Massachusetts Governor Calls for Voters to Back Charter-School Ballot Question

by Paul Crookston

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has added his face to the war being waged in his state over the expansion of charter schools.

In the video, Baker reiterates the twofold message of the “Yes on Question 2” campaign: First, that there is a need for charter schools in neighborhoods with underperforming schools; second, that for residents with great schools, “Question 2 won’t affect you.” If the popular governor’s message can land with the white liberal voters in the Bay State, then Question 2 can make a comeback.

Right now, however, the two most recent polls show Question 2 losing by eleven points –primarily thanks to fierce opposition among Democratic leaders and teachers’ unions. Their message is that charter schools “drain resources” from traditional public schools, which is a dubious claim but one that resonates with voters living in excellent school districts who fear budget cuts.

From the Boston Globe:

[O]ne crucial bloc of the Democratic electorate — nonwhite voters — has consistently been in favor of charter school expansion in Massachusetts, even as white Democrats have begun to oppose Question 2 in greater numbers.

In other words, white liberals — who normally align themselves with minority interests — are staunchly opposing Question 2, while African-American and Latino voters are backing it by 13 points. Should Baker and the GOP prevail, they would demonstrate that splitting the Democratic coalition is possible.

The Left has launched a fear campaign against Question 2, spreading the idea that “unlimited expansion” of charter schools will lead to “apocalyptic change” in school performance. To accept this attack, one must ignore the fact that Massachusetts has very high standards that charter applications must meet. Question 2 keeps in place all the standards that have led to the state having some of the best charters in the nation.

In practice, the artificial cap on charters serves only to prevent further improvement and to leave thousands of kids on waiting lists. Baker has said that seeing Question 2 go down because of affluent white voters would make him “feel sick.” But he has little control over Democrats whose leadership — and also the leadership of groups like the NAACP — have spoken out against opening more charter schools.

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