Lee board recognizes peril of charter schools
To the editor:
Kudos to the Lee School Committee on its recent resolution in opposition to lifting the cap on charter schools.
This committee action is essentially a "no" vote to a proposed ballot initiative to lift the cap on charter schools in the commonwealth. If this proposed ballot initiative where to pass, the state could approve up to 12 new charter schools without the approval of local communities or school committees each year.
This proposal is being actively challenged by The Save Our Public Schools campaign which is a coalition of education, parent and community groups. According to the SOPS website, Massachusetts charter schools siphoned approximately $400 million from local dollars earmarked by local communities for local public school funding.
The expansion of charter schools in central or southern Berkshire County would be financially catastrophic to our local schools. While in Berkshire County we have only one charter school located in upper North County, the financial impact is felt as far away as Lee where the town sends an approximate annual district payment of $18,905 and suffers a reimbursement shortfall of $7,344. As educational financial support at the state level has diminished over the past decade, the costs of funding school systems have hit each municipality's pocketbook and every penny counts.
In Lee, as in all of our county schools, children receive a high-quality education and preparation for successful lives. The ability to provide the necessary resources and opportunities is threatened by the state mandated funding of charter schools which comes directly out of the pockets of local taxpayers via each town's general education funding.
This funding formula impacts the ability of local schools to provide basic educational opportunities to the children of parents who elect to enroll their children in local public schools. In addition, the state mandated funding system for charters is creating a two-track public education system in which virtually 96 percent of the students are put at risk to provide a separate and unequal system for 4 percent.
While the desire to provide each child with the opportunity to be educated in an environment best suited to his or her needs is admirable and in most cases justified, the state must find a way to provide funding for such expanded opportunities which do not add an additional burden on towns trying to finance their already cash-strapped public schools.
Thank you to the Lee School Committee for showing leadership and joining the numerous other county and state school committees taking a stand on this issue.
Amy Consolati, Lee The writer is president of the Lee Educational Association.