Most Massachusetts mayors are opposed to lifting charter school cap

  • The Deerfield School Committee listened to representatives from Save Our Public Schools and voted Wednesday night, June 8, 2016 to oppose a ballot question that would allow the state to add more charter schools. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/28/2016 6:11:41 PM

The majority of Massachusetts mayors, including those in Easthampton and Northampton, have come out against Question 2, which would lift the state cap on the number of charter schools.

Many of the 30 mayors say they’re opposed to lifting the charter cap because of the large amount of money charter schools take from local school districts. The list of mayors and the amount of charter school tuition paid by their school districts was included in a Wednesday release by the No on 2 Campaign.

Northampton Mayor David J. Narkewicz, is among the city leaders opposed to the measure.

At a forum held in June, Narkewicz said that in the current fiscal year, “There are 202 students leaving (for charter schools), and $2.2 million is going with them. Right now, that’s more than we currently allocate to our four elementary which each serve between 230 to 330 students and have annual budgets of $1.7 million.”

Narkewicz said Massachusetts already under funds public schools statewide by $1 billion by using a dated formula that does not account, among other things, for special needs education and health-care benefits. Lifting the cap on charter schools would further strain the budget, he said, and adequately funding public schools is his priority.

“I do not understand it, I do not support it and I will not support any more charter schools until we fix these core issues regarding not only how we fund our basic public schools, and the inequities related to how charter schools are funded,” Narkewicz said.

Mayors in Boston, Cambridge, Chicopee, Hoyloke, Pittsfield, Springfield, Westfield, West Springfield and Worcester also oppose the ballot measure, according to a press statement.

Those in favor of lifting the charter school cap say the addition schools will provide much-needed educational opportunities for the neediest of students, especially those in urban areas. Some, including Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public Schools Association, say traditional public schools have had the opportunity to and failed for years to close achievement gaps between needy and wealthy students.

Speaking at a recent forum, parent Julia Mejia of Boston said enrolling her children at Brooke Charter School was a way to avoid entering the city’s district where the best schools are in the wealthiest and whitest neighborhoods. “We have to create a pathway out of poverty that puts children first,” Mejia said.

Voters on November 8 will consider Question 2, which if approved would allow up to 12 additional charter schools each year in any city or town, or expanded enrollments in existing charters each year.

There are 78 charter schools in the state, with a limit of 120 under current law. The current cap also limits the number of charter schools by geographic area.


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