Strong reaction to charter schools ballot defeat

  • Students at Four Rivers Public Charter School in Greenfield. Recorder File Photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/9/2016 10:23:01 PM

Now that the state ballot question on raising the number of charter schools has been defeated by 62 percent of the state’s voters, what do local educators think should be the next step?

“I understand parents’ desire to provide their children with the best education possible,” said Gill-Montague Regional School District Superintendent Michael Sullivan. “But I would prefer to see us all work together to make effective changes within, and in support of, our public schools. Maybe now more attention can be brought to bear on this challenge.”

This year, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District had to budget $843,834 for 52 charter school students, which is a $108,834 increase over what was paid last year. As a result, Hawlemont and Mohawk  regional school district committees adopted resolutions opposing the state measure to increase the number of charter schools. Also, Mohawk/Hawlemont Superintendent Michael Buoniconti has been working through the Massachusetts Rural Schools Coalition to publicize the impact of charter schools on rural community schools.

“The resounding defeat of Massachusetts Ballot Question 2 is an important victory for traditional public schools,” he said.  “One way to obtain the goals of better education sought by charter school proponents would be to transfer the charter school operational model to traditional public schools, which would at least level the playing field between traditional public schools and charter schools.  At present, the charter schools have significant competitive advantages over traditional public schools,” Buoniconti said.

Peter Garbus, principal of Four Rivers Charter Public School, said approval of the ballot question “would have made a significant positive difference in the lives of thousands of students in Boston, Lawrence Springfield and other communities where families are seeking educational options. I know that most communities in western Massachusetts have been opposed to Question 2, so there must be widespread relief that charter expansions in our community will be limited.”

In a senior class debate tournament at Four Rivers last week, one of the arguments against Question 2 was that “there are enough innovative, successful, high quality charter schools in Massachusetts now that we don’t need to approve more,” said Garbus.

“Instead, we need to move our work to a new phase, which is to spread good ideas from these schools that work to the wider system. That is exactly how charter schools were supposed to function in the first place, and I’d love to see that spirit take hold in Franklin County.”

Garbus said he hopes to move from this political battle “to the important work of improving all our schools. Students of Franklin County deserve our best efforts, which may just benefit from collaboration and sharing among our public schools.”

“We have had a very robust and substantive debate on Question 2,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. “The voters have spoken and the matter is resolved. It’s time to shift our focus to 100 percent of the students in our public education system. They deserve the best education possible so they can be engaged citizens and find a meaningful place in our increasingly competitive economy.”


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