Charter school foes misrepresent issue
To the editor:
Statements in the recent letter "Keep community control over public schools" are simply not true. They follow other misstatements in previous letters and columns about Question 2.
A Yes vote on Question 2 would offer more high-quality school options for families by allowing the state to approve up to 12 new public charter schools, with preference given to the state's lowest-performing school districts. These are communities like Boston, Fall River, and Lawrence where charters are making a difference, but tens of thousands of children are stuck on waiting lists because of enrollment caps.
Charter schools ARE public schools bound by the same laws as any other public school in the state. Charters operate independently of local school districts. The state Department of Education oversees charter schools and holds them to strict standards to ensure that they deliver a high-quality education to students.
Charter public schools do not siphon dollars from district public schools, as the Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation found in a study about school funding that it released Sept. 28. The organization's president said, "We found no evidence from our examination of aggregate funding levels over time of any systemic financial disadvantage to district school students."
Indeed, charter schools, like regional vocational schools and school choice, are an option available under law to Massachusetts students. Just as education dollars follow students to schools like McCann Technical School, they follow a student who chooses a charter school, except that the district continues to get some money even after the charter student leaves it.
Charter schools are locally run. It has been my privilege to have served more than nine years on the board of the Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School (BART), a public, tuition-free school serving students in grades 6-12. Like me, BART trustees live and work in the Berkshires and volunteer to provide board oversight of BART.
Charter schools do not discriminate in student selection. Nearly 40 percent of BART students are economically disadvantaged, 26 percent are students of color, and 23 percent are classified as having disabilities.
The choice BART offers to residents of the Northern Berkshires and Pittsfield is a longer school year, a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, and small class sizes. One hundred percent of our graduates have been accepted to college and 100 percent of the Class of 2016 planned to start college following graduation.
Please be aware of charter opponents' misrepresentation of the facts. I am voting Yes on Question 2 because underserved students in places like Boston deserve the chance that BART families have to choose the public school that is right for their sons and daughters.
The truth is that children who choose charters have the same right to public education funding as any other child in the Berkshires, whether that child is enrolled in a hometown district public school, a school choice district public school, a public vocational school — or a public charter school.
Dianne M. Cutillo, Adams, The writer is a current member and former Chair of the BART Charter Public School Board of Trustee.