. The charter school law was passed 23 years ago because the legislature recognized that there were severe problems with Massachusetts public schools.

        The school districts themselves also recognized that there were severe problems, and they have been working to address them, aggressively and continuously, for the entire time the charter school law has been in effect.

        The Boston Public Schools, in particular, have gone through not just one but multiple major transformations in the past 23 years. To attribute all, or even most, of student performance improvements in the traditional public schools to the existence of charter schools in the district would be baseless and in my opinion ludicrous.

        I don’t discount entirely the effect of competition from charter schools on the traditional schools. I’m sure it has had an influence, and that is one of the reasons why I support the idea of charter schools in general. My objection to the ballot question is not a blanket objection to charter schools, but rather an objection to the scope of question 2 and the fact that the well-funded, mostly out-of-state people and groups quietly backing it (also this) have as their goal the privatization and de-unionization of public education, which would be a disaster for our children, our state, and our country.

        As far as I can tell — though I did not read the entire thing word-by-word, so perhaps I missed something — the Booker study you mentioned makes no attempt to control for — indeed, I don’t think it even mentions — the fact that while charter schools were being opened in the district it studied, the district itself was at the same time working to improve its traditional schools.

        You asked:

        Would you have expected that non-charter schools would damage traditional public schools when the Education Reform Act of 1993 started public charter schools in Massachusetts, and would you have expected damage to occur when each of the several charter school cap lifts were implemented?

        We’ve had charter schools in Massachusetts for 23 years, and there are only 80 of them. That’s an average of less than 4 new charter schools opening per year. Question 2 proposes to allow up to twelve new schools to open per year. In other words, it more than triples the potential financial impact of new charter schools on the districts in which they open. Senator Brownsberger is hardly alone in warning about the financial catastrophe this could wreak on school districts; for example, 100 school committees across the state have also come out against question 2.

        Furthermore, while our school districts may have up to now been able to compensate for the financial drain caused by charter schools, we are now at a crisis point where they are no longer able to do that. The Boston Public Schools, for example, faced a nearly $30 million structural deficit in its 2016-17 budget and was forced to make major cuts which indisputably damaged the quality of education. That crisis has in no way been mitigated, and it would be reckless, to say the least, to throw open the floodgates of charter schools draining more money from the districts at exactly a time when those districts are struggling to pay the bills.

        One more point I want to make is that all of the articles and studies I’ve seen which talk about improvements in student performance at public schools, including those asking the question of whether charter schools can be given credit for those improvements, are using standardized test scores as their metric for student performance. There’s an entirely separate discussion we can have about whether the rise of standardized testing has actually been good for students, and whether standardized test scores are a good measure of education quality. My personal opinion is that “teaching to the test” has damaged the quality of education and that test scores are not nearly as good an indicator as testing advocates would have us believe.

        While my comments above are primarily focused on Massachusetts, since that’s what I’m most familiar with and that’s what question 2 is about, I see no reason why the points I’ve made above would not be equally applicable to the other states mentioned in the articles and studies you referenced.

  23. I do not think your experience attending Boston Public Schools decades ago is particularly relevant to their current condition.

    I do not think it particularly likely that the pancreatic cancer that killed your sister was caused by stress from teaching at BPS. Stress is not, generally speaking, a causative indicator for pancreatic cancer.

    And her friends and family, at least, seem to think that she had a long, successful, rewarding career as a BPS educator.

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/17/linda-walczak-dorchester-longtime-elementary-teacher-went-far-beyond-school-day-hours/k71jYR3RT3JJUms2qA1YuJ/story.html

    I wonder what your sister would think of you advocating a ballot question which will, if passed, take even more money away from the schools with “extreme budget constraints” to which she devoted her life’s work.

  24. Her now successful 2 adult children attended Charter Schools their entire lives, graduated from Boston Latin School and went on to good colleges, and careers.

    BLS is not a charter school, so the first half of the above sentence contradicts the second half.

    This seems to be representative of the level of factual accuracy of your comments here.

    It also seems to be representative of your tendency to change the subject rather than responding to substantive criticism of your earlier comments.

