In a state that takes great pride in education, Massachusetts has become ground zero for the national charter school debate, explains Roger Lowenstein in the WSJ. State laws limit charter school capacity in the Bay State, which means 32,000 children, most of them minorities, are on waiting lists. But that could change in November when voters get to decide. A referendum on the November ballot–known as Question 2–“would authorize the state to open as many as 12 new charters each year, adding to the roughly 70 in operation now.”
Charters are public schools run by independent operators, unconstrained by union rules but subject to the same basic educational standards. Results vary, but studies, like one in 2011 by Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, suggest that poor and minority students do particularly well in charters.
Massachusetts has been a front-runner in education since the 1830s, when Horace Mann set out to create a system of public schools. In a state that takes great pride in education, Question 2 has inflamed passions. Local Republicans, who want no part of this year’s presidential politics, are avidly in favor, with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker leading the charge. Democrats are painfully divided, as one might expect for an issue that, arguably, separates the interests of organized teachers from their students.