Charter School Supporters Disappointed After Question 2 Rejected

Boston - Shellina Semexant, a mother of three and a strong supporter of the Yes on 2 campaign, with her son Joshua, at the Yes on 2 party at the J.J. Foley's Cafe in South Boston. "My son is in the second grade and he is reading on the same level as his older sister. but my five year old has been on the waiting list for the past four years. This is a fight until all students get access to a great education," said Semexant. Photo by Shraddha Gupta/BU News Service.
Written by BU News Service

By Megan Moore and Felicia Gans
BU News Service

The hard fought campaign over Question 2 came to a quiet end late Tuesday as supporters of the initiative to raise the number of charter schools in Massachusetts conceded defeat in a statement but no formal announcement at a viewing party in the city’s South End.

“Although we are disappointed with tonight’s result, the work being done by Massachusetts best-in-the-nation public charter schools continues,” the Yes on 2 campaign statement said. “These great schools will continue to provide first-rate education choices to kids stuck in failing schools.”

The ballot initiative, which would have allowed the addition of up to 12 schools a year, was trailing 62.7 to 37.3 percent with 57 percent of the vote counted shortly after 11p.m.

For most of the night, supporters of the initiative stood with plates of food, eyes glued to the television screens as poll results came in. Supporters clapped and cheered whenever their ballot question was featured on the news.

Question 2 galvanized the state’s voters and brought in a record-breaking number of donations, including $26,066,694 for the question and $15,397,988 against it, according to the Nov. 7 filing.

The proposal remained in a tight race throughout the election cycle, with the latest Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll showing a 45.4 percent split as late as Oct. 27.

It also brought high-profile voices to the debate floor, including Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who fought on opposite sides of the ballot initiative.

Baker put a public face to the question, canvassing door-to-door in many communities and recording a televised advertisement that asked voters to support the charter school cap raise, an unprecedented step in the recent history of ballot questions.

“Public charter schools give parents a choice and are a pathway to success for these kids,” Baker said in the ad. “If you like your school, Question 2 won’t affect you, but Question 2 will change the future for thousands of kids who need your help.”

Supporters of the ballot spoke of the hope charter schools had brought them and their children.

Shellina Semexant, a Boston Public School and a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) parent, spoke of her experience with charter schools in a room speckled with Yes on 2 stickers and shirts.

One of her children is in Boston Public Schools and two children are in charter schools.

“My son is in the second grade and is reading on the same level as his older sister [who is 10 years old and goes to a Boston public school],” Semexant said. “My 5-year-old has been there for two months, and she’s already reading.”

Semexant’s 10-year-old daughter has been on the waiting list for KIPP for four years.

She said even though this ballot didn’t pass, parents need to keep fighting, “keep fighting until all students get access to a great education.”

Rodolfo Aguilar, a Hyde Park father, spoke of the need for resilience, and said changes within the public school system need to be made “with urgency.”

“I see how kids are falling through the cracks in the educational system, and I don’t think it’s fair for kids not to get a fair chance of getting a great education to pursue their goals and their dreams in their lives,” said Aguilar, whose three kids have gone to Brooke Charter School in Roslindale.

Aguilar said though the question failed, parents will keep fighting to make the school systems stronger.

“We’re still going to keep on fighting because at the end of the day, we want these failing schools to succeed, to give our kids a better education,” he said.

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