    P.S. Since you seem fond of first-person narratives…

    I live in Boston with five children, the oldest of which just graduated from Boston Arts Academy and the second oldest of which is currently at Boston Latin Academy. My youngest child attended K1 at the Winship School. All of my children have also attended private schools. I have friends who teach in multiple Massachusetts public school districts.

    In other words, I have substantive, current experience with both public and private schools in Massachusetts, unlike your decades-old, glancing experience with a grand total of one public school district in the entire state of Massachusetts.

    And my personal experience makes it clear to me that question 2, if passed, would help a small number of students at the expense of a much larger number, which is why I’m voting against it and encourage others to do the same.

    1. Mr. Johnson,

      You are talking nonsense, contradicting yourself, moving the goalposts over and over again, and saying things that are objectively false.

      I have remained engaged in this discussion not because I hope to be able to convince you to change your mind — that is clearly not going to happen — but rather so as not to allow your false statements to stand unchallenged and potentially mislead other, perhaps undecided voters who are reading this discussion.

      However, I must confess that my patience is now at an end, so I will no longer be responding to your frankly ludicrous comments. I am confident that anyone reading this discussion will understand, from your prior comments and my illustrative responses, exactly how much to value your opinion.

      Regards,

      Jonathan Kamens

  25. Question 2 applies to, and affects, the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    Your assertion that, “…the Charter School question is essentially an issue to the City of Boston, and has no real relevance to Belmont, nor other suburbs in Sen. Will’s strange district,” has no basis in reality.

  26. Or we could, you know, look at the actual data.

    Of the 80 currently open charter schools in Massachusetts, 22 serve the City of Boston.

    There are charter schools in 38 other school districts scattered throughout the state.

    Has this argument become some sort of ignorant joke?

    Indeed, there does seem to be some ignorance on display here. Fortunately, that is easily rectified, since a great deal of information about the topic under discussion is readily available to those who seek it out.

  27. There is simply too much good stuff in Mayor Walsh’s op-ed in today’s Globe for me to quote all of it, but I want to quote the beginning and end and you can click the link if you want to read the good stuff in the middle:

    AS A FOUNDING board member of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, I’m a longtime supporter of Boston’s charter schools. Last year, as mayor, I proposed state legislation to raise the cap on charter school growth while also giving charter schools access to state building funds for the first time.

    It may surprise some, then, that I am voting “no” on ballot Question 2 — and urging everyone in the Commonwealth to do the same.

    This ballot question is not a referendum on charter schools. It is a deeply misguided proposal that is fundamentally hostile to the progress of school improvement, the financial health of municipalities, and the principle of local control. I urge everyone to join me on Nov. 8 in voting “no” on Question 2. Then we can get to work — together — to improve all our schools.

  28. Mayor Walsh has done a fairly good job so far. Clearly it was his association with strong unions that got him elected as mayor.

    My understanding is that there are about 35,000 parents desperate to get their children into Charter Schools which are not currently available to them.

    Again, I ask that more women with children Post their opinions on this site.

    1. I am a woman with two children – in Cambridge public schools starting in Kindergarten. And I sere on the Cambridge School Committee. I am a strong YES on 2. I just posted a lengthy why above – hope you read it and it answers your question . Yes there are thousands of parents on charter school lists. And 10,000 families on METCO waitlist.

  29. I am a Boston Public School parent, and I am against Question 2. I believe that it will destabilize our school district and lead to even more inequities in the system.

    I am not desperate to leave our school. I want our schools supported. The Boston Public School Committee estimates that if Question 2 passes, 45 BPS schools will close within 12 years. This will be horribly disruptive for our school district and hurt the most vulnerable students.

    I ask everyone to please vote No on 2.

  30. As all schools’track’ students at various levels of education classes based on their perceived notion of the students’ academic potential, or the money their parents have…

    it would be a very good plan for Boston and surrounding areas to develop genuine vocational education planning in the trades work.

    There are not so many students interested in studying literature, science, history philosophy, but likely many are interested carpentry, electricity, construction, welding and iron works.

