Teachers’ Union Mounts Anti-Charter School Campaign Ahead of DESE Visit to Haverhill

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education visits Haverhill next week to hear from residents ahead of a possible new charter school opening in the city. (File photograph)

Haverhill’s teachers’ union is mounting an anti-charter school offensive ahead of a visit from the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Monday.

Ted Kempinski (center) speaks alongside Massachusetts Teachers Association Vice President Max Page and President Merrie Najimy. (Screen capture)

Over the last several months, applicants eager to open a Wildflower Montessori school in Haverhill have worked their way to the top of a DESE short list, and the Dec. 3 session is one of two planned public hearings that will allow residents and educators to sound off for or against the school, which could open in 2019. Haverhill’s planned charter school would serve up to 240 area students in grades 1-8, according to the state.

Haverhill Education Association President Ted Kempinski is strongly against charter schools, he confirmed in a video posted to social media Tuesday. “Educational funding in Haverhill is not meeting the needs of the students,” he said.

With the addition of a charter school, Kempinski predicts the district will lose “millions of dollars” as funding is earmarked for a private school instead of for a public purpose.

Massachusetts Teachers Association leadership backed Haverhill’s union boss in blocking charters in the city.

“The problem with charter schools is that they siphon public funding to go to run a private school, the charters are made by an unelected body, and charter schools have no local supervision—no School Committee—and there is no accountability to the public,” President Merrie Najimy reasoned in the appeal alongside Vice President Max Page.

The two unions are encouraging attendance at Monday’s public hearing, held from 4-6 p.m. at the downtown iHub on Merrimack Street.

The state’s elementary and secondary education division is also considering granting a charter to the Lawrence-based Equity Lab Charter School, which submitted application materials in an effort to open a school catering to grade 5-12 students.

Education Commissioner Jeff Riley will ultimately decide which of the proposals, if any, to recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for consideration. At least one Board member will be present at the hearings to report feedback to colleagues.

A final vote on the possible grant of charters is expected in February 2019.