Letter: Question 2 about giving 33K kids a choice in education

American Solutions/Flickr
American Solutions/Flickr

In his rush to discredit public charter schools, James Mazarakis (“Expanding the charter cap is gambling the taxpayer’s money,” published Oct. 18, 2016) misstates several facts.

First, he cites a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University to suggest that public charters fall short of traditional public schools. What he neglects to mention is that in the very same study – and again in 2015 – Massachusetts public charters were deemed the best in the country when it comes to closing the achievement gap between low-income children of color and white children. Not only that, but the latter Stanford study found that Commonwealth public charters provide students with an additional 1.5 months of learning in reading and 2.5 months of additional math learning.

Mr. Mazarakis is also wrong to suggest public charters siphon funding from district schools. First off, public charters are public schools – for profit charters are illegal and there are no investors. In Massachusetts, money follows the student from one public school (the district school) to another (the public charter) and districts are reimbursed for six years after. And while funding in Massachusetts has gone up by 16.9 percent for education, still only 4 percent goes to educate students in public charters in Massachusetts. On top of that, public charters are not eligible to apply for funds from the state’s School Building Authority, which oversees financing for public school construction projects.

He also neglects to mention that in a city like Malden, little over half of kids are reading and doing math at grade level and nearly 1,800 kids are stuck on waitlists. It is precisely in these communities where public charters are having the biggest impact – because they operate independently of local school districts but with high accountability standards.

So, the real gamble isn’t if we lift the cap on public charters in Massachusetts. With 33,000 kids waiting for access, it’s what happens if we don’t. I urge readers to vote yes on Question 2.

Marc Kenen

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association