Tuesday, Nov. 8 is arguably the most important day in 2016 since the future of this country will be determined by the presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as by the House and Senate races. However, here in Massachusetts, voters will have four more questions on their ballot. These questions made the ballot through statewide petitions introduced by Massachusetts’s citizens, either to be put on the ballot or in order to amend the current state constitution. Question 1 would permit the Gaming Commission to issue additional slot machine licenses; Question 2 would authorize the approval of 12 additional charter schools; Question 3 would permit certain methods of farm animal containment and Question 4 would lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Voters will vote on these measures with a simple “yes” or “no” vote. Here we will examine why a “yes” vote on Question 2 will strengthen public education in Massachusetts.
Charter schools in the U.S .are schools that offer free primary and secondary education, but unlike public schools, these alternatives must follow fewer government-imposed regulations. Though charter schools receive less government funding than regular public schools, parents, teachers and other sources can fund them. Charter school students spend longer time at school every day and receive more personalized attention. The greater amount of options, the more individual attention and greater amount resources and activities are all factors that tend to lead to a better learning environment. Furthermore, these factors help charter school students score higher standardized test scores than students who go to regular public schools.
President Ronald Reagan once said that, “When government expands, liberty contracts.” Indeed government intervention in most cases does not help people; rather it imposes on them what to do, like in the case of public education. The parents should have the final role in deciding what is best for their children, not the school board, not the state government and most certainly not the bureaucrats in Washington. Rather, government should be there guiding parents and students and offering them a plethora of options to chose from, without making the parents to go out of their way in order to pay for a private school education.
Last month I attended a conversation with Former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush at Harvard University that concentrated on the topic of education. Throughout the conversation, Gov. Bush recited a personal story. While using an Uber he asked the Uber driver “why are you an Uber driver?” The Uber driver then responded that the “Ubering” helped her drop off her son at a charter school known for math and sciences further away than the “assigned monopoly school.” At this assigned public school her son was “bored to tears” with standardized learning. Now the boy is much happier in his new school environment and aspires to attend MIT. Jeb Bush specifically said “I would trust that woman to wake up at 5 in the morning to send her child to the school that best meets his needs […] according to her, who makes the sacrifice of going the extra mile to do it, who works in a different kind of format than she was so that he can attend this school. I trust her much more than I trust her much more than the well intended deputy superintendent inside of some sickened bureaucracy in Boston.”
If Question 2 is passed come Nov. 8 the State Board of Education will be able to approve a modest increase in new or expanding public charter schools each year in some of the state’s lowest performing districts. Furthermore parents have many more options to choose from when investing in the child’s education. If more charter schools are created, there will be room for many more kids to receive this affordable quality education without paying for a private school.
The proposition has reached bipartisan support in Massachusetts and across the country. Republican Governor Charlie Baker was one of the first elected officials endorsing the “yes” vote. As Governor Baker noted, “For too many families in Massachusetts, who can’t move, who can’t pay to send their kids to private schools, they are not getting that choice and all we want is to give every kid in Massachusetts a chance to benefit from the same thing.” Stephen Lynch a Democrat in the US House of Representatives was quoted saying: “It is crucial that all families in the Commonwealth have the opportunity to choose the best option for their child, whether that is a traditional public school or a public charter school. And I’m proud to lead the way to fair school choices… as a supporter of Question 2.”
Of course Question 2 will not be what most people will be focused on come Election Day. Some people may not even know that these questions will appear on the ballot. However, every child has the right to an education of his or her choice despite his or her family’s resources; something than can be achieved through the expansion of charter schools, creating a better learning environment for today’s youth.