Weighing in on the recent efforts by the state Senate to craft a compromise bill on charter schools, Gov. Charlie Baker — again — voiced his bias in favor of lifting the charter school cap.
Gov. Baker said: “It offers no relief to 34,000 currently on a waiting list to access high-performing public charter schools,” which just adds more grist to the Great Waitlist boondoggle, the latest head to pop out in the Whac-A-Mole arcade sponsored by Baker and various other charter school luminaries.
On Feb. 18, Eileen O’Connor, spokeswoman for Great Schools Massachusetts, said the fact that “approximately 34,000 students remain trapped on waiting lists for public charter schools reaffirms the massive demand from families for these great public schools — and how vital it is that we lift the cap immediately…”
In late 2015, Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said: “The effort to lift the cap … (includes) … a lawsuit filed by parents whose children are among the 37,000 stranded on charter waiting lists statewide.”
Even the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education joined the propaganda brigade, releasing information that alleges 34,000-37,000 inhabit these waitlists.
A prominent Massachusetts education reform group, Citizens for Public Schools, contends that waitlists are being inflated by including schools that are not subject to the cap, and through the practice of rolling over old, obsolete waitlists year after year, a practice that State Auditor Suzanne Bump has repeatedly warned against.
Auditor Bump said, “The education of our children is too important to base … decisions on misleading information.”
But misleading information continues to spew forth from the charter school proponents — allegations that they’re narrowing the achievement gap, are innovative schools, and offer the best hope for education reform. But their road to victory on the 2016 ballot question to lift the charter school cap has taken an unexpected detour.
The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance, a coalition of groups supporting true education reform has embarked on its own campaign against the juggernaut led by the sitting governor.
MEJA’s campaign to Keep the Cap on Commonwealth Charter Schools is based on facts such as commonwealth charters diverting $408 million from district public schools after reimbursements are taken into account; charters are not accountable to local school committees; charter schools create a two track system of public schools — what the national NAACP calls separate and unequal, including harsh discipline policies that push out students charters don’t want.
At the Statehouse in early March, president of the New England Area Council of the NAACP. Juan Cofield, warned of the growing segregation between haves and have-nots. In a Boston Globe article (“Racial aspects tinge MA charter debate,” by Dan Scharfenburg, March 24,) he said, “As Brown v. the Board of Education taught us, a dual school system is inherently unequal.
“Even if [charters] are doing better, it’s better for the few (and) society ought to be concerned about the many.”
On the subject of waitlists, CPS cited “the number of Boston students on district waitlists is comparable to the number on commonwealth charter school waitlists.”
“Whatever the true number of students (on waitlists) affected by the cap, this must be weighed against tens of thousands of (district school) students only to have their schools closed … to have art, music, science … curtailed while public money is diverted to charter schools,” said CPS executive director, Lisa Guisbond, who added, “We have unfortunately many waitlists in Massachusetts. Roughly 17,000 for preschool. Research shows quality preschool can shrink achievement gaps.”
“Why don’t we have a ballot question bankrolled by $18 million from wealthy financiers (who are backing the charter cap lift) to cut that waitlist?”
Instead, the charter school misinformation campaign continues-part of an old adage that truth should never interfere with a good story, especially, if it can convince the low-information voter at a gut level.