Massachusetts has many great schools and many great school districts. And as a parent, I took it for granted that my kids were going to go to the kind of school where they would get the education they needed to be successful.
But not every school district in Massachusetts is delivering on behalf of the kids that it serves. That’s why we have public charter schools today – the vast majority of which operate in urban communities where nearly half of children attend underperforming schools.
Public charters have been the path to success for many children who had no other options. But right now, 32,000 kids sit on waiting lists hoping they’ll get into one.
Their parents, for the most part, live in cities like Boston, Lawrence and Springfield. They work really hard to try and do what they can to provide for their families and serve their communities.
As a parent, I know the most important gift I can give to my children is the opportunity to attend a school that’s going to prepare them for success later in life.
Question 2 is about parents who don’t have that choice. Parents who can’t send their kids to private school or parochial school. Parents who can’t afford to move. The local public school is make or break for them.
I’ve met many of these parents. And if you’ve been to a charter school lottery, you see a lot of tears. Those who get into public charter schools cry because of the opportunity. Those who don’t get in—and there’s a lot more who don’t—they cry too, because they think their kids should get something so fundamental to their future.
All these families are looking for is an opportunity to send their kids to the same great school their neighbors do. In many cases, they live right across the street or right next door to people whose kids get to go to a public charter where they’re getting the kind of education they need. But because of the cap on public charters in Massachusetts, they can’t.
With Question 2, we have a unique opportunity to give parents in nine urban communities the choice that so many parents in Massachusetts already have. Public charter schools have proven to be successful at both improving the test scores of the kids who go to those schools but more importantly preparing them for success later on.
The notion that public charters take money from district schools has been disproven over and over again by organizations as diverse as the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, the Brookings Institution, the Manhattan Institute, and the Boston Foundation. Virtually everyone who has studied this issue has found that public charter schools have resulted in more money being spent on public education in Massachusetts, not less.
The math backs this up. Charter schools educate 4% of the student population, and they spend 4% of the money.
But at the end of the day, Question 2 isn’t about money. It’s about who we are as a Commonwealth.
This is Massachusetts, the home of public education. In so many ways, we have been the first in the nation to deal with the question of equality and opportunity. Here we have a 20-year track record of public charter schools delivering for kids in urban districts where too many schools have been underperforming for decades.
If you like your school, Question 2 won’t affect you. It focuses on nine urban communities where traditional public schools are failing and kids deserve better.
This is our opportunity as a Commonwealth to speak loudly and say that we believe in giving everybody an opportunity, by giving kids access to schools that will make it possible for them to be successful in life.
It’s not an experiment anymore. It’s not a demonstration or a “what if.” We have years and years of practical experience and knowledge with Commonwealth public charter schools. As important, we have overwhelming evidence of kids, parents and families who have found what they are looking for in these schools. Now is our opportunity to say to 32,000 who simply want something bigger and better for their children that wherever you live your kids deserve the kind of education that’s going to make them successful.
This is our time and our chance. We should all vote Yes on Question 2.
The writer is the Governor of Massachusetts. He lives in Swampscott.