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"Serious damage to public education"

Statement by Massachusetts Teachers Association President Anne Wass on proposed initiative petitions to roll back the sales tax and lift the cap on charter schools, August 5, 2009

Both the charter school and sales tax ballot questions would do serious damage to public education by slashing funds available to educate our students at a time when cities and towns are already drowning in red ink. If they qualify for the ballot, we intend to join the fight against them in order to protect quality education in our state.

Reducing the sales tax to 5 percent or below would be fiscally irresponsible. Legislators reluctantly approved that increase in order to prevent even more damaging cuts than they were forced to make in critically important state and local services. Irreparable harm would be done to public schools and public higher education if the sales tax were reduced. In addition, cities and towns would be forced to raise local property taxes to try to protect their schools, public safety and the quality of life in our communities. The voters understood this last fall, which is why they soundly defeated Carla Howell’s income tax repeal ballot question.

This also would be a terrible time to lift the cap on charter schools. Under the current funding system, local school districts lose hundreds of millions of dollars to charter schools each year, which hurts their capacity to provide needed services to students in the regular public schools.

In addition, it is becoming increasingly clear that having an unlimited number of charter schools would resegregate our public education system, worsening the already wide achievement gap. Commonwealth charter schools in Massachusetts enroll a much smaller percentage of low-income, special needs and English language learner students than the districts in which they are located. With no limit on the number of charter schools, public education would no longer provide students with an equal opportunity to succeed, but instead would lead to an even greater divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’

Furthermore, recent research by Stanford University has confirmed that students in charter schools do no better, and often do worse, than their counterparts in traditional public schools.