    These students should get the training they deserve from the public system.

  31. I respect you, Will, but I am voting YES and wanted to address many of the posts here. Yes, I serve on a School Committee that voted (5-2) to endorse No on 2. I am speaking for myself – I believe voting YES on Question 2 is a vote for equity and best for all students.

    I agree the technical argument that there is more funding is a distraction. What really matters to me is that the results are significant, for urban students, and closing achievement gaps is real in our urban charter schools – which have similar attrition rates, similar demographics (they didn’t used to now they do) and similar suspension rates.

    In the discussion of charter schools expansion, there are passionate views on all sides, and some confusion. The charter school movement is about public school choice and raising the bar. That was the central issue in Brown v. Board of Ed. – and the daughter of Rev. Brown whose name is on that decision endorses Yes on 2 for expanding charters in Massachusetts.

    Critically important to note for Massachusetts voters: There are no, as in ZERO, for-profit companies holding charters. And only 3 are even managed by a non-profit – SABIS, in Springfield, the regional director is daughter of civil rights icon Rev. Shuttlesworth. Most of the news and reports and articles on charters are about other states – yes, I’ve seen the John Oliver video. It’s funny and raises good questions – but it is not about Massachusetts charters. We have the best in the nation. In fact most of the information about charters is based on data from other states. Basing a decision on Question 2 on studies of charters in other states would be like reading a study on public school achievement in Mississippi (ranked last in the country Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count study) and concluding all public schools were at that level. Just plain wrong and not defensible by an educated voter.

    Those of us who live in districts where the traditional schools are working for our children – my own were in Cambridge public schools K-12 – should support families seeking choice for their children. Question 2 will only affect districts where enough families want an alternative and there are not existing charter school caps. The proposal says “up to 12” – not “12” and requires the same approval process. It’s HARD to get a charter –only about 3 -4 per year succeed in Mass. That won’t change – what will change is that areas with demand, like Boston, near the cap could see more. Today more than 300 districts in the state have less than 20 students in charters. And only 50 districts have 5% or more in charters – in all those places a charter school could be opened tomorrow. Where families believe traditional schools work for their kids, there won’t be charters. It is an unfounded scare tactic used by opponents – the ballot question specifies that the same process for approval will be used.

    The fact is for low-income students of color, the evidence is clear: charters work better. MIT, Harvard, Stanford all have done independent studies and found large positive affects for those students.

    How is it than in this state with our proud record of supporting crticial thinking and analysis that studies by Harvard, MIT AND Stanford are dismissed? I am stunned that many people opposing the expansion wave their hands and ignore the statistically significant positive results – in test scores, in graduation rates, in college attendance and persistence. In Massachusetts and especially Boston charter schools serve low-income students of color better than traditional public schools. Look up the studies. And two of them corrected for selection bias.

    How can we say to the thousands of families on waitlists, and there are 10,000 more on waitlist for METCO – “sorry, you’re wrong, we know better and you will be fine at a traditional public school”?

    The No side has ominous ads claiming that charters drain $400+ million from public schools – completely false. That amount is used to educate PUBLIC schools students – who happen to be in charters, enrolled by lottery. The amount is based on the same per pupil expenditures as in traditional public schools. That’s 4% of funding to educate 4% of students. When a student from Cambridge goes to Minuteman Tech, we pay over $20,000 – it’s the same principle for charters. For METCO students enrolled in other districts, the state Chapter 70 funds that would have gone to Boston follow the student. Although not as much as charter tuition – it is the same principle.

    In Boston the chances of a 10th grade African American scoring advanced on the MCAS are two to three times higher if enrolled in a charter school compared to a non-exam traditional public school. And we’re limiting the possibility of expanding those schools why?

    Then there’s the red herring that charter schools are not exactly reflective of a district – that was true for some. Charters have always enrolled disproportionately more low-income students of color and do well by them, a reason that Obama and Clinton support well-run accountable charters, which is what Massachusetts has. However, here there were fewer English Language Learners [ELL] and Students with Disabilities [SWD], so the state stepped in and now holds charters accountable for those subgroups. Guess what? The numbers are rising, and the results are similar: charters do better by ELL and SWD students too.

