Accountability Charter Schools Education Reform Funding Massachusetts

Tracy Novick: The Kids Who Will Be Hurt By Lifting the Charter Cap in Massachusetts

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Tracy Novick lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, a small city that was hit hard by de-industrialization.

In this article, she explains that the Wall Street backers of Question 2, which would lift the cap on charters, are pitching their propaganda at affluent white liberals. Their slick ad campaign is aimed at white guilt. They say “vote yes for the sake of poor black and brown children.” They pretend that there is plenty of money for two separate systems of schools. There isn’t.

Voting yes, she writes, will inflict “savage inequalities” (Jonathan Kozol”s book title) on public schools across the state, but not in the affluent suburbs, which are not dependent on state aid. They can assuage white guilt, but everyone else will suffer, not their children, not their schools.

She writes:

“Recently, those pushing for cap lift have been piling on the suburban guilt. It was all over the column I referenced yesterday; it was a big part of the Newton School Committee public testimony last night. Some of this is about wealth, a lot of this is about race, but it is all intended to make those who have a lot feel badly about those who don’t and vote for cap lift to make themselves feel better.

“As a parent in one of those urban communities, I am telling you: spare us.

“I am a parent in a community in which the vast majority of our school funding comes from the state. Worcester is unable to fund its schools on its own. Under McDuffy, Worcester, along with Springfield, Fall River, Lowell, and many of the other urban districts, is majority state funded.

“That isn’t true of most of the places the cap lifters are trying to send on a guilt trip. Most suburbs get a minimum 15% of their foundation budget in state aid. They are majority local funded.
And most fund well over the minimum requirement.

“As I’ve said numerous times, to some extent, this is actually required: the foundation budget hasn’t been reconsidered for twenty years, and the districts that can make up the gaps themselves are doing so.

“Many districts cannot.

“This includes mine.

“Should the ballot cap lift pass, and the state suddenly be faced with funding the reimbursements of up to 12 new schools a year, every year, something is going to have to give. There is no plan in the ballot question for dealing with the funding, and there is nothing in the plan to change reimbursement or any other funding rates.

“It will start, of course, with continuing to not fully fund reimbursements. As the number of schools, and reimbursements, and facilities fees get larger and larger, the state’s going to have to look at state education aid.

“When that happens, it isn’t going to be Newton, funded in FY16 at 165% of foundation, or Cambridge, funded in FY16 at 227% of foundation, or–pick a W: Weston? 208% Wellesley? 165%–that get hit.
Will it hurt them if they lose their state aid? Yes.
Will it devastate their budgets? No.

“Worcester and its peer communities have no such local resources, though. Thus their district public school children–which are the vast majority of schoolchildren in those districts–will be those hurt.

“If you start to feel guilty about other people’s children in “those” districts, think about this:

“Keep in mind where most of them go to school.
Remember how those schools are funded.
Remember who will really be hurt by a cap lift.
And vote no on question two.”

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