Guest Opinion: New Charter Schools Further Harm Public School Funding

Editor’s note: The writer is responding to reports of Commonwealth Charter School applications from Equity Lab Charter School and Massachusetts Wildflower Montessori Charter School, among others (see state press release.)

Ted Kempinski is president of the Haverhill Education Association, a Haverhill resident and the parent of three children in Haverhill Public Schools.

Students in Haverhill Public Schools cannot—and should not even be asked to—bear the cost of additional charter school seats being proposed for our city.

Public schools across the Commonwealth, including those in Haverhill, are desperate for adequate funding. The legislature ended its formal session on July 31 with lawmakers failing to address the major shortcomings in funding for public education as outlined by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The FBRC report completed in 2015 showed that Massachusetts was underfunding its public schools by $1 billion annually just to meet students’ basic needs.

And in June, the state’s highest court ruled that a proposed ballot question seeking a surtax on income over $1 million to raise revenue for public education and transportation could not be put before voters in November.

And as has been pointed out earlier this year, Haverhill needs to make serious investments in its public schools to lift itself from the bottom tier of spending on education.

Against this backdrop, any request to siphon more resources away from public school students and hand over more money to operators of charter schools seems completely irresponsible.

Haverhill already pays $4.1 million in tuition annually to privately run charter schools. Now the city is being asked to add 240 charter seats for grades 1 to 8 in “schools” scattered across various storefront properties, as well as be part of the pool sending students to a charter in Lawrence that wants to add 640 seats there after having its plans for Lynn rejected.

We have an obligation to make sure that every student in Haverhill Public Schools has access to the best possible education. Our energies need to be focused on convincing lawmakers to fully fund our public schools and rejecting these recycled charter proposals that only stand to exacerbate the funding crisis we all face.