MA Voters Reject Charter School Increase

Boston - Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and former English teacher protests in front of the polling station at the Boston Public Library. “Yes on 2 is reckless. We’re going to talk to half a million voters today. I have a good feeling for tonight,” she said. - Photo by Xue Yujie/BU News Service
Written by Michael Illiano

By Michael Iliano
BU News Service

As advocates OF “No on 2” celebrated the concession of the measure’s proponents late Tuesday, a common refrain emerged: there is still work to be done.

“Now the election’s over and we have to invest…in every last one of our students, not just the few that attend the charter schools,” Zena Link, a 10th grade English teacher in Worcester, told the crowd.

Question 2, which would have allowed as many as 12 new charter schools in Massachusetts each year was defeated by a 62.6 to 37.4 percent margin with 67 percent of the vote counted.

The current cap limits the number of charter schools in the state to 120. There are currently 81 charter schools operating in Massachusetts.

Liam Kerr, the director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that supported the charter school increase, said that the campaign’s end should bring the two sides closer together.

“Voters are in agreement that there are places we need to do a lot better,” Kerr said. “No change is not an option. We need to come together and find solutions.”

Link said that she is optimistic the two sides will be able to find a compromise.

“The reality is, whether people voted yes, or voted no, they voted for what’s best for young people and for students,” Link said. “They voted that education is very important to the most vulnerable people in society. I would like to think that we could come together, have a compromise, and find a way to create better public schools and increase the amount of funding that goes into them.”

Others celebrated “No on 2”’s grassroots efforts.

“We beat back the privateers,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni told the crowd. “We beat their money through democracy.”

Katarina Rusinas, No on 2’s digital director, credited students, parents and teachers for their efforts to defeat the measure.

“It was a grassroots effort,” said “They’ve been knocking doors and making phone calls for months. They did everything it takes to win.”

In her speech, Madeloni told the crowd that the No on 2 campaign had to overcome a powerful coalition, defeating Question 2’s war chest of $24 million – making it one of the 10 most expensive campaigns in the country, according to Ballotpedia.  Opponents of the measure spent $14.5 million.

Gov. Charlie Baker, who had been a vocal supporter of the question, appearing on a commercial to urge parents who were satisfied with their children’s schools to vote in favor of the question to help children in under performing schools. The governor also went door-to-door in Dorchester in support of the measure in the final weeks of the campaign.

On Tuesday night, he issued a statement thanking supporters and looking to the future.

“I’m proud to have joined with thousands of parents, teachers and education reformers in a worthwhile campaign to provide more education choices for students stuck in struggling districts,” Baker said in a statement. “And while Question 2 was not successful, the importance of that goal is unchanged.”

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