Magical thinking in education policy is dangerous and generally ends up hurting the most vulnerable. The Yes on 2 campaign is promising everything to everyone but without wrestling with the very real issue of who is going to pay for these 12 new schools a year.
Education spending in Massachusetts is already severely underfunded. The legislature set up a commission to study how the state is meeting its legal obligations to fund education. It was called the Foundation Budget Review Commission, and it found that Massachusetts was underfunding public schools by a billion dollars a year. That is the state of education funding today.
The FBRC found that the two areas where the state is underfunding education is in special education and health care costs.
If you have not noticed that your schools are underfunded, it’s because your city or town has chosen to divert funding from other departments to make up the difference.
In fact, the legislature estimates that if Question 2 passes, it will cost 1 billion a year within 10 years. This will be an additional bill to the already underfunded public school sector. It should also be noted that Governor Baker just announced that he must reopen the Massachusetts budget to deal with a $295 million spending deficit. This has not dampened his enthusiasm for opening up 12 more schools a year, every year, with no funding source identified.
I and other parent education activists have gone to state legislators three years in a row asking for more money. And every year we are told the same thing: The state has a lot of funding priorities. And how can you argue with that? What am I asking them to cut in order for them to fully fund education?
So it has been left to cities and towns to figure this out. This is why many pro charter politicians are No on 2. Because this question will make this reality worse. Because if you exacerbate this situation there won’t be many easy answers. You can raise taxes but that is politically dangerous or you can make cuts.
In fact, Boston commissioned McKinsey consulting to draft a report on controlling BPS school costs. It should come as no surprise that half of the report is dedicated to cutting special education spending.
This is what I mean by saying that magical thinking is dangerous. All children deserve a quality education. There is a limited amount of tax dollars available to achieve this purpose so we must very careful and prudent with our education policy.
By pretending that there are no costs associated with Question 2, the proponents of this measure endanger the financial solvency of school districts and their ability to provide an education to all children.
 The state reimburses public schools for a six year period for the loss of a students. The first year is 100%, then 25% for five years. The ballot initiative is 12 charter schools or 1% of the number of students in Massachusetts, 1% of students = 9,500 x average per pupil of $11,054 = $105M per year. Conservatively by this rationale is would take about 10 years to get to $1 billion in new spending for new charters.