by Brian Washington
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Voters in two states have defeated ballot measures that could have led to the unchecked growth of charter schools–robbing public schools of valuable resources and funding.
In Massachusetts, voters defeated Question 2, which sought to lift the cap on the creation of new charter schools in the state. Question 2, if approved, would have taken millions of dollars away from public schools, which are already underfunded about a $1 billion per year.
To defeat the ballot measure, educators teamed up with parents, students, civil rights leaders, labor and faith-based groups, and other community organizations. They formed the Save Our Public Schools campaign.
Barbara Madeloni, a senior lecturer with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and president of the 110,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association, said the defeat of Question 2 is a victory for students, communities, and democracy.
“The ballot question campaign pitted hedge fund billionaires, dark money, and the governor against educators, students, parents and labor,” said Madeloni. “And the people of the Commonwealth won. They asserted their commitment to public education through a monumental grassroots effort that included months of canvassing, phone banking, and other kinds of conversations.”
Our victory in Massachusetts sends a signal across the nation that public education is not for sale and that we can beat back the assault on our schools, colleges and universities. But it sends a larger message as well—a message heard again and again as I knocked on doors and talked to voters on the phone: We care about and are proud of our public schools.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, voters overwhelmingly voted no on Amendment 1 and Governor Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District proposal, which, once again, would have opened the door to the proliferation of charter schools in the state.
If approved, Amendment 1 would have amended the Georgia Constitution to allow the state to take over a school district, wrestling control away from parents and local communities. Once under state control, under-performing public schools could then be converted to charter schools as part of “education reform.”
Once again, educators joined with parents and a wide variety of community groups to defeat Amendment 1. Dr. Sid Chapman, a high school social studies and English teacher, is president of the Georgia Association of Educators, which represents thousands of educators across the state. He says now that the voters have spoken, it’s time for everyone to come to the table to determine how to best assist those schools and communities that are struggling.
Our under-performing public schools are generally reflective of the communities which they are a part,” said Dr. Chapman. “We are talking about challenges that are systemic throughout these communities. What is going to be needed is an all-hands-on-deck community centered approach to address the underlying issues leading to the underperformance of the schoolchildren in these communities. Right now the community schools approach is the best we’ve seen that addresses the complex problems faced by these schools and communities.
Community schools are open all day, every day to everyone. Community schools bring together academics, health and social services, youth and community development, as well as a wide variety of other services–all under one roof. Supporters say community schools lead to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.