BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – Supporters of a charter school expansion ballot question upped their push Tuesday from both sides of the partisan aisle, releasing a new ad featuring Gov. Charlie Baker and announcing a $500,000 effort to mobilize Democratic voters.
In the 30-second ad paid for by Great Schools Massachusetts, Baker asks viewers to join him in voting yes on Question 2, which would allow the state to license up to 12 new charter schools per year.
“Imagine if your kids were trapped in a failing school,” Baker says in the new television ad. “Public charter schools give parents a choice and are a pathway to success for these kids. 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.”
Baker began his day in New York delivering an address on education policy at the Manhattan Institute, and is scheduled to go door-to-door in Dorchester this afternoon after addressing parents at a house party for the pro-expansion campaign. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito canvassed in support of the ballot question Monday afternoon in her hometown of Shrewsbury.
Charter expansion opponents took aim at Baker’s meeting with the New York think tank, saying that many of its funders are also backing Question 2 financially.
“While Governor Baker is in New York asking for more Wall Street money from the billionaires funding Question 2, he’s showing up here in a TV ad that repeats the ludicrous idea that Question 2 won’t affect any family who likes their school,” the No on Question 2 campaign said in a statement. “There are hundreds of thousands of families who love their local public schools in every community in Massachusetts, and Question 2, by removing all limits on charter school expansion, will lead to even deeper budget cuts in urban, suburban, and rural school districts.”
Along with the state’s two top Republicans, Question 2 has the support of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat. Senate President Stan Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, plans to vote against the question.
Massachusetts Democrats have been divided on the issue of charter school expansion. The pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform on Tuesday announced it will dedicate $500,000 “to correct the record of Democratic Leaders and Increase turnout among base Democratic voters.”
The pro-expansion side is trailing in the latest poll of Massachusetts voters, released Oct. 18 by WBUR and the MassINC Polling Group. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they would vote “no” on the question, with 41 percent in favor.
While expansion supporters say publicly funded and independently run charter schools provide educational opportunities to students who would otherwise lack them, critics say charters drain money away from district schools that serve the bulk of the state’s students.
Eighteen city councils and 200 school committees across the state have now voted to oppose the expansion question, which the No on 2 campaign described as “overwhelming grassroots opposition.” The Braintree and Hadley school boards joined that list Monday night with votes against the expansion proposal.
“This question isn’t about choice, it’s about Wall Street billionaires masked by their Super PACs trying to hijack local control of our schools,” Marshfield School Committee chairman Sean Costello said in a statement. “Our kids and our communities deserve better.”
In announcing their mobilization initiative, Democrats for Education Reform took aim at the opposition by school committees, saying the “overwhelming majority” of those who have taken a stance against the question “are not impacted by this question and represent mostly White communities.”
“The campaign against expanding successful charter schools has attempted to scare White, suburban, Democratic voters into opposing Question 2,” DFER state director Liam Kerr said in a statement. “What those special interests don’t want Democratic voters to know is that the party’s leadership, such as President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, strongly support the expansion of high-quality public charter schools.”
The group announced four regional chairs who will lead efforts to reach Democratic voters in their respective areas of the state: Lawrence School Committee member Pavel Payano; former Springfield City Councilor Amaad Rivera; Gladys Vega of Chelsea; and Ewell Hopkins, president of the Democratic Council of Martha’s Vineyard.
DFER also plans to run targeted advertisements in “heavily Democratic communities that would benefit from a charter school cap lift” and conduct an “aggressive mail and phone campaign,” according to a release.
Copyright 2016 State House News Service