BOSTON >> A left-leaning progressive business organization got behind the campaign pushing for an expansion of charter schools in Massachusetts on Thursday, an endorsement that charter supporters said will be essential to winning voter support in November.
The Alliance for Business Leadership announced its "unconditional endorsement" of Question 2, which would allow the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve up to an additional 12 charter schools or charter school expansions outside of existing caps on charter enrollment.
"As a group of progressive business leaders we tend to be historically aligned with issues of social justice and improving economic equality," Jeff Bussgang, chair of the Alliance and general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, said. "We really view this issue as central to that mission and that's what led us to come to the conclusion we should endorse the lift of the cap."
Bussgang said his organization was in favor of a legislative solution that would have avoided a ballot fight. But when it became clear the bill the Senate drew up to tie charter school expansion to increased funding for traditional public schools was not viable, the Alliance chose to back the ballot question.
"Once it became clear that this was the only path — not the path we would have liked to have seen — once it was clear the blunt tool of a ballot vote is the only tool available to us to address this issue, we coalesced very quickly behind it," Bussgang said.
The alliance's board includes Alan Solomont, former national finance chair of the Democratic Party, 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem, and longtime Democratic National Committee official James Roosevelt Jr. The alliance's president, Jesse Mermell, was a senior member of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's staff.
Bussgang said he expects the members of the Alliance to use "social media channels and networks" to advocate for a yes vote on Question 2.
The Alliance for Business Leadership has advocated for other social and economic issues on Beacon Hill, including early childhood education, paid family leave, investments in public transportation and gender pay equity legislation. The alliance joins the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform and the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance among the groups to support Question 2.
"As we spread the word about the longer school days, more individual attention, and great teaching at Massachusetts' public charter schools, the Alliance's experience bringing progressive business leaders together with policymakers and thought leaders will be essential," Eileen O'Connor, spokesperson for Great Schools Massachusetts, said in a statement.
Opponents of the charter school expansion ballot question argue that charters draw too much money away from traditional public schools and say underperforming schools should be fixed with increased investment.