Northampton City Council opposes charter school measure

Published: 9/16/2016 3:02:51 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The City Council voted unanimously Thursday night to oppose a ballot measure allowing expansion of charter schools.

If approved by voters Nov. 8, ballot question 2 would lift the statewide cap on charter schools, allowing the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to authorize up to 12 new charter schools per year.

The council’s resolution was approved 6-0 with Ward 5 Councilor David A. Murphy abstaining. Ward 2 Councilor Dennis Bidwell, a sponsor of the measure, was absent.

Supporters of the ballot question argue that charter schools offer alternative ways to provide children with a high quality education and more of them would mean fewer students on waiting lists. Opponents point to how charter schools drain funds from already struggling public schools.

In the fiscal year that began July 1, the Northampton School Department is projected to lose $2,279,216 in reimbursements to six nearby charter schools, according to the resolution approved by the City Council.

“Public school districts across the state are losing more than $408 million this year alone — a loss of funds that is undermining the ability of districts to provide all students with the educational services to which they are entitled,” the resolution states.

“We all agree that the funding mechanism is inequitable,” said Ward 4 Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra, shortly before casting her vote to support the resolution. “I don’t see what anyone would gain by raising the cap.”

Murphy said while it is unfortunate that state legislators have not done more to address the funding mechanism, he understands why there may be need for more charter schools.

Murphy said that while Northampton has a higher quality public school system, others in less privileged areas are not. For some parents in those areas, he said, resorting to charters “really is the only option.”

“I’m very proud of our schools,” said Murphy, adding that he is “a product” of them. “But the formula is messed up statewide.”

The resolution was recommended by Bidwell, Council President William H. Dwight and Mayor David Narkewicz.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at 


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