Gov. Charlie Baker’s early salvo pushing for a lifting of the charter school cap occurred on Inauguration Day. Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni’s, anti-charter school rebuttal two days later was equally vehement, and the two might be headed for a grudge match over the simmering issue in public education.
As former executive director of the Pioneer Institute, perhaps the most influential and pro-charter entity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Baker’s stance is to lift the cap on charters now.
“While traditional public schools will always be the backbone of our education, we need more high-performing public charter schools in underperforming school districts to complement them. As I speak, there are more than 45,000 Bay State kids and their parents on waiting lists for these schools.
"It's wrong for any of us to stand on a front porch or in a city neighborhood sympathizing with a mom or dad when they tell us their child is not getting the education to succeed in life and then oppose lifting the charter school cap or making the changes we need to ensure that every school is great," said Baker.
As the newly minted MTA president, Madeloni, through her public stances and posturing, has clearly indicated the Age of Appeasement/Capitulation fostered by predecessor Paul Toner is over. She will take the fight to Baker and his charter school minions.
“It is a shame that on Baker's first day in office, his education focus is to support an initiative that undermines rather than supports the district public schools that have served Massachusetts students so well," she said.
"Public education is the foundation of democracy, and as such must adhere to deeply democratic principles. Charter schools undermine that vision, substituting market-driven practices for democratic engagement.
"Our legislators have established charter school caps for good reason. After an initial period of reimbursement, charter schools drain millions of dollars from local public schools, depriving students of needed resources,” said Madeloni.
No less of a union baiter/hater, Boston Globe columnist Scott Lehigh — ever a supporter of charter school initiatives — assigned a badge of honor to the MTA leader when he opined that Barbara Madeloni is “an old-school firebrand armed with a Gatling gun of rigid ideological arguments.”
Gov. Baker’s election, according to Lehigh, “should stiffen reform resolve and lead to a renewed push for more charters, which routinely feature longer days. … Baker, after all, sees access to high-quality schools as a civil rights issue.”
Madeloni, in her response to Baker’s comments on education, debunked the viewpoint equating charter schools and high quality.
"Charter schools are notorious for using enrollment and discipline practices that drive out students who have academic or behavioral issues. This creates a two-tiered system of education that some charter schools and their proponents use to make … claims of providing students with a superior education.
"I am deeply concerned that Governor Baker cites the discredited statistic that there are 45,000 students on charter school waiting lists just weeks after Auditor Suzanne Bump issued a report that found serious “deficiencies” in how charter school waiting lists are calculated, leading to inflated figures.”
Around the budgetary debate Gov. Baker will have to confront in the charter school controversy, the S-T weighed in recently in an editorial.
"It’s worth wondering if the governor has considered that 'unfunded mandate' impact of the charter model. It’s certainly reasonable to assume that successful charters would feed more successful graduates into the local economy, attract employers and have a long-term benefit on a community. One might easily argue that the current budget challenges posed by the charters are worth future successes.” (Our View: Let's watch the charter schools we have before adding more in New Bedford, Jan. 23.)
And the S-T reaches the core of the charter school dilemma: Whether students are opted-in via the lottery waiting list or the opt-out system that New Bedford’s City on a Hill Charter has proposed, the truth is that charters, typically, are not successful at retaining their student enrollments, but, as Madeloni maintains, “drive out students who have academic or behavioral issues.”
This leads to embarrassingly low charter school graduation rates across the commonwealth.
And as the renowned and sagacious philosopher Casey Stengel observed, and rightly so, “You can look it up.”