Our Opinion: Big money alarm sounds on charter question

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Whenever big money enters state politics voters should be wary. That applies to a 2016 election year that is now underway.

The Boston Globe reports that advocates of a November referendum question that would lift the cap on charter schools plan to spend up to $18 million on their campaign. For comparison purposes, $20 million was spent in total on the 2014 state election campaign, which unlike this year, included a race for governor and other state offices.

The advocacy group, Families for Excellent Schools, is a nonprofit headquartered in Manhattan with ties to Wall Street businesses. Big money arriving from outside the state should make voters doubly wary.

Governor Baker is a strong advocate of more charter schools, citing the demand for them by parents of prospective students, and he is joined by House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Senate President Stanley Rosenberg is opposed based on concerns that they drain state funding from traditional public schools.

Ideally, the Legislature and governor can agree on a bill in the months ahead that would lift the charter school limit gradually while assuring funding is fair and charters cannot cherry-pick the best students. This would perhaps head off a ballot question that, like most ballot questions, is a blunt instrument which fails to take into consideration all of the subtleties and difficulties posed by the introduction of more charters.


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