As a general rule there are not a lot of reasons for conservatives in Massachusetts to smile come election time but WCVB polls on Question 2, the expansion of charter schools in the state is an exception:

On charter schools, 49 percent of likely voters support the question and 39 percent oppose, with 12 percent unsure. With leaners, the support goes up to 52 percent and opposition to 41 percent.

These polling stats come despite the opposition of such liberal icons as Senator Elizabeth Warren coming out against Question 2. And the NAACP maintaining its opposition to such schools.

In fact there has been a divide on the question amongst liberals  with the Boston Globe editorializing against fiscal objections to charter schools and some Cambridge city officials  spitting from their fellows on question 2.

US News has noticed this split between the liberal grass-roots and their leadership on this issue

But why do many civil rights groups oppose charters? The more deeply one looks, the more puzzling the question. Unlike rank-and-file teachers, the African-Americans we surveyed support charters by a nearly two to one margin. Forty-eight percent of African Americans say they favor the formation of charters, while only 29 percent stand in opposition, with the remainder taking the neutral position. In fact the opinions of African-Americans resemble those of the American public as a whole – 51 percent support, 28 percent oppose, 21 percent neutral. A March Boston Globe poll found much the same level of support for charters in the Bay State as we found nationally, both among the public as a whole and among all demographic groups.

Not only does the black community support charters, but African-American students enjoy over-representation in charter schools. According to the U. S. Department of Education 27 percent of all charter students are black, even though black students constitute only 16 percent of the overall public school population. Hispanic students at charters (30 percent) are slightly over-represented, as their share of the school-age population is 25 percent. But white students constitute just a quarter of the enrollees at charters, even though they are half of all students attending public school. Mysteriously, the NAACP calls this segregation

This divide has not slowed down the teachers unions and their allies.  In my home town of Fitchburg a local office opened up in the parkhill plaza area with a big sign Fitchburg Educational Association over it.  This has been a source of the lawn signs against question two that have popped up all over town.  In my travels I’ve yet to notice any such comparable effort locally on the other side.

Of course it could be the reason for the inactivity of the pro-question 2 side might be a decision to allow the results from the Sizer School, the local charter serving grades 7-12 speak for itself

the Massachusetts Department of Education released the accountability results for schools across the state. Sizer School, a 7-12 public charter in Fitchburg, has reached Level 1 status – an exciting accomplishment. In the aggregate and by subgroup, Sizer students met state targets for achievement. Sizer also saw strong improvement in subgroup performance in English Language Arts, and in moving students from warning/failing into proficient, and from proficient to advanced. This benchmark is due to the achievement and dedication of Sizer staff, students, and families. It represents diligence and is the result of hard work to ensure students understand and are able to demonstrate mastery of content and concepts in a testing environment.

According to the Massachusetts State 2016 glossary of accountability terms level one means?

Massachusetts’ Framework for District Accountability and Assistance classifies schools and districts on a fivelevel scale, classifying those meeting their gap narrowing goals in Level 1 and the lowest performing in Level 5. Approximately eighty percent of schools are classified into Level 1 or 2 based on the cumulative PPI for the “all students” and high needs groups. For a school to be classified into Level 1, the cumulative PPI for both the “all students” group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.

It defines “high needs students” as:

The high needs group is an unduplicated count of all students in a school or district belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: students with disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and former ELL students, or economically disadvantaged students. For a school to be considered to be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, the cumulative PPI for both the all students group and high needs students must be 75 or higher.

Sizer school scored 76 on all students and an even higher 78 for “high needs” students.

Meanwhile according to state stats Fitchburg in General (Level 3 62/60) and the schools servicing comparable grade levels   Fitchburg high  (Level 3 60/51)   Longsjo Middle school (Level 2 74/68)  and Memorial Middle School (Level 3 61/53) did not do so well.

On the minus side Sizer overall performance relative to other schools in same school type was 40 meaning that 60 percent of comparable schools scored better.  That might have been a good talking point for the folks at the Fitchburg Educational Association trying to move voters in Fitchburg voters if it wasn’t for the fact that Longsjo Middle school relative overall performance score was a 23, Memorial Middle school  a 22 and Fitchburg high a lowly 10 barely making double digits.

As election day grows nearer those opposed to charter school expansion in Massachusetts find themselves in the same position as Senator Richard Russell of Georgia who during the debate on the Civil Rights Act of 1957 had a memorable exchange over the need for a such a law with Senator Pat McNamara of Michigan on the senate floor.  Russell arguing for the status quo, noted McNamara’s stated racial issues in Michigan could be handled without outside interference and asked “Then, why does not the senator let us [in the south] do the same?”  McNamara, in a loud voice answered the argument for maintaining things as they were by saying:  “Because you’ve had ninety years and haven’t done it.”

