Massachusetts voters will face the choice in November whether to lift a cap on the number of charter schools in the state, and the big money is already rolling in, with some notorious names attached:
Public Charter Schools for MA, the group supporting a referendum to lift the state’s charter school cap, has reserved $6.5 million in advertising for the seven weeks before election day, according to The Tracking Firm, a service that tracks TV advertising spending.
The ads will be produced by DC-based SRCP Media, the same firm behind the infamous “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” campaign against John Kerry in 2004. The ads will begin airing on Sept. 20.
Even under the current cap system, charters are sucking money out of public school systems in Massachusetts:
Here’s the math: If charter-bound students happened to leave in tidy groups of 25 — it would also help if each group had similar abilities, grade-levels, and interests — then a neighborhood school could consider firing a teacher every time this imaginary, homogenous cohort left.
But 25 students leaving Amherst Regional take $303,000 with them, five times a $60,000 mid-range teacher’s salary. For every five children — a fraction of a class — who go to charter schools from a district with a relatively low $12,000 charter assessment, a teacher’s salary goes with them. Or another art or phys. ed. or language program.
Relatively tight regulation and the charter cap keep Massachusetts charter schools at a higher quality than we see in many places where charters have been allowed—encouraged, even—to expand without oversight or regard for quality. Take Detroit:
[Ana Rivera] enrolled her older son, Damian, at the charter school across from her house, where she could watch him walk into the building. He got all A’s and said he wanted to be an engineer. But the summer before seventh grade, he found himself in the back of a classroom at a science program at the University of Michigan, struggling to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, known as the worst urban district in the nation. They knew the human body is made up of many cells; he had never learned that. [...]
Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.
For the corporate education policy crowd, though, draining the public schools dry is the point. Quality of education and respect for students are low on the priority list, if they even make the list.