Question 2 poses threat to health of public schools
To the editor:
Looming this fall is what some have called an existential threat to the very nature of public education. Question 2 on the November ballot dangerously allows for increasing the drain of taxpayer dollars from traditional public schools to establish 12 additional or expanded charters annually — forever!
Currently, charters siphon over $413 million from traditional Massachusetts public schools (over $4 million from the Berkshires) while serving only 4 percent of students, negatively impacting services for 96 percent in systems already estimated to be $1 billion underfunded. These maneuvers, creating what the NAACP has called separate and unequal education, are allowed without oversight by locally elected school committees, even over local objection, thus tantamount to taxation without representation!
Opposition to Question 2 does not threaten existing charters nor those that can still be established under the current cap despite criticism of their not meeting an initially intended purpose, questions about licensed educators, methods of screening and moving out certain types of students, and connections of some proponents to sources of deep pockets with dark money. Is that truly public education?
My reasons for voting No on Question 2 also reflect the reasons I chose to become a public school educator. Public education is the "great equalizer" and path to a brighter future. I've experienced the often limited and difficult choices for a kid growing up in a tough section of a city. Education was the choice and road that has made all the difference. Now, I understand that the greatest investment and contribution I can make is to do all I can to assure the best possible education for my children and the children of others in my community.
I appreciate the motivation of parents to push for improved public schools. However, siphoning money from existing public schools struggling to stretch limited resources to meet increasingly complex and expanding student needs, fixed costs and mandates (often underfunded) is counterproductive public policy. It exacerbates the current condition of public education, creates a two-track system which will strangle the future of public education and expands the divide between societal groups.
I hope voters will join with the NAACP, our Berkshire legislative delegation, scores of school committees, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and members of many other labor and civic organizations including the Democratic State Committee to Save Our Public Schools and vote No on Question 2.
Neil Clarke, Lee The writer is the Massachusetts Teachers Association Senate district coordinator for Berkshire, Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Counties.