As Diane Ravitch reported,
Voters in Massachusetts overwhelmingly defeated Question 2, by a margin of about 62%-38%. Question 2 would have permitted the addition of 12 charter schools every year into the indefinite future.
A vibrant coalition of parents, educators, and students withstood a barrage of dark money and won. They organized, mobilized, knocked on doors, rallied, and they won. More than 200 school committees passed resolutions against Question 2. None supported it.
The bottom line that unified opponents of the measure was that charters would drain funding from the public schools.
As of November 1, 2016, the charter school industry had raised in excess of $26 million to fund their effort to undermine public education in Massachusetts. Much of the money came from the infamous New York based billionaires and hedge fund managers who have been funding the charter school industry and their allies in the corporate education reform privatization “movement.
The following chart identifies the major sources of money that drove the record spending by the charter school industry.
|TOTAL RAISED IN SUPPORT OF CHARTER SCHOOL QUESTION #2 (as of 11/1/16)||$26,066,640|
|Charter School Industry Entity||Amount Raised||Major Sources of Funds|
|Yes on Two||$710,100|
|Alice Walton $710,000|
|Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools||$2,418,518.04|
|Jim Walton $1.125 million
|Alice Walton (Transfer from Yes on Two $710k)|
|MA Charter Public Schools Voter Education Fund $150k
|Massachusetts Charter Public School Assoc., Inc. $100k
|Great Schools Massachusetts $100k|
|Paul Sagan $100K|
|Charles Longfield $100k|
|Lawrence Coolidge $25K|
|Charles Ledley $26k (Plus $40k to Great Schools Massachusetts|
|Great Schools Massachusetts||
|Families For Excellent Schools Inc. and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc. (NY) $17.2 million
|Strong Economy For Growth $1.1m
|Expanding Educational Opportunities 575k
|Great Schools For Massachusetts $501k
|Michael Bloomberg (NY) $490K|
|Education Reform Now Advocacy (NY) $314k
|John Arnold (TX) $250k|
|Edward Shapiro $225k
|Bradley Bloom $150k|
|Ray Stata $100|
|Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $100K
|Cohasset Vc, Ltd (Dallas TX) $100k
|Shari Redstone $100k|
|Robert Small $75k|
|Abigail Johnson $60k|
|Stephen Mugford $60k|
|Daniel Loeb (NY) $50k|
|George Conrades $50k|
|Longwood Ventures Partners $50k|
|Ross M Jones $50k|
|Advancing Obama’s Legacy on Charter Schools Ballot Committee||$722,040|
|Education Reform Now Advocacy $155K
|Campaign For Fair Access To Quality Public Schools $567k|
|Expanding Educational Opportunities||$575,000|
|Suffolk Cares, Inc. $100K
|State Street Bank and Trust Co. $100K
|Partners Healthcare $100K
|The Kraft Group$100k
|Emc Corporation $75K
|Massmutual Financial Group $50K
|Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated $50K
As for why the Charter School Ballot Question #2 went down to a stunning defeat, Edushyster, the Massachusetts based education blogger, provides a full analysis in the recent blog post entitled, What Went Down in Massachusetts.
I could give you a long list of reasons why Question 2 went down in flames. It was a complicated policy question that should never have made it onto the ballot. Yes on 2, despite outspending the ‘no’ camp 2-1 couldn’t find a message that worked, and was never able to counter the single argument that most resonated with voters against charter schools: they take money away from public schools and the kids who attend them. #NoOn2 also tapped into genuinely viral energy. The coalition extended well beyond the teachers unions that funded it, growing to include members of all kinds of unions, as well as social justice and civil rights groups, who fanned out across the state every weekend. By Election Day, the sprawling network of mostly volunteer canvassers had made contact with more than 1.5 million voters.
One, two, three part strategy
Question 2 was just one part of an elaborate three-pronged strategy dreamed up by charter advocates in Massachusetts, most notably our own Secretary of Education, James Peyser, to get rid of the charter cap. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s education reform eminence Chester Finn helpfully explaining in his new book how Massachusetts charter advocates had decided that things would go down:
There we see a coherent three-part strategy, beginning with a legislative move to amend the Bay State’s charter law. In case lawmakers balk, a ballot initiative is in the works, as is a legal move involving a prominent Boston firm that has filed a class-action suit to lift the charter cap, arguing that it unconstitutionally denies children access to an adequate education. As part of all three efforts, Families for Excellent Schools is organizing parents and other charter supporters to participate in an advocacy campaign.
Tellingly, Finn’s explication of Team Charter’s strategerizing is in a section entitled *From Grass Tops to Grass Roots.* A model of the *new parent power,* Families for Excellent Schools has successfully organized parents in NYC, most of whom already send their kids to charter schools, to demand more and more charter schools. Here they are marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, 30K strong. Now here they are, arriving in Albany by the busload. Theirs is a powerful spectacle, until one looks too closely and notices that the guys on the walkie talkies are all white and that the parents were told that they had to attend, or that the mayor wants to close their schools, and that their own charter schools had to be closed for the day in order to create the powerful spectacle.
In the spring of 2014, Peyser, who sat on the national board of Families for Excellent Schools, was imploring Boston’s charter schools to *take control of their own destiny by becoming a more potent political force.* By that summer, FES had a Boston offshoot, *seeded* thanks to the largesse of the New Schools Venture Fund, where Peyser worked, and the same Republican philanthropists who would get the #YesOn2MA ball rolling. And yet FES was an expensive flop from the start. What went so wrong? Much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the group’s astonishing odiosity. Like refusing to say what they were about. Their first big event, a lavishly choreographed rally at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, made no mention of charter schools. Then there was *Unify Boston,* a months-long petition drive in which organizers gathered signatures from parents who wanted great neighborhood schools. When group leaders informed staff members that the actual goal of the campaign was to lift the charter cap, a revolt broke out. *It’s like they think people of color are stupid,* said one former FES organizer.
In the end, charter advocates couldn’t marshal a parent army for the same reason that has undone one ambitious #edreform vision after another: their logic model was flawed. *People aren’t against charter schools,* Yawu Miller, the managing editor of the Bay State Banner, Boston’s African American newspaper, told me when I interviewed him earlier this fall. *But they don’t want to see the kind of expansion that’s being proposed now. They think there’s a threat to the district school system if that happens.* As Miller pointed out, his son is on the waitlist for several charter schools. So is Save Our Schools parent organizer Malikka Williams. In fact, it turns out that almost everyone in Boston is on some kind of waitlist. Calculate the number of students who are waiting for in-demand Boston district schools the same way that charters do and you end up with a number in excess of 20,000.
You can read more of Edushyster’s analyses at: http://edushyster.com/what-went-down-in-massachusetts/
Additional Background on this nationally significant effort can be found via the following articles