    Outcomes and family choice are why I, a solid liberal public school fan, Democrat and School Committee member in Cambridge, am voting Yes on Ballot Question 2. I urge every citizen who wants to improve educational outcomes and support families and raise the bar for all students to do the same.

    1. Patty, you have erected a straw man to argue against, a straw man that no one here is actually arguing.

      I haven’t seen a single participant in this discussion argue that Massachusetts charter schools do a worse job of educating their students than traditional public school, and several of the people here arguing against question 2 have said they agree with question 2 proponents that Mass. charter schools do a better job.

      The vast majority of your argument is against the straw-man claim that people here are saying charter schools are worse for students. No one is saying that.

      The real problem with your argument is this: “I agree the technical argument that there is more funding is a distraction.” And here’s the problem: pretty much everyone here who is arguing against question 2 bases their objection on the fact that, given the current funding model, it is not sustainable for us to keep approving more charter schools. That is, that continuing to approve new charter schools without fixing the funding model will quite literally decimate school districts — especially the urban school districts you and everyone else here are concerned about. It’s not just a “technical argument.” It’s not just a “distraction.” It’s the primary reason why we oppose question 2, as Senator Brownsberger has made perfectly clear in his numerous postings on this site about question 2, and as many of us have made clear in our comments here.

      You fail to address this point at all. You simply wave your hand, call it a “technical argument” and a “distraction,” and ignore it. You can’t wave this issue away.

      200 school committees all over the state — literally 200 committees, I’m not making that number up — have voted to oppose question 2. There isn’t a single school committee in the entire state that has voted to support it. The vast majority of opponents of question 2 have stated that the primary reason for their opposition is financial: the math just doesn’t work. The money isn’t there.

      The Massachusetts legislature has, frankly, an awful, abysmal, terrible, appalling record of adequately funding mandates. The strategy of, “Pass the mandate now, and then the legislature will be forced to fund it because it’ll be a disaster if it doesn’t work,” is not a strategy that works in this state; all you need do to prove that is look at the state of the MBTA. And, for that matter, the state of the Boston Public Schools and other urban school districts which have never in my lifetime been adequately funded.

      So Senator Brownsberger, and I, and the many other opponents of question 2 are saying, “We can’t benefit the small number of students who will be able to get into expanded charter schools at the expense of the much, much larger number of students who won’t. That’s not OK. Our schools have to be improved for everyone, not just for a few lucky souls. Fix the funding model, then, when that’s done, we can open new charter schools. Not before.”

      The money is the issue. Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

      1. Thanks, Jonathan, for this great response.

        Patty, all good to disagree. I would comment that Cambridge is the one community in state where it is almost true that money is no object.

        But in most other communities, the financial impact is a big deal.

        1. I do address it – I mention that funding has gone up in many districts, including Boston which will be most affected, That district continues to get substantial increases in funding. And about the same % of the city budget. What do you think about the report from the Mass. Taxpayers Assn? They seemed pretty clear – and they are not charter school partisans.

          1. The Boston Public Schools faced a $30 million structural deficit in its 2016-7 budget. Two of my kids in BPS schools were among those impacted by the resulting budget cuts. Many more students would have been impacted if there hadn’t been multiple student walkouts last spring which forced the district to reconsider its planned budget cuts at many schools.

            The financial woes faced by BPS and other urban school districts are objectively true; they are not subject to interpretation.

            The financial impact that will result from increasing charter schools is objectively true; it is not subject to interpretation.

            The Massachusetts Taxpayers Association report was a ridiculously biased, inaccurate hack-job. You are very confused if you think they didn’t approach this issue with an agenda.

            If you continue to argue that increasing charter schools will have no negative financial impact on BPS and other districts, when Senator Brownsberger, Mayor Walsh, BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang, and 200 school districts across the state all unequivocally say otherwise, then there’s really nothing more for us to discuss. Denying this reality is, frankly, as absurd as denying the reality of climate change.

