Yesterday I began a new professional chapter as Coalitions Director for Great Schools Massachusetts, with a goal of working with partners to persuade Massachusetts voters to lift the cap on public charter schools in our state come November.
I believe wholeheartedly in public education and am a proud graduate of Head Start and a small public school in rural Central New York. But for many years I have been dismayed by the fact that so many deserving children in our country do not have access to quality, free schooling nearby primarily because of the color of their skin or where their family lives. I’ve seen the disparities firsthand in New York City and in Boston. There are over 30,000 kids stuck on charter school wait lists in this state. The progressive in me has evolved to support smart choice policies: I now firmly believe that families deserve access to multiple school options especially considering certain kids have been failed by their neighborhood schools for generations.
More money is not always the answer and it shows. No family should be denied an education they want to pursue in the greatest state in the greatest country in the world. There are proven free school models that now exist that have closed achievement and opportunity gaps, and we must not arbitrarily limit their availability to kids who want to attend. We must continue to support and modernize all of the good public schools kids have access to as well.
There are too many misconceptions and myths about how charter schools operate in Massachusetts that anger me. After working in one of the best out there for three years, I have heard them all and can honestly refute them all with honor as thousands more kids received the quality public education they deserve — for free — because Excel Academy exists. My charter school experience combined with my own modest upbringing has made this very personal to me so my passion is driving my commitment to this campaign. In a country like ours, we adults can’t let the status quo bind us to the past when kids’ and our country’s futures are at stake. The world is changing and one size does not fit all. We must come together and replicate what works, while investing in public education across the board, and that includes public charter schools where there is evidence they work and advance innovation to benefit our democracy.
Children should not be held hostage. We now have an opportunity to help kids who deserve equal access to a right that many of us, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, hold so dear to the foundation of our democracy and its future. Progressive Democrats should see this as an opportunity to help others and lift more boats in their neighboring and faraway communities. Education is the driver of our economy and our collective future.
MA voters, please join me in this critical cause and vote YES on ballot question #2 on November 8. If anyone has questions or comments, email me and let’s chat. If you want to volunteer to spread the word or get involved on behalf of kids and families, I’m the guy to talk to. #YESon2MA
Shane Dunn | Coalitions Directior | [email protected]
Shane Dunn is Coalitions Director at Great Schools Massachusetts. For nearly three years, he was Managing Director of Strategic Growth and Development at Excel Academy Charter Schools, a high-performing network of four public charter schools serving students from East Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. Prior to Excel, he worked in alumni affairs and development at Harvard, Tufts, and MIT. A native of Waterville, New York, Shane is a graduate of Cornell University and Boston College.