Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Community forum debates Question 2

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Collegian)

Students, faculty and members of the community met Tuesday night in the Integrative Learning Center to discuss the benefits and ramifications regarding Question 2, and how the voting this November will impact public and charter schools going forward.

Question 2 is a proposal on whether or not to increase the role of charter schools in Massachusetts. The forum featured an expert panel including supporters on both sides of the issue, who received questions from a media panel as well from people in attendance and on Twitter.

A “yes” vote on Question 2 would authorize the addition of 12 new charter schools, or the expansion of enrollment in existing charter schools each year by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. A “no” vote would maintain the current charter school cap.

William Diehl, Executive Director of Collaborative for Educational Services and supporter of the no vote, spoke as an expert panelist on how this issue is stigmatizing.

“I do want to say out front that this is a very complex issue. I recognize that people of good will, intelligence and analyst skills who care deeply about the education of children can end up on different conclusions,” Diehl said. “But the results, whatever they may be, will be extremely hard to turn back.”

There are currently 78 operating charters in the state and the cap is 120 charters operating at one point, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Charter Schools first came to Massachusetts as part of the Education Reform Act of 1993.

Marc Kenen, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Charter School Association and Julia Mejia, a parent of students at Brooke Charter Schools Boston, were on the expert panel and spoke on why it’s important that people vote “yes” on Question 2.

“This referendum question is focused entirely on our urban communities. This is not about suburbs, this is not about rural Western Mass. This is about cities in Massachusetts where children and families are struggling to get basic educational needs met,” Kenen said.

Charter Schools have a goal to prioritize applicants that are in the bottom 25 percent districts.

There is currently a debate on whether or not charter schools take funding away from public schools, but according to the Department of Education, the percent of reimbursements to districts in 2016 is 62 percent.

In addition to William Diehl, Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, talked about the reality that people would face if there is a “yes” vote for Question 2.

“I think a ‘yes’ vote really puts us in the position to profoundly undermine public education…If we were to pass this we would be losing 100 million more each year in perpetuity. That would eventually destabilize public schools. Districts are going to have to start making cuts. Those cuts are real whether it’s art, librarian, music, [or] language programs,” Madeloni said.

The open forum, titled “Raise the Charter School Cap?” was sponsored by the Daily Hampshire Gazette, The Recorder, The Valley Advocate, WHMP, NCTV, UMass Journalism Department and League of Women Voters according to the events website.

The forum featured arguments from both sides, but supporters of each side from the expert table and in the audience were ardent in their support for “yes” or “no.” Leslie Fisher-Katz, 53, was in attendance of the forum.

“I’m 1,000 percent bored with the other side’s position; it has nothing to do with what’s good for kids, it’s 100 percent about what’s good for the [teachers’] union, what’s good for jobs, schools, but not about what is good for kids,” Fisher-Katz said.

At one point during the forum, Marc Kenen and Julia Mejia had to address people in the back of the auditorium for being disrespectful and creating an intimidating atmosphere. The event continued after this without any other incidents occurring.

Mejia offered a unique perspective from someone who has insider’s experience with charter schools.

“If the cap doesn’t get lifted that’s going to be less opportunities and resources for families to get out. It would be a devastating blow for those seeking opportunity,” Mejia said.

Dan Curtin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @dmcurtin96.


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  • L

    LeslieOct 26, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    I wonder if either of you who are so accusatory about providing choice of quality schools to low performing districts have ever had a child who needed something different than the the district schools are offering and at the same time did not have the resources to choose a private education? This is the plight of the 32,000 kiddos on waitlists. I hope you consider those families while you make your accusations, judgements and edicts.

  • J

    Jack CoveyOct 24, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    During the remaining days leading up to Tuesday, November 8, as you see or listen to the slick and expensive Madison Avenue-level TV/radio commercials promoting “YES” on Question 2 promulgating such lies as …

    “Question 2 will add more money to public schools (LIE: it won’t. In fac
    it will do just the opposite.


    “Question 2 won’t take money away from existing public schools (LIE: it will… a lot of money, in fact.)

    … or when view the slick mailers you find in your mailbox, or when listen to robo-calls, think about this following post about EXACTLY WHO is paying for those ads:

    The latest is that over $21.7 million of out-of-state money from the most ruthless capitalists who have ever walked the Earth — Eli Broad, the Walton family of Walmart, Wall Street hedge fund managers, etc. — is pouring into Massachusetts to pass Question 2.

    Read this well-researched article here for that $21.7 million figure:

    These profit-minded plutocrats who are pouring in this money obviously …

    — do not live in Massachusetts,

    — have no children, grandchildren, or other relatives that attend public schools in Massachusetts

    — have never given a sh#% about the education of middle or lower income until recently, when they realized they could make a buck off privatizing Massachusetts schools via the expansion of privately-run charter schools,.

    They want to these corporate charter schools to replace truly public schools — the ones that, for generations, have been accountable and transparent to the public via democratically elected school boards, and which are mandated to educate ALL of the public… including those hardest or most difficult to educate … special ed., English Language Learners, homeless kids, foster care kids, kids with difficult behavior arising from distressed home lives.

    Are proponents of Question 2 seriously making the argument that out-of-state billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers are pumping in all this money because those folks care so much about the education of kids in Massachusetts?

    You really think they are NOT seeking a big money return on these ($21.7 million campaign donations?