That’s the dilemma of those hoping to reverse those polling numbers.  If the local schools had produced results that parents wanted for their children the whole question of charter schools would be moot.  But as long as the stats from the state and more importantly the results that are visible to the voters every time their children come home from school remain what they’ve been for years, lawn signs not withstanding the argument for the status quo will remain a difficult sell.


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One of the things that has confused me quite a bit in the battle for charter school both in general and here in Massachusetts per question 2 is the math behind the opposition.

As a rule the voters who tend so support charter schools the most are the very poor voters whose children are trapped in failing schools that many of the opponents of charter schools have failed to serve.

And while the Teachers unions are almost completely united against charter schools many individual teachers are not all that pleased with their unions decisions and when given the chance to abandon the unions as they were in Wisconsin, left them in drove.

This would indicate a giant contradiction, one would think that rather than opposing and jeopardizing one’s base, one would embrace them, additionally simple math will tell you that even if the teachers were united against charter schools the number of students and parents would benefit from them vastly outnumbers them, after all every kid that goes to a charter school is one less added to an existing classroom.

So why are so many leaders willing to fight against them? the Answer comes from some figures concerning students teachers and bureaucrats put together by Ben Scafidi of Kennesaw State University.

staffing-1992-2014
Yes you are seeing that right, since 1992 staffing has increased at a rate nearly double as students and even more incredibly administration has increased at an even greater rate than teachers.

Now one might argue that the increase in teachers is a good thing as it would result in smaller class sizes but can you really argue that we schools needed that incredible increase in administrators?

and what does that kind of increase in administration beyond the increase in student cost?

what-if-national

That’s an awful lot of money being spent that to provide jobs for bureaucrats.

As far as Massachusetts goes, here are the number

ma-chart

the Numbers of teachers has increased at a rate 100% higher than then number of students, But as you can see the number of school administrators by a rate 150% more than the increase in students.

How much did all those administrators cost Massachusetts?

ma-savings

Now you might say “but datechguy, hasn’t all these administrators and extra teachers paid off?”

Not according to the stats

results

I interviewed professor Scafidi at the amplify choice event in Denver last month about these figures.

The current system is only been successful at one thing, providing patronage and jobs to every bureaucrat that needs it.

And it’s to protect that $395 Million in patronage locally and 27.1 Billion in patronage nationally and the power that patronage provides that those fighting charter schools are really looking to protect.

 ♫ You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store ♫

Sixteen Tons Tennessee Ernie Ford

Ebeneezer Scrooge:  I have been forced to support the establishments I have mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they’re worth. Those who are badly off must go there.

Scrooge 1970

I’m not going to stand by and allow our kids to go to failing schools

Representative Angela Williams Democrat of Colorado

There was a time when Unions and the Democrat party would rail against monopoly and the symbols of monopoly like the “company store” (not to be confused with the actual “company store” seller of fine linnens since 1911) where the workers dependent on the local company for their wages would spend said wages in a store owned by the company for their basic needs at the price the company set.

How times have changed:

The Massachusetts Democratic Party on Tuesday night voted to oppose a ballot question that would expand charter schools in Massachusetts, putting the party at odds with some of its members in the Legislature.

“Our local communities cannot afford to lose even more money to charter schools,” said former Rep. Carol Donovan, a Democratic State Committee member from Woburn, in a statement. “Already, cities and towns forced to make budget cuts every year due to the state’s underfunding of education and the money lost to charters. If this ballot question passes, it will create budget crises in hundreds of Massachusetts communities, and hurt the students who remain in our local district public schools.”

For those not familiar with Question 2 the Lowell sun reports:

upcoming ballot Question 2 would allow up to 12 charter schools or enrollment expansions every year. Preference would go to school districts whose academic performance places them in the bottom 25 percent of the state.

For a moment lets forget that the charter schools ARE in the local community and that they are in fact public schools within the local districts and consider what the committee woman is saying.

She is advocating that any child of a parent who can’t afford to pay twice for school (once for taxes and once for private school)  should be subject to a monopoly where regardless of the quality of the product, the safety of the environment where the product is produced or the end result of the use of the product every such child MUST use it.

That is the very definition of a company store.

Moreover said expansion gives preference to those places where the Monopoly has failed.

It’s interesting to note that, unlike the opposition, the support for Question 2 is bipartisan uniting Massachusetts GOP governor Charlie Baker:

“Closing the achievement gap and ensuring a quality education for all of the Commonwealth’s students is one of my top priorities,” said Governor Baker. “And charter schools, which are producing great academic outcomes, are one of many tools that must be part of the solution.”

