Race to the Top Coalition Members Rally, Testify on Behalf of Charter Public Schools

May 7, 2013

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Members of the Race to the Top Coalition gathered for a breakfast rally before heading to the State House to testify on behalf of legislation that will lift caps on charter schools and permit other reforms in the Commonwealth’s lowest performing school districts.

The Rev. David Wright, head of the Black Ministerial Alliance and the father of three children enrolled in Boston Public Schools, showed the group four of the six letters he received informing him that his 5th-grade daughter had not won a seat in any of the charter school lotteries she entered.

“When we see what the charters are achieving, it only makes sense that we would apply,” he told the coalition members gathered at a breakfast rally at the Omni Parker House Hotel. “Education is still not just the key out of poverty, but in a future that will be more competitive globally, my kids will be competing with kids all over the globe. They need the best education possible.”

Rep. Russell Holmes, who is cosponsoring An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap with Sen. Barry Finegold, said his constituents in portions of Mattapan, Hyde Park, Dorchester and Jamaica Plain are clamoring for better schools. These parents, he said, “are not willing to wait. We know they are asking for quality schools now and we know that this is possible.”
Edward Cremata, coauthor of the 2013 report on Massachusetts charter school performance by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, noted that the Massachusetts charter sector “has two to three times the number of high performing schools than is the case nationally” and that the Boston charter schools have a “realistic shot” at completely closing the achievement gap between poor black and Hispanic students and middle class white students.

When asked what could explain the excellent results in Massachusetts, Mr. Cremata noted that the Commonwealth seems to be doing a good job of granting charters wisely, monitoring performance, and quickly shutting down charter schools that don’t perform.

Boston Foundation President and CEO Paul S. Grogan pointed out that the CREDO results were particularly compelling “because CREDO has really established that it is not a shill for the charter school movement,” having studied charters in 29 states and reporting a variety of findings on their quality.

“What if our area were the first to close the achievement gap?” Grogan asked. “Why are we placing limits on things that are working so dramatically well? How can you limit something that is this successful? These are all questions we should be asking.”

He noted that three years ago, when the coalition first formed and lobbied for the 2010 Act Relevant to the Achievement Gap, success was unlikely. “But we not only won it, we won it by 2-to-1 margins in both houses.” While passage of the pending legislation isn’t assured, he said, “we have vigorous independent and business support” and the excellent track record of the charters themselves. “Charters are delivering for the children fortunate enough to be enrolled in them and they are also providing pressure on the public school districts. Those who really want to see the Boston Public Schools succeed should be leading this fight instead of opposing it.”

The inability of the Mayor and other proponents of education reform to win a longer school day in the most recent Boston Public Schools teachers’ contract confirmed that “major reform, at anything like the pace we need, is not going to come from contract negotiations. That’s why we’re back at the State House this morning.”

Paul Sagan, Chair of Massachusetts Business Leaders for Charter Schools, asked: “What is it going to take for us in Massachusetts to fully embrace charter public schools? We have the best model in the nation and we’ve been fighting the same battle we’ve fought for decades… Charter public schools want to be and should be treated as partners. They are not the enemies of the city, the public and the families.”

Mr. Sagan, a Director and Senior Advisor at Akamai Technologies, said he would be delivering a letter signed by more than 160 businesspeople to the Joint Committee on Education, urging that they “support what we need to do for the kids in the Commonwealth.”