    Does that pass the smell test?

    Can you provide an example of JUST ONE TIME in the past where they poured in this kind of cash to something … no strings attached, and with no expectations of return?

    If, as Q 2 supporters like Marty Walz claim, the most ruthless capitalists that have ever walked the Earth are now kicking in this kind of cash to pass Question 2 merely because they care about children’s education —

    … and if they are not about their profiting through the privatization of public schools brought about by the expansion of privately-run charter schools,

    … then I’m sure one of you Q 2 supporters could google and find a past example where they have done something similar .. .again out of generosity… with no expectation of an eventual monetary return…

    Something like …

    “Well, back in 2000-something, or 1900-something, these same folks donated $20 million to the (INSERT CHARITABLE CAUSE HERE). Here’s the link that proves this.”

    No, I didn’t think so. When this was brought up in a debate, Mary Walz refused to address it, saying, “We need to talk about the kids, not the adults.” Well, keeping money-motivated scum from raping and pillaging Massachusetts public schools IS CARING ABOUT THE KIDS, Marty! (By the way, those are many of the same folks who raped and pillaged the housing/mortgage industry a decade ago … go watch the film THE BIG SHORT to get up to speed on that … they’ve just moved on to new place to plunder.)

    So the real question is:

    To whom do the schools of Massachusetts belong? The citizens and parents who pay the taxes there?

    Or a bunch of money-motivated out-of-state billionaires and Wall Street hedge fund managers who are trying to buy them via Question 2, and the expansion of privately-managed charter schools which they control, or also profit from their on-line and digital learning products that will be sold to these charter school chains?

    If you believe the former, THEN FOR GOD’S SAKE, VOTE “NO” ON QUESTION 2.

    Send them a message: Massachusetts schools are NOT FOR SALE!!!

    Oh and go watch the John Oliver charter school video:
    Oh and listen to this dissection of a “YES on 2” radio ad:

    or watch this video:

  • J

    Jack CoveyOct 19, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Massachusetts Charter Public School Association executive director Mark Kennan and other pro-Question 2 folks are engaging in race-baiting.

    Playing the race card or the white guilt card (or wealthy guilt car) is a pretty lame and divisive tactic on the part of Marc Kenan — the Executive Director and Foiunder of the Massachusetts Charter School Association, and who helped draft Question 2 — and all the folks allied with Marc to pass Question 2.

    Go here:

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    ( 35:02 – )
    ( 35:02 – )

    MARC KENAN: “We have our strongest opposition from the teachers unions across the state, whose leadership is primarily white… (So-effing-what, Marc?! JACK) … our goal, and whom we are trying to serve, are those black and brown parents and young parents who are trying desperately to get alternatives for their children.”

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    Replace “primarily white” in that first sentence with “primarily Jewish.” See how that sounds.

    With tens of millions of dollars going to political campaign operatives, I’m guessing this specious race-baiting was dreamed up by those guys, and then tested on focus groups where those experts found out that these messages worked in getting folks to vote YES on 2.

    This scuzzy and divisive tactic works two ways:

    ON WHITES: it’s a way to use white guilt to pressure white voters into voting Question 2.

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    MESSAGE to Whites:

    “You don’t want to be one of those racists who keep blacks from getting a good education, now, do you? Vote ‘YES’ on Question 2, and earn your ‘I’m-No-Racist!’ merit badge.”

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    For whites, it’s an easy way to prove you’re not a racist, and make yourself feel good in the voting booth… regardless of how off-base that thinking actually is.

    ON BLACKS: it’s a way to use historical black anger against white oppression and mistreatment to vote “YES” on 2.

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    MESSAGE to African-Americans:

    “White folks in upscale Massachusetts cities and neighborhoods are stealing black kids’ promise of a great education and keeping black kids from having good schools, just the way they’ve been doing this forever. Stick it to those racist whiteys and vote ‘YES’ on Question 2.”

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

    As a Los Angeleno, this demagogic re-framing of the issues reminds me the way attorney Johnny Cochran, in the O.J. Simpson trial, successfully manipulated the black jurors and black population into abandoning their common sense and critical thinking to render their verdict, and act the way they did. He brought in an irrelevant and inflammatory context of historical racism, and attached it to the way a true black person should think and act regarding O.J.’s guilt or innocence.

    “Here’s your chance to even the score with The Man. Vote to acquit!”


    “If you’re in the black community, back your brother O.J. in his time of need, and stick it to the racist power structure.”

    That’s how and why you got this abomination. (Note the different reactions of blacks and whites to the live announcement of O.J.’s acquittal):

    ( 1:01 – )
    ( 1:01 – )

    For Marc Kenan and his Massachusetts Public Charter School Association (which Marc founded) to stoop to this level of pernicious exploitation of historical racism is pretty scuzzy and skeevy. However, I imagine this is what the high-priced political campaign experts whom the “YES” on Question 2″ folks hired told him to say at the debate and elsewhere. … and Marc figures,

    “Oh what the heck. As scuzzy and skeevy as this tactic is, all’s fair in politics, and you do whatever you have to in order to win. The ends justify the means, blah-blah-blah … ”

    In all my campaigns for which I’ve volunteered — for school board members, politicians, initiatives, etc. — I’ve never had to be associated with such sleazy campaign tactics or messages that violated my own moral code, and I never will be, as I will drop out if engaging in this kind of stuff is what you have to do in order to win.