Massachusetts said NO to more charter schools, Connecticut should as well

At the same time that Governor Dannel Malloy is instituting the deepest cuts in Connecticut history to Connecticut’s public schools he is diverting more than $110 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Malloy and his operatives now want to expand this outrageous money grab with a plan to increase the number of charter schools in Connecticut and implement a new funding proposal that would see an additional $40-$50 million a year diverted to the private corporations that own Connecticut’s existing charter schools.

Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials should take a deep pause and look to Massachusetts for an indication of what happens when a state adopts this so-called “money follows the child” funding system.

Last November the charter school industry in the Bay State tried to push through a state-wide ballot initiative that would have allowed more charter schools to be opened in the Commonwealth.

To fund their effort the charter school industry pumped more than $24 million dollars into their political campaign.

The cash came from large corporate education reform “dark money” groups that refuse to release the names of their donors, wealthy hedge fund owners, Massachusetts corporations and out-of-state contributors including the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  (See Wait, What? post Charter School Industry raised more than $24 million in 2016 record breaking defeat In Massachusetts).

But in this case, the massive outpouring of money couldn’t buy the outcome of the election as parents, educators and taxpayers successfully pushed back against those who seek to privatize public education in the United States.  On Election Day, 62 percent of voters cast their ballots against the measure and only 38 percent in favor of the provision.

Barbara Madeloni, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Assocation, summed up the significant victory saying;

 “It’s really clear from the results of this election that people are interested in public education and value that.”

Madeloni added,

“There should be no conversation about expanding charters until the Legislature fully fund our public schools.”

Media coverage of the Massachusetts ballot initiative explained the outcome noting,

“The opposition could not match the “Yes on 2” campaign on television advertisement spending. But the “no” camp had the support of prominent Democrats, including Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. And it mobilized a sprawling field operation, with hundreds of teachers and liberal activists reaching an estimated 1.5 million voters statewide over the course of the campaign.”

In Massachusetts, voters realized that the charter schools were diverting scarce taxpayer funds away from local public school because Massachusetts already utilizes what is called a “money follows the child” school funding formula.  This funding system means that,

“When students leave traditional public schools for charters, they take thousands of dollars in state aid with them. And opponents focused heavily on this financial strain, raising the specter of cuts to arts education, transportation, and other services at the schools that serve the vast majority of students.”

Connecticut’s charter school advocacy groups have recently proposed just such a system for Connecticut and it is very likely that Malloy, an advocate of privatizing public education, will adopt their proposal as his own when he issues his proposed state budget next week.   See the Wait, What? Post of January 26, 2017 entitled Connecticut – Beware the charter school industry’s proposed new school funding scheme.

The question now is whether the state legislature will do Malloy’s bidding or actually step forward and do what is best for Connecticut’s students, parents, educators, public schools and taxpayers.

Stay tuned!