To the Editor:
As longtime Dorchester residents who have been involved with the Boston Public Schools as teachers, student, and parents for more than 40 years, we are concerned about the effect that lifting the cap on charter schools will have on the future of public education for all the children of Boston. We strongly encourage a “no” vote on Question 2. We have had many positive experiences in each of our roles and know that much good has come, and can continue to come, from a BPS education.
Two generations in our family have had strong educations in BPS, as have many of the students we have taught, the thousands who have come to school with multiple languages, issues resulting from poverty, and special needs. Some of the students who struggle in school have found teachers and programs that have met their needs, while other families have decided to move their children to charter schools, with the public funding going with them. Some students who transfer have found excellent success in the well-funded schools.
Yet, we also personally know many students who, after being accepted at a charter school, are then counseled to leave because the school doesn’t have programs or services that meet their needs. This is often the case for students who are English language learners, have severe special needs, or have behavioral challenges. They return to Boston Public Schools, but it is not clear how or if the funding follows the student back to the BPS school. That remains a concern.
In addition, most charter schools have advisory boards, and one of their primary goals is to identify additional resources for that school. The advisory boards clearly identify members from businesses and foundations who bring significant additional funding to their schools for the renovation of buildings and the provision of wonderful additional programs and activities. The result, however, is a two-tiered system of funding and programs, one for the charter schools and one for the regular public schools.
We believe that for Boston to be the city we can all be proud to live in, adding more charter schools is not the answer. We must develop a plan to provide an excellent education for all our children, not just for those who are easiest to teach. Raising the charter cap and continuing to leave students with the most complex needs in BPS schools will not further that goal. We again urge voters of Boston to vote “no” on Question 2 in November.