Charter School Op Ed – Senator Patricia Jehlen (D- Somerville) and Senator Ken Donnelly (D- Arlington)

Last week, the senate voted to defeat a bill that proposed to raise the current cap on charter schools in 29 districts. Beginning in 2017 the cap would rise from 18% to 23% of those school
districts’ spending.
Before the vote, we heard from parents, advocates, students, and organizations on both sides of the argument. We sat down with whoever was willing to talk about the bill and what it would mean for students in the Commonwealth and the future of our public education system.
We went into all of these conversations with the goal of answering one essential question: what is our end game in expanding charter schools?
In 1993 when the Massachusetts Legislature voted to create charter schools, the intent was that charters would experiment with new practices for educating our children. Originally, it was intended to take the successful practices developed by charter schools and use them in the district public schools.
Today, charter schools are promoted not as collaborators with public schools, but as competitors in a marketplace where test scores take the place of profits. In this market, there are rewards for schools that can avoid students who are likely to score low. That was never the intent.
If we keep raising the cap on charter schools, more district schools will go out of business, concentrating students who face the biggest challenges in a shrinking number of district schools while extra resources go to the charters.
We will be driving a wedge deep into our communities, pitting students against each other, and effectively declaring that it is acceptable to invest in some kids while divesting from others.
That is not the answer. And that is why we believe this bill, and this issue, cannot move forward without addressing the serious implications that a dual system of public education will have on our children for generations to come.
The bill that we debated undoubtedly has merit, not least because it has sparked the important conversation about innovative ways to make charter schools more inclusive while providing funding for district public schools. But the proposed cap lift would not begin to take effect for 3 more years. Let us not make hasty choices.
Let us instead step back and consider how we can incorporate the best ideas from all schools to educate all of our children, not only to score high on standardized tests, but to develop into responsible and capable adults, ready to take their places in a complex world.
Let’s keep our eyes on 100 percent of our students, not 18, or 19, or 23 percent of them.
Senator Patricia Jehlen (D- Somerville) and Senator Ken Donnelly (D- Arlington)

2 thoughts on “Charter School Op Ed – Senator Patricia Jehlen (D- Somerville) and Senator Ken Donnelly (D- Arlington)”

  1. Ms. Adam is misinformed and does not have all the information. As a Boston teacher in a traditional Boston Public School, I agree with Senator Jehlen and Senator Donnelly 100%. This is not the time to make hasty decisions when you consider that “parent choice” doesn’t include ALL children in a community.

    The collaboration Ms. Adam spoke about between her charter school, traditional Boston public schools, and parochial (Catholic) schools is part of the “The Boston Compact!” which Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded Boston $3.25 million dollars to promote a compact between the schools. As part of accepting the grant the City of Boston agreed to lease or sell several of its school buildings to charter schools! What benefit is that to Boston Public Schools? In fact, that could create a whole new set of problems for Boston Public Schools (BPS) in the future if DESE didn’t renew a failing schools charter and BPS didn’t have the capacity to seat returning students. That’s what is happening in Lowell now! The Catholic schools did not agree to this, they have a moratorium on selling their school buildings to charters.

    If a charter school fails, and DESE revokes the schools charter, the state cannot claim ownership of the building or school assets because they are owned by the charter schools foundation! QZAB interest free bonds and Federal New Market Tax Credits, provide a 39% Tax Credit to investors, and this money is often used to build and renovate these charter schools. The Charter Schools Foundation owns the building the school resides in; the school then pays rent to the foundation. Down the line, nothing prevents the charters foundation from under-resourcing the school, which will lead to its failure, if it determines a better use for the building!

    Look, Massachusetts charter schools had 20 years to prove themselves to be “beacons of light” and “innovation.” They have only proven themselves to be segregation academies, pushing out any student who would threaten their test averages, students with disabilities, and English-language learners. A child’s education shouldn’t depend on a lottery. It’s time to direct our resources toward creating quality traditional public schools that serve the majority of our students not a selected few.

    Boston PUBLIC School Teacher

  2. Senator Jehlen-
    Thank you for your op-ed on charter schools. As a parent of 2 children, and a teacher at a Boston Public Charter School, I disagree with your stand. You say, “Let us not make hasty choices,” but I do not feel that giving families educational options for their children is a “hasty choice.” Raising the cap over 3 years is not fast enough.

    Charter schools should not be seen as competition. I believe any school that is not doing right by are kids should be closed. Our students deserve more. All teachers have the best intentions, and we should be allies in educating our children. We can all learn from each other. My school is collaborating with regular district public schools and parochial schools to share and learn from one another.

    My school is truly diverse, we represent the whole of Boston. We recruit families from varying neighborhoods and backgrounds. We, too, have special education students (18%), “High Needs” students (53%) and ELL students. I agree that we need to focus on 100% of our students. I encourage you to look at the demographics of area charter schools.

    Test results are important to us. We are held accountable (charter schools have a higher bar for accountability, in return giving our school more freedom to hire and teach as we feel appropriate) as a school to perform and show that our students are making progress. If they are not making progress, we know something has to be done, we do not take this lightly. Charter school teachers want what’s best for kids, just as district public teachers do, let’s work together and give families access to successful schools.

    Bridget Adam
    Somerville Mom and Dorchester Charter Teacher

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