Who wants more charter schools?

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.

“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.

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


One thought on “Who wants more charter schools?

  1. BELOW is a tweet that includes a scan of November 3, 2015 email arranging a phone conference for a “Question 2” strategy meeting.

    The email’s recipients’ list shows how truly jacked in that Governor Baker & the Massachusetts Department of Ed is to the charter school industry, and vice-versa.

    Among those listed is Jim Peyser, the then-and-current Massachusetts Secretary of Education — the guy whose job it is to protect, manage, and promote all of Massachusetts’ traditional public schools.

    Here he is the freakin’ Secretary of Ed. participating in meetings (there are multiple such emails with the same recipients’ list for other such meetings) of a group whose goal is promoting one sector — the charter sector which comprises only 4% if Massachusetts’ publicly funded schools — at the expense of the other — the traditional public schools that have been teaching Massachusetts students for over two centuries, and which comprises 96% of Massachusetts’ public schools.

    This email was sent by Eileen O’Connor, a leaders and spokesperson for Great Schools Massachusetts, and partner in the firm Keyser Public Strategies:

    She’s the wife of Will Keyser. According to David Sirota’ expose of dark money coming into Massachusetts from out of state to pass Question 2:

    “Mr. Keyser is a principal of Keyser Public Strategies, a key strategist for Gov. Baker’s 2014 campaign, a lobbyist for Families for Excellent Schools and consultant to the Great Schools Massachusetts campaign. Ms. O’Connor is also a principal of Keyser Public Strategies, communications professional, and spokesperson for Great Schools Massachusetts.”

    Now both “Question 2” proponents and THE BOSTON GLOBE are clients of Keyser Public Strategies. So with the GLOBE’s endorsement of Question 2, you have a Keyser client endorsing another Keyser client. Might Keyser offer the Globe discount as a quid-pro-quo?

    No wonder it took the New York Times to cover this story properly.

    Anyway, without further ado, here’s the tweet which includes that intriguing email recipients’ list: (You have to hit the “CONTROL” then “+” keys a bunch of times to enlarge and read the email portion of the tweet)
    What’s interesting is EXACLTY WHO is on the recipients list of that November 3, 2015 email that Eileen O’Connor sent out to arranged that telephone conference strategy session for Question 2: ( I GOOGLE-searched the ones whom I didn’t know.)

    x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
    (email recipients for Question 2 phone conference)

    — Jim Conroy — Sirota says, “Conroy was Governor Baker’s 2014 campaign manager and served briefly in the governor’s office before departing for private consulting work. He is also a consultant to Great Schools Massachusetts.”

    — Jim Peyser, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, who, for a period, was simultaneously on the Board of the charter lobbying group Families for Excellent Schools while serving and Ed. Secrentary (as Edushyster put it om her piece “ALL IN THE FAMILY”… For a while at least, Peyser “was lobbying himself.”)

    — Jeremiah Kittredge, Families in Schools CEO

    — Beth Anderson, Founder and CEO of the Phoenix Academy Charter Network (Linkedin)

    — Jon Clark, Co-Director of the Edward Brooke Charter Schools (Linkedin)

    — Will Herberich, Managing Director, Communications, Families for Excellent Schools

    — Jack Brennan, former legislator and current lobbyist with The Brennan Group (Linkedin)

    — Lynda Bernard, Vice-President of The Brennan Group (Brennan Group website)

    — Michael Morris, Principal of the Beacon Strategies Group, a PR, lobbying firm (Beacon Strategies website) “a top-ranked public affairs and issue advocacy firm”

    — Clare Kelly, consultant Beacon Strategies Group (Linkedin)

    — Michael Bergen, Principal, at Beacon Strategies Group (Linkedin)

    — Stephanie Ruocco, Executive Assistant and Office Manager at ObserveT, (Linkedin)

    — Sean Anderson, Chief Program Officer, Families for Excellent Schools

    — Kelly King-Lewis, Executive Assistant / HR Manager at the Office of the CEO, Families for Excellent Schools, NYC

    — Christina Kennedy (it’s New England, so there’s a zillion, but here’s one with a charter school connection) Consultant, Bronx Community Charter School (Linkedin)

    — Marc Kenen, CEO, Massachusetts Public Charter Schools Association

    — Dominic Slowey, the Boston Consulting Group, (formerly), currently Slovey/McManus Communications, a Boston P.R. firm

    — Jennifer Chow, who goes back a way with Governor Baker. in 2006, Governor Baker was CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and later, MA Sect. of Admin & Finance, former MA Sect. of Health & Human Services, Throughout these jobs, Baker regularly partnered with Chow, who “the Manager of Enrollment and Outreach” for Health Care for All.

    As governor, Baker named Chow to a government advisory council:

    — Kathryn “Katy” Zazzera, since April 2016, she’s been Assistant Manager of Community Relations with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

    At the time of this November 3, 2015 email coordinating key people on the Question 2 push, Zazzera was working for Governor Baker in Massachusetts state government:

    From Katy Zazzera’s Linkedin

    Program Coordinator for the Senior Advisor
    Commonwealth of Massachusetts
    January 2015 – April 2016 (1 year 4 months)Boston, MA• Manage Senior Advisor’s schedule and meetings
    • Assist on issue-based research
    • Oversee and run Governor’s Statewide Youth Council
    • Greet and answer all phone calls in Executive Office and other administrative duties
    • Coordinate Executive Office events

    — Ryan Coleman — Legislative Affairs Director, Office of the Governor of Massachusetts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *