Haverhill Goes on Record Opposing Charter School Expansion

Posing for a photograph after the charter school vote were Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, school committee President Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello, Haverhill Education Association Second Vice President Anthony Parolisi and President Lisa Begley and School Committeemen Scott W. Wood Jr. and Shaun P. Toohey.

Haverhill joins a number of other districts in officially opposing a ballot initiative to lift a cap on the number of private charter schools.

A resolution, drafted by the “Save Our Public Schools” grassroots organization, passed in a 4 to 3 vote Thursday by the Haverhill School Committee. Mayor James J. Fiorentini, committee chairman, provided a tie-breaking vote in support. Others voting in favor were Scott W. Wood Jr., Gail M. Sullivan and Maura L. Ryan-Ciardiello.  Committeemen Sven A. Amirian, whose children attend a charter school, Paul A.  Magliochetti and Shaun P. Toohey voted against the resolution. The resolution and ballot question have no effect on existing city charter schools, including Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School and Hill View Montessori Charter School, according to Firoentinti and Haverhill Education Association President Lisa Begley, who spoke for the union’s support. Begley told the committee union members are spending more than $22,000 of “our own money” toward the campaign against lifting the charter school cap. She added they are “working with the administration” because they “feel so passionate about it.”

“Each teacher, ESP (education support personnel) and secretarial individual is going to be paying $30 towards this campaign. We’re not just talking, we’re actually putting our money on the benefit of the Haverhill Public Schools,” Begley said.

Begley explained the referendum stems from a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education decision to allow “any entity to petition to become a charter school” and that charter schools, in contrast to public schools, “don’t have the same oversight but they take money away from the public schools.”

“We subject Mr. Scully to share his budget proposals with each line item request. We scrutinize it and make him justify his choices. Transparency of this process is not the case with charter schools. Nearly every state allows charter schools’ governing boards to subcontract with a nonprofit charter management organization or for-profit education management organization, some of which have actually refused to open their financial books to the public,” Begley said.

Massachusetts Charter Public School Association Executive Director Marc Kenen, whose group represents 70 private charter schools and was an organizer of the ballot question referendum, spoke at the invitation of Amirian.  He said misconceptions about charter school accountability and information are “not factually true” make it a “complicated issue.” He disputed, as he described, words of “fear” of private interests “robbing Massachusetts of their money.”

“When a charter school student leaves Haverhill Public Schools and goes to the Hill View Montessori School, that money stays in Haverhill. The teachers are employed and work and live in Haverhill. The parents and families in Haverhill, they buy from vendors who are in Haverhill. That money stays in Haverhill, it’s not going anywhere. It, in fact, enhances the community because now you have more choice. There’s no loss of public funds to public education in Haverhill. There’s a loss of students and loss of money from the district, but it’s still in public education and still serving all the kids in your city, Mr. mayor,” Kenen said.

Kenen added there are “many different models of charter schools and no two charter schools are alike.”

Fiorentini believed a “loss of $2.8 million” in Haverhill is due to fixed costs in the district, including teachers and classrooms,  not being fully covered due to line item funding cuts when individual students move from public to charter schools.

“I like the idea of innovation, I’m all for that. But I don’t like the idea that it’s a line item in the budget. I’m very glad our existing schools will remain where they are but I like what Ms. Begley said. Ninety-six percent of our children go to public schools. Our first obligation is to public school students,” Fiorentini said. “I want to make them so good that every parent in Haverhill will send their children to the Haverhill Public Schools. That ought to be the goal of every single person that is up here.”

The resolution against lifting the cap on charter schools is also supported by Massachusetts Teachers Association.

3 thoughts on “Haverhill Goes on Record Opposing Charter School Expansion

  1. “I want to make them so good that every parent in Haverhill will send their children to the Haverhill Public Schools. That ought to be the goal of every single person that is up here.”

    Actually Mr. Mayor, the goal is to provide the children with the best opportunity to get a great education…. period ! So I am guessing the Mayor does not support Sacred Heart or St Josephs school either ? Parents pay their money in taxes. They have a right to choose where THEY feel confident their kids will get the best education NOT you or anyone else. It’s called competition. The real issue here as sated above.

  2. So Haverhill has decided to work extra hard to ensure the teachers union gets their way (more money – always) and the tax payers and their children have LESS choices on how to best pursue the best education for them.

    Again – the message is clear: Dear Mr. & Mrs. Taxpayer – TOUGH LUCK JUST KEEP SENDING IN THE MONEY.

  3. Anyone who thinks Lisa Begley and her UNION brotherhood is protesting the expansion of charter schools for, as she said, “the benefit of Haverhill Public Schools” needs to have their head examined. Charter schools are a teachers UNION worst fear….competition. Like all UNIONS, they know once a competitive entity gets its foot inside the door and proves there is a better way other than the watered down mediocrity all UNIONS provide, it is only a matter of time before expansion continues. The Haverhill Education Association is only interested in protecting UNION based jobs. They could care less about what is best for students and parents. I’m not sure she even realizes that by revealing how much money they spent on fighting this issue she is confirming the UNION’S self-serving special interest group objectives.

    Once again, this failure of a mayor cast a vote on the side of UNION hacks sucking this city dry.