      2. Thanks for your thought JK. Yes, fix the funding model. The MBTA is an apt analogy. Let’s fund both the MBTA and Public Schools with taxes collected at the state level instead of local real estate taxes.

        “We can’t benefit the small number of students who will be able to get into expanded charter schools at the expense of the much, much larger number of students who won’t.” I couldn’t agree more.

      3. No – outcomes is the issue. And thousands of students on waitlists. And schools that are not serving the kids well. The way we all benefit and end this is to collaborate. The way it becomes moot is that no more families seek charter schools. They only do it if the regular public schools are not working. And what do you think about he Mass. Taxpayers Assn. study that found charter schools are not the problem in terms of funding?

        1. Yes, outcomes are absolutely the issue. Outcomes for all students, not just those who get into charter schools.

          Just as the math of what will happen to traditional public school budgets if charter schools increase is objective fact, what will happen to “outcomes” overall is also objective fact: students in charter schools may get a better education, but the education provided by non-charter schools will get worse, and overall, outcomes will worsen.

          Denying this reality doesn’t make it false; it merely indicates that proponents of question 3 have an ulterior motive which is something other than improving “outcomes” across the board for all students.

          If you don’t have such an ulterior motive, the you have been tricked by question 3 proponents into helping them achieve their agenda.

  32. Thank you Sen. Brownsberger for supporting Public Education for all children in the Commonwealth, not just those who are taken off a lottery wait list and manage to avoid being thrown out of their charter school when their grades low.

    Gov. Charlie Baker is a great disappointment who will never get my vote. He is dismantling Public Education for all.

  33. Kamens responding to Nolan: “The vast majority of your argument is against the straw-man claim that people here are saying charter schools are worse for students. No one is saying that.”

    Nowhere in Nolan’s message can I find her make that argument.

    The kinds of arguments that Nolan was addressing seen on this site, this month, in response to the Senator’s postings, are those like these: “In some urban areas they may produce slightly better. But they also educate less special ed and English language learner students”, “Although the charter school system appears to give better results on the MCAS, it does so at the sacrifice of imaginative curricula and elimination students who do not do well on tests”, “So in a way they can hand pick their students. Everyone’s test scores would go up if we were all able to hand pick our students”, “they cherry-pick their students,” “they are ‘culling’ the class to retain only the test-score producers that will keep them in business. If they backfilled their seats when they threw kids out, the ‘waiting list’ would disappear. But then their scores would mirror those of the real public schools, and they couldn’t justify their ‘model’ of privatization and union-busting.” “Charters don’t teach better — they sort better. They sort out good test-takers and drive out the rest — back to the real public schools, which have fewer resources due to the charter school drain.”

    If you are familiar with the Save our Schools literature opposing the cap lift, Jonathan, or listen to their debating positions, you will see that they front and center regale us with such arguments, including supplying data that is demonstrably false. I have previously provided here examples of the latter.

    While many of those arguments that Nolan was addressing are based on a grain of truth, the academic research, as she suggests, has quite effectively dispelled their conclusions. Take for example, the Stanford CREDO study that found that results for the typical student in a Boston charter equated “to more than twelve months of additional learning per year in reading and thirteen months greater progress in math.” That study made matches in respect to English proficiency, special ed status AND starting test scores (together with gender, ethnicity, lunch status and grade level) and found Boston students progressing enormously rapidly relative to those matched on all those bases.

    One superficially persuasive argument we hear is that when you match a charter ELL student with a district ELL student for research purposes one may not be accounting for the likelihood that the district ELL students on average are fresher to this country, less advanced in ELL proficiency. But that forgets that they are not just matched on ELL status but also matched on the basis of test score via research methodology like CREDO’s. Same thing in respect to SPED students. And the widespread arguments that high attrition at charter schools is the main determinant of academic success collapse upon careful examination.

    I think you, Jonathan, and Senator Brownsberger are well ahead of much of the anti-Q2 crowd in recognizing these realities, and might do well to do more to encourage others along.

    In respect to impacts on those who do not attend charter schools, the fact that school committees don’t want to cede any authority to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education seems unsurprising, unconvincing.

