The political clout of the teachers’ union came out in full force this past week when Massachusetts voters soundly defeated a measure that would have help kids in failing, inner-city schools find a way out. Ballot Question 2 would have allowed up to 12 new public charter schools in the state, likely in cities like Boston, New Bedford and Springfield.
The opponents of Question 2 found a message—fraudulent as it was—that resonated with voters: charter schools drain money from traditional public schools. The figure $400 million used in TV advertising and other messaging was effective even though it’s not true. Only 18 out of 351 cities or towns voted yes on the question. It’s disappointing to say the least.
The amount of deceitful information that was regurgitated by public charter school opponents is troubling. No, charters do not drain money from district schools. An in-depth study shows that per-pupil spending in traditional public school increases when a public charter school opens in their districts. No less a liberal bastion as the editorial page of the Boston Globe even gets this.
Public charter school opponents saturated the airwaves with the fraudulent claims that traditional public schools would lose $400 million if Question 2 passed. They twist themselves into the pretzel logic that because when a student enrolls in a superior public charter school, the money follows him. If a district school gets X amount to educate 425 students, then it gets less to educate 410 students. Opponents see this as “drain” on traditional schools even as per-pupil spending increases.
Question 2 went down to defeat just about everywhere in the state including the cities that have underperforming or even failing schools where kids are trapped and destined to fail. These schools will continue to have a huge achievement gap.
The substantial margin of defeat for public charter schools may dampen any effort by supporters to go back to the state legislature for action on the issue. “The public has spoken loud and clear on this one,” Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who opposed the ballot question, told the Boston Globe Wednesday. “It will be very difficult for them to get any attention given how strongly the vote was.”
So the end result? The teachers’ unions with their political ground game, made sure that kids trapped in failing schools will have to stay there. The status quo, as inadequate as it may be, will continue. The unions have ensured there will be no competition, no challenge to their tenure, no additional progress. It’s sad.