By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
The Everett School Committee, led by its chairman Frank Parker, took the unusual step Monday night of weighing in on an upcoming ballot question in the November election.
The board voted unanimously to oppose Question #2 on the November ballot, which seeks to raise the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.
The item was placed on the agenda by Parker, who sought his colleagues support in speaking out against Question #2 and any increase in Massachusetts Charter Schools under the current funding formula.
Following the meeting, Parker and Superintendent of Schools Frederick Foresteire both noted the impact additional charter schools in and near Everett could have on the district’s funding.
“We are charged about $7,000 per student for every Everett student who leaves our schools and goes to a charter school and that adds up,” noted Foresteire. “And, it’s not like losing those students to the charter schools makes it possible for us to close a school, we lose the funding for that child, but we still have to run our district…the fact is that charter schools drain resources away from the regular public schools.”
Parker noted that advertising in favor of Question #2 is misleading and said that “charter schools disproportionately underserve” non-native English speakers and students of immigrant families, leaving the students facing the biggest challenges in the regular public education system, but with less funding available to teach them.
“The funding formula for Charter schools is broken and until it is fixed, we should not be raising the cap,” said Parker.
Proponents of raising the cap on charter schools note that charter schools offer alternatives for students who have trouble with the regular education environment and point to statistics that show charter schools outperforming public school districts in many places as proof that the system works.
However, Foresteire, Parker and other members of the School Committee noted that some charter schools are for-profit operations that use public funds to make money for their investors and that in many cases charter schools are able to avoid taking on difficult to teach students or students with learning disabilities, meaning that those students test scores are not counted in the statistics that show charter schools’ successes.