By John Macero and Adam Sullivan
Two hundred school committees, including the Winthrop School Committee, have passed resolutions to keep the cap on charter schools and to urge people to vote no on question 2 this November. We want to take the opportunity to tell you why we are joining with them in asking Winthrop residents to vote no on question 2.
Charter schools are funded with taxpayer dollars but are not accountable to the public. We do not have oversight of how those public dollars are used because charter schools are privately run. In Winthrop, the elected School Committees develops the budget each year and ushers it through the town meeting process. Any citizen of Winthrop has the opportunity to weigh in on the budget priorities established by the School Committee and the Town Council.
The same cannot be said for charter schools as there is no elected governing body overseeing charter schools, including ensuring a quality curriculum, requiring fair and effective student discipline and guaranteeing minimum teacher qualifications. As a matter of fact, charter schoolteachers do not have to be licensed, as district public school teachers do.
Charter schools siphon off $450 million from public schools annually. Winthrop is projected to lose $171,000 in FY 17. That is $171,000 which the district could put to good use by lowering class sizes, adding more programs and staff, and enhancing technology, just to mention a few. Even if a number of students leave from different classrooms across Winthrop, the costs of operating the schools — such as maintenance, utilities and transportation —remains the same.
Ninety-six percent of students attend district public schools in Massachusetts, yet millions of dollars are taken away from their communities’ schools to fund charter schools that the remaining 4 percent of students attend.
Charter schools typically underserve English language learners; special needs students and economically disadvantaged students. A child can be encouraged or required to leave a charter school due to disciplinary or behavior issues and be sent back to his or her district public school. Public schools must educate all children within their district regardless of the student’s capabilities or needs. Charter schools are creating divisions in communities rather than uniting families to work together for great public schools for all.
Question 2, if approved, would add 12 more charter schools each year and lift all limits on how much money a district can lose to charter schools. These charter schools can be in any district regardless of the wishes of the community. Citizens and elected officials of Winthrop could oppose a charter school in our town and the state could approve a charter school anyway. Lifting the cap will allow charter schools to be created in any community without regard to the quality of local schools or the impact on them.
These are some of the reasons why we join with so many other school committees and elected officials, educators, and parents in Winthrop and across Massachusetts in urging citizens to vote NO on 2.
John Macero is Superintendent of the Winthrop Public Schools and Adam Sullivan, President of the Winthrop Teachers Association