    And Boston finance folks may call their projections “moderate” or “conservative”, but is there really a credible basis for the notion that the Mayor’s proposal of a 1/2% per year cap lift would increase Boston charter seats by 3,000 over what would otherwise occur, while Q2 would be expected to increase those seats by 16,000?

    Anyone have readily available figures as to how rapidly new charter schools have been created in Boston over the past 10 or 15 years? How many charter seats have been in use each year? That would seem a good starting point for reasonable projections. That and an understanding that the Mayor has had a good working relationship with the administration and the notion that the state would not continue cautious in its approach to charter expansion would require a strong rationale, one I’ve not seen here. It looks to me like BPS enrollment has dropped by an average of just 1/2% per year over the past 10 years. Should we expect that to continue for the next 10 years? Or something radically different?

    Sam Tyler understands the Boston budget about as well as anyone… perhaps he’s right that we may need something like Question 2 to help impel many major, long overdue, improvements in how BPS operates.

    Your assumption, Jonathan, seems to be that if kids at charter schools rapidly advance in reading and writing ability that will inevitably inflict harm on those in traditional schools. My expectation is that charter and traditional schools can improve side by side as they have been doing since the 1993 Ed Reform bill.

    1. I am not going to play the cherry-picking game you’re playing here, Stephen.

      There are studies which show that charter school students perform much better. There are other studies which show that they don’t. The truth is clearly somewhere in the middle. As other, quite well-informed people have discussed in comments below.

      And, as I’ve already explained, I don’t even feel it’s necessary to wade into the question of whether charter schools are better or worse for their students, because my much larger concern is what they will do to the traditional schools.

      Your assumption, Jonathan, seems to be that if kids at charter schools rapidly advance in reading and writing ability that will inevitably inflict harm on those in traditional schools. My expectation is that charter and traditional schools can improve side by side as they have been doing since the 1993 Ed Reform bill.

      I have already addressed this argument in response to your previous comments. I shan’t waste my time or yours addressing it again.

      That and an understanding that the Mayor has had a good working relationship with the administration and the notion that the state would not continue cautious in its approach to charter expansion would require a strong rationale, one I’ve not seen here.

      Right. So we’re just supposed to trust Charlie Baker, a strong proponent of charter schools and privatization, not to use question 2 to further his agenda of weakening the teachers’ unions and privatizing public education to as large an extent as he can while he is in office. No, thank you.

      I would imagine that Mayor Walsh is in a far better position than you or I to know whether he can trust Charlie Baker to “continue cautious in [his] approach.” He doesn’t seem to.

      Anyone have readily available figures as to how rapidly new charter schools have been created in Boston over the past 10 or 15 years? How many charter seats have been in use each year? That would seem a good starting point for reasonable projections.

      Or we could look at the fact that existing law authorizes up to 120 charter schools in Massachusetts, and right now there are only 83 schools. I.e., without passing this law, the DESE could approve about 40 more schools. Tell me, then, why the power play?

      But really, debating how much new charter schools will negatively impact the finances of the districts in which they are located is fiddling while Rome burns. We don’t have to ask when or in how long that could happen, or how many charter schools will have to open before it will become an issue, because it’s already an issue. Remember that $30 million structural deficit BPS faced for 2016-7? The financial impact of money being drained from traditional schools for charter schools is being felt in urban distracts now, right now, already. Every single charter school seat that opens — every single one, drip, drip, drip — makes the problem worse. To deny this is to deny mathematical facts.

      Sam Tyler understands the Boston budget about as well as anyone…

      Well, let’s see what Sam Tyler has to say: “The charter reimbursement is subject to appropriation, and from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2012, the Commonwealth appropriated 100% of its obligation. The state paid 96.8% of its obligation to Boston in fiscal 2013 and 97.9% in fiscal 2014. However, in fiscal 2015 only 63.5% of Boston’s obligation was funded, which represented a revenue loss of $12.2 million for the City. The current fiscal 2016 state budget only provides funding for the first year of the reimbursement formula and is short $16.2 million. As a result, over the last two years, the City has had a total shortfall of $28.3 million in charter reimbursements.”