‪And longtime democrats like state Senator Michael Rodrigues

“Public charter schools have helped to close the achievement gap by providing kids with longer school days, more personal attention, and outstanding results,” said Sen. Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport). “Lifting the cap, and providing more kids with the quality public education they deserve, isn’t about politics – it’s about what’s best for children.”

This is precisely what I saw at Amplify Choice in Denver where Democrat State Rep Angela Williams (now running for state Senate made a presentation on the difficulties of passing Charter school and school choice legislation

And boldly declared during her presentation:

It’s also why parents like Chhorvivoin Sumsethi are manning phone banks to pass it

Her child has been stuck on the waiting list for Lowell Community Charter Public School for two years. She has lost hope, she said, because it seems to take forever.

“I truly believe in competition for improvement of quality of education, and I feel that regular public schools don’t have enough competition,” she said. “And private schools — how many people among the general public can afford that?”

But as long as the Union owns the Public School company store and the Democrat party owns the unions Democrat voices like Rep. Frank Moran of Lawrence and Senator Rodriguez will be the exception rather than the rule.

Until that changes it will take ballot questions like question 2 to give Massachusetts voters a chance to decide if the Union company store has gets any competition.


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and if you want to fight the MSM company store join the Have Fedora Will Travel pledge drive to send me to cover Donald Trump on the road

Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone’s special, Dash.
Dash: Which is another way of saying no one is.

The Incredibles 2004

Last Sunday when I woke up after getting home from Denver I turned on the TV as I got dressed for the Madonna Della Cava festival and noticed a commercial playing attacking Charter Schools and question 2 which began with the words.

“400 million dollars, that’s how much charter schools will drain from Massachusetts public schools this year”

Under normal circumstances this would be more background political noise that I would ignore but I had just come back from the Amplify choice conference put on by the Franklin Center where we spent a day and a half listening to speakers talk about Charter Schools both in Denver and across the nation.

And having attended said conference I knew that best the “Save our schools” crowd was being deceptive and at worst they were lying through their teeth because that statement ignores a cogent fact about charter schools…

Charter schools are public schools.

That would seem to be a rather important fact for that argument but an ad saying: “400 million dollars, that’s how much money will be spent on some public schools instead of others this year”  is unlikely to scare voters.

From that point the ad argument doesn’t get better.

400 million syphoned from local districts that desperately need it.

Except for the fact the Charter Schools are still part of the school districts that they are located in.

400 million that won’t fund more science and technology…

Actually the 400 million will just fund science and technology at a different school as anyone who joined me in visiting the Denver School of Science and Technology last week would know and met Sheila…

…and some of her classmates

The three wise young women
The three wise young women

…would see that science would not suffer, it will prosper.

arts or preschool, counseling or smaller class sizes

In fact charter that money would not only fund smaller class sizes which are the norm at charter schools but would fund them for groups that traditionally don’t get them as this enrollment chart shows:

In fact the STRIVE charter schools in Denver enrollment is 97% of color reflecting the neighborhoods they operate in.

$400 million unavailable to the 96% of students who don’t attend charter schools

That sentence is funny , it would be just as accurate to say to describe the $1.013 billion budgeted to the Boston Public schools as….

$1.013 Billion dollars unavailable to students who don’t attend Boston public schools”

…which again isn’t going to scare anyone.

The “save our schools” ads when they finish with

“Let’s improve public schools for all students, not just a select few.”

Forgetting for a second that by this argument your public school should not get a new lab because said lab is not for all public school students, just for the select few that go to it. It ignores that fact that the rising tide of Charter schools tends to lift all boats as evidenced by the results in Denver before expansion of charter schoolsDenver mid 2000'sand after
denver after

What is this ad actually arguing? It’s arguing to keep schools that are failing from having to compete with schools that are not, and it’s counting on the fact that most of the people seeing this ad, did not attend the Franklin Center #amplifychoice event this year.

Or to put it another way this “save our schools” ad is completely dependent on its audience being uneducated and uninformed about the results charter schools bring to protect failing public schools

Rather ironic isn’t it?

If you want to find out more about charter schools check out the #amplifychoice hashtag here or check out these posts at DaTechGuyblog:

Denver Day Two The Zoo and then Six #AmplifyChoice Conference Interviews

Denver Day Three Part 1: Panels and speakers

Denver Day Three Part 2: Da Writers at #AmplifyChoice

Denver Day Four Part 1: #AmplifyChoice on the Road


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