What Does the Future of Charter Schools Look Like in America?

The state of Massachusetts has long been a shining example of what America could achieve in terms of elementary education.  Long regarded as a national leader in education and a pioneer of school reform, the state is home to, perhaps, the most successful charter school system in the country.

So why did the state vote, on Tuesday, in opposition to a new measure that would have otherwise expanded its glowing public charter school system?

Looking at the track record it is, indeed, somewhat disheartening.  Data shows that Massachusetts present charter school system has delivered very strong academic results. As a matter of fact, the state’s public charter school system is so strong that thousands of parents are still on waiting lists hoping to get their children into one.  Obviously this singular fact—among many others—somehow got slogged down during a campaign rife with disinformation by those who were philosophically opposed to charter schools.

Yes, in Massachusetts, voters have rejected a referendum called “Question 2.”  This referendum would have otherwise forced the expansion of charter schools across the state.  Now, charter schools do receive a significant chunk of taxpayer money but remain privately operated. Some argue that this represents yet another example of how privatization has been rapidly, but sneakily, absorbing the whole of the public infrastructure (to include things like prisons, transportation, sanitation, and, of course, schools, among other essential services) solely for the pursuit of wealth.

According to a story in the New York Times, voters “easily turned aside a $26 million effort to increase the number of charter schools” across the state of Massachusetts, delivering a victory for public education; and public education, of course, is one of the major cornerstones of American democracy.

Approximately 6 out of 10 voters opposed the charter takeover.  In fact, none of the pro-Question 2 votes came from the two major parties. That’s right neither Republicans or Democrats voted in favor of the referendum.

But this is not just a Massachusetts problem; it is just the most prominent example.  In Washington state, too, the threat of increasing public schools (as opposed to charter schools) has appeared on the ballot (though it was disguised as a race for Supreme Court). Bill Gates and Paul Allen are both charter proponents—with other major contributors—have tried to increase funding and development for charter schools, including spending upwards $500,000 to try and unseat the current judges who had upheld lower court decisions which ruled that present charter school funding in the state is actually unconstitutional.

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