      So, BPS faces a nearly $30 million structural deficit in its 2016-7 budget, and the state’s failure to adequately fund district reimbursement for charter school students deprived BPS of nearly $30 million in aid that it was supposed to receive from the state. The fact that those two numbers are so close to each other is just a coincidence, but what a fascinating one!

      Tyler fantasizes that under “the Governor’s proposed budget for fiscal 2017,” BPS will actually receive more than it receives under current formulas, a claim I find exceedingly hard to believe. Certainly, Senator Brownsberger doesn’t seem to believe it, and he’s in a better position to know than you, or I, or Tyler.

      perhaps he’s right that we may need something like Question 2 to help impel many major, long overdue, improvements in how BPS operates.

      Or perhaps BPS has not been adequately funded for as long as I have been alive, and while it still has a long way to go, despite the inadequate funding it has still managed to make great strides in improving the quality of education it provides, and if it were actually adequately funded, it would be able to do even better, but people like Charlie Baker and the other folks at Great Schools Massachusetts would rather privatize education and crush the teachers’ unions than fund public education adequately.

      The thing is, I don’t disagree with any of the recommendations Tyler makes in that report. There are, however, three problems: (1) there is no reason to believe that the legislature will fully fund the charter tuition reimbursement (the state just doesn’t have the money); (2) there is no reason to believe the legislature will approve legislation allowing for a unified, neighborhood-based enrollment system for BPS and Commonwealth charter shools; and (3) the BPS effort to address its structural deficit is, by necessity, a long-term plan, ten years at a minimum, during which (if question 2 is passed) several new charter schools could open in Boston and drain significant additional funds from the traditional schools.

      Do you know what would have made me support question 2? If these issues had been resolved before it was put on the ballot. As I’ve said in other comments here, I am not opposed to expanding charter schools; what I am opposed to is expanding charter schools before the other issues which are causing charter schools to negatively impact the finances of the districts in which they open are resolved.

      In respect to impacts on those who do not attend charter schools, the fact that school committees don’t want to cede any authority to the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education seems unsurprising, unconvincing.

      Right. There are 200 school committees all over the state whose members are craven and power-hungry and care more about their own power than doing what’s right for the students in their districts.

      How did you put it? Oh yes… I find that theory “unsurprising, unconvincing.”

      And I’m curious how your theory about not wanting to cede any authority explains Senator Brownsberger’s opposition to the initiative, or David Magnani’s.

      1. Kamens: “There are studies which show that charter school students perform much better. There are other studies which show that they don’t.”

        I think it can be helpful for us to carefully examine the relevant research and what else can best inform us, including of course conversations with knowledgeable families, and develop a general, vague impression of roughly how much value charter schools are adding for their students, whether it’s 70%, 40%, 25%… and at how much additional cost… whether it’s 11%, 5%, 2% or whatever…

        Kamens, interpreting my position: “Right. There are 200 school committees all over the state whose members are craven and power-hungry and care more about their own power than doing what’s right for the students in their districts.”

        I take power hungry as a given, and not as a fault, among politicians, as it can be for generous purposes.

        As for “craven”, can we swap that out for “credulous”, and perhaps reach agreement?

        For example, listen to Marshfield School Committee chairman, Sean Costello, in his October 24th debate with Marty Walz on Greater Boston.

        At 11:04 he says: “In Boston there’s proof that students who go to a charter versus go to a public school don’t graduate from a 4-year college on time as much as they do from a public school.”

        That’s not accurate, up-to-date information despite what SOS flyers would have us believe. The Mass. Association of School Committees has provided additional inaccurate information to its membership, at times interspersing it with, at best tangential, quotes from Auditor Bump, presumably believing that that adds credibility. That certainly undermines my sense that the School Committees have generally stayed up-to-date and well-informed about the pertinent issues.

