Most “Yes” on Question 2 money comes from out-of-state corporate donors.
Photo: The Waltons and Governor Charlie Baker.
Even with the long back-and-forth on Question 2 in Massachusetts, many people aren’t really sure what Question 2 is about. But it’s pretty simple: Question 2 would allow an unlimited number of private charter schools to take money away from public schools across the state.
Question 2 is not a “Yes Charters” or “No Charters” question. Right now, there’s a cap of 120 charter schools in the state, and only about 80 of those slots are currently used. Voting “Yes” would eliminate that cap, allowing 12 new private charter schools to open every single year without any limits. Currently, 96% of students attend public schools, and every new charter school takes money away from those schools and their students.
Most of the money for the “Yes” campaign is coming from large, out-of-state corporate interests who want to expand the national charter school brands that they own and operate in other states in order to boost profits.
A “Yes” on Question 2 would allow private corporations to come in and slowly privatize our entire public school system using taxpayer money. But private charter schools aren’t accountable to local school committees or mayors, which takes control away from local parents and voters.
— Zac Bears (@zacbears) September 2, 2016
“Yes” Campaign Funded by Dark Money
The “Yes” campaign has received over 82% of it’s $19.5 million from big corporate interests outside of Massachusetts, and a recent analysis by WBUR’s Max Larkin shows that 76% of the “Yes” campaign is funded by “dark money” that cannot be traced back to its original donors.
Data clearly show that the “Yes” campaign is largely funded by out-of-state, private interests who don’t want to disclose their names and information.
Other major donors to the “Yes” campaign are Jim and Alice Walton, two of the heirs to the massive Walmart fortune. Together, the Waltons have donated nearly $2 million dollars to the “Yes” campaign, almost 10% of their total funding. That’s just from two people. Other wealthy donors (at least those who we know about) include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
What do the Waltons and Bloomberg have in common? They all have investments in private charter school companies.
Wealthy conservative business interests also hijacked the idea of charter schools from progressives. Originally, charters were a part of the “small schools” movement, which aimed to try new education strategies without dealing with bureaucracy. But conservatives now use charter schools to attack teachers unions and privatize education. Research by Diane Ravitch, an education historian, says that 95% of charters aren’t unionized. Many charter schools become revolving doors for students, with high suspension and expulsion rates especially for students of color. Many charters also try to reduce spending on special education.
— Zac Bears (@zacbears) October 27, 2016
Who Opposes Question 2
Over 200 school committees across the state oppose Question 2, as well as U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, 90 state reps, 26 state senators, 22 city and town councils, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and 30 other mayors across the state.
Most of this opposition stems from the dangerous funding cuts that charter schools impose on public schools. In 2016, public schools lost over $450 million to private charter schools. That number will only grow as more charter schools open.
Moody’s Analytics, a major bond rating agency, says that the loss of public school money caused by a “Yes” vote on Question 2 would hurt the good bond ratings of cities like Boston and Lawrence.
Charter school expansion is opposed by major civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and Black Lives Matter Cambridge, who say that too many charters could create a two-tiered educational system similar to school segregation.
This entire ballot question is part of the largely discredited national “education reform” movement that wants to move to even more standardized testing, make teachers work longer hours, gut teachers unions and staff unions, take public money for private use, remove local voter and parent control over their schools, and transfer that control to wealthy, private interests who are accountable to no one.
Yes, some charter schools help some students. But many charter schools don’t do enough, and many charters are owned by groups of national corporations that are trying to take taxpayer money to fund private programs. It’s just another way for corporations to eat away at our collective ownership of and responsibility for public goods like education.
Vote “No” on Question 2.
Zac Bears can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.