Compelling reasons to halt charter school expansion existed long before Massachusetts citizens delivered a resounding no vote at the ballot box November 8.
Pro-charter wonks received their comeuppance in two significant ways; first, learning that an informed electorate can see beyond the hype, no matter how hard it’s driven and second, that millions of “dark money” dollars from out of state donors can’t trump facts once the public recognizes them.
In its rejection of lifting the cap on charter schools in a landslide 62%-38% tally, the electorate, also, served to pull back the cellophane curtain to illuminate the genre’s obvious flaws.
Unfortunately, the campaign to enlighten voters on charter school shortcomings did not come from the big city daily newspapers who promoted a yes vote on the referendum- right up to election day.
Print media, especially, flooded newsstands with editorials, op-eds and implicit bias- all in a last-ditch effort to inflate charter school’ dubious claims to being “game changers” and “innovation engineers” in public education.
But, oddly, once votes were tabulated and an overwhelming verdict against charter school expansion was known, the Boston Globe still skewed the result as it featured a cut line, stating “A Win for Teachers Unions.”
A more apt cut line would have been “A Win for Public Schools” because 96% of all Massachusetts public school children will benefit from the stifling of charter school growth. Beyond the dollars charters would have drained from district school coffers, a more significant firewall, relative to the charter school genre is their exclusionary practice of “one size fits all.”
As educators, Pedagogy 101 trained us to teach the “whole child,” to recognize and champion individual differences , to implement learning strategies – one student at a time. Conversely, charter schools prefer the “funnel” approach, featuring draconian discipline codes which yield some of the commonwealth’s highest rates of out of school suspension; ostensibly, negating its grandiose claims of fostering inclusion.
The question remains, therefore, why has the print media staunchly refused to report on charter school suspensions or to reveal false, misleading numbers behind its graduation and attrition rates? Is it merely blithe ignorance of such damaging metrics, relating to charter schools? Or is it a conscious, rabid fixation with doing everything possible to derail teachers unions which it consistently scapegoats as public education’s prime bogeyman?
A viewpoint that highlighted the downside of the charter school expansion came from former Governor of the Commonwealth, Michael Dukakis, 83, patriarch of Massachusetts politics and 1988 Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
Dukakis, in a Globe report written by Jeremy C. Fox just before the election, said pro charter forces are “part of a… movement to break up, to privatize… badly harm what is a very important relationship between people and their schools.”
Meanwhile, in his post mortem comments, current Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker, who either did not envision the impending landslide against the charter school expansion or merely, decided to back entities like his former employer, the Pioneer Institute , Great Schools of Massachusetts and members of the Billionaire Boys Club (Michael Bloomberg, Sam Walton, et al) who contributed megabucks to the Vote Yes to Charter Schools initiative.
In his remarks to the Globe, Baker played the self-righteous card, and claimed pride,” in a worthwhile campaign to provide more education choices for students stuck in struggling districts…”
Obviously, in retrospect, Baker expended immense political capital in a doomed effort to expand the growth of charter schools, that was roundly rejected by the electorate. Baker, too, received his comeuppance, so he should be well advised that when he seeks another term as Governor in 2018, the electorate is not likely to forget how strongly Baker opposed the best interests of public education with his support for raising the cap on charter schools.