        Similarly, I’m afraid to say, with Magnani. Seems like an admirable guy. But in his October 15, 2016 op-ed piece he writes: “In addition, a 2009 study of the Boston schools indicated that the suspension and dropout rates for charter schools is higher than for district schools and the children who leave them most often return to the district schools, again creating an even more uneven playing field.” And I wince. He’s apparently referring to an MTA “study” that was inaccurate and misleading back then, and irrelevant, to say the least, to current reality except as evidence of the staying power of myths some wish to believe.

        As for Brownsberger. Seems like a deep thinker. One who plans several moves ahead. I have no great quarrel with a legislator saying let us work this out in the legislature if I think they’re genuinely motivated to struggle for a better solution and believe it’s feasible. A main complaint in respect to Brownsberger (and the legislature as a whole): I think there’s far too much palpably false information being disseminated (with that 2009 “study” as a prime example) primarily but not exclusively by the No on 2 crowd. And I don’t understand why legislators haven’t more assertively tried to dispel the myths. Though I give Brownsberger credit for being at the forefront of any such efforts, inadequate as they have been. (In this interesting chat at the Boston Public Library last week, Professor Patrick McQuillan, BC Lynch School of Education, really emphasized the importance of trying to get folks on the same page with the underlying facts early on in controversies like this.)

        But in any event, I tend to hang out a lot closer to Boston City Councillor Andrea Campbell’s territory, am deeply impressed with her intelligence also, and feel like her position well represents her constituents’ interests. And they, I think we’d agree, are more pertinent in this question than the immediate, direct interests of those whom Senator Brownsberger currently represents admirably well.

        I’m particularly curious, Jonathan, at your skepticism that “the legislature will approve legislation allowing for a unified, neighborhood-based enrollment system”. You think the MTA would strive successfully to block that in the Senate? I’d be interested in Senator Brownsberger’s take on that also. And I have seen neither of you address the millionaire’s tax that I can recall. I think that it’s very close to certain to pass if Question 2 passes. And should have a significant effect on any economic forecasts re: Q 2’s effects.

        1. I’m impressed by how you’ve pivoted the question of whether school committees are against charter schools because of an unwillingness to cede local control, a claim which you raised, into the question of whether school committees are misinformed about charter school performance.

          In fact, you seem rather insistent about redirecting the discussion back to charter school performance.

          Which I get, really I do, since I am equally insistent about focusing on the question of what increased charter school attendance will do to the performance of the students left behind in the non-charter schools.

          Here’s the thing, Stephen… I know you are convinced that you have the One Truth about charter school performance and anyone who says anything that contradicts the beliefs you’ve formed and the studies you’ve chosen to rely on is credulous, misinformed, or being intentionally misleading.

          But maybe it’s just because they think you’re wrong just like you think they’re wrong. And maybe they have a leg to stand on.

          Or who knows, maybe they don’t. Maybe you’re right that they’re misinformed and wrong about charter school performance. That would be unfortunate, absolutely. It would not, however, change my opinion one bit, nor do I think it should change anyone else’s, for reasons I have already explained at length in detail, reasons for which no one here has provided any sort of convincing response… because there isn’t one.

          “But question 2 opponents are lying about charter schools! How can you agree with their position if they’re lying!” And question 2 supporters are lying outright about the financial impact of charter schools on non-charter schools, and engaging in the speculative fiction that somehow all of the improvements that BPS has made since 1993 are magically attributable to the presence of a few charter schools in the district, an unproven and unprovable claim with a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

          So if you want to talk about one side or the other stretching the truth, you know what? The yes-on-2 folks are guilty of far more lying and ignoring of reality than the no-on-2 folks.

          My opinion on this issue is not based on the political strategy that either side is using to try to convince voters. My opinion is based on the facts.

          In addition to steering the conversation back to the issue of performance whenever it isn’t going your way, your comment above engages in at least two other disingenuous debate tactics. I don’t know whether you’re doing that knowingly or not, but either way, I have no more time or energy to engage in debate with someone who keeps moving the goalposts.

  34. “The MassHealth program covers 1.9 million people, 27% (read that again) of the state’s population. Rising enrollment has driven MassHealth costs up to $15.4 billion, roughly 35% of the state’s total spending”

    What a tragically shocking and saddening statistic for such an educated affluent state.

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