Save Our Public Schools – a special interest-backed coalition which opposes families’ right to choose the best public school for their children – claims in a new advertisement that: “$400 million dollars – that’s how much charter schools will drain from Massachusetts public schools this year.”

This is a deliberately misleading attack on public charter schools, designed to scare voters away from supporting equal opportunity for thousands of families desperate for a better education.

Here’s the truth about public charter schools and school funding:

  1. Charter Schools ARE public schools.

    According to Massachusetts state law, a charter school is a “public school operated under a charter granted by the Board…a charter school is considered a local education agency for all purposes.” In Massachusetts, education funding is assigned to a student, not to a school. So when a student opts for a public charter school, the money to educate that student simply follows her from one public school to another, exactly how it would if she moved from one district school to another. According to Scot Lehigh of The Boston Globe, implying that charter schools are not public schools, because they’re overseen by the state, is “akin to saying that the state police aren’t public law enforcement officers.”

  2. Public charter schools have actually INCREASED funding for public education.

    Whenever a new public charter school opens, the state provides traditional public school districts with more state aid, which has increased overall education spending on public education by hundreds of millions of dollars. Opening new public charter schools has led to more than $236 million in state aid for public education over the last five years, including more than $41 million in FY15.

  3. Spending on public education in Massachusetts has increased dramatically, not decreased.

    Over the last five years, due in part to the spending outlined above, education spending has increased in Massachusetts by 16.9%. This has amounted to an additional $1.7 billion in public funding for public schools.

  4. Non-partisan research institutions, editorial boards, and opinion leaders across the Commonwealth have rejected the idea that public charter schools take money from public education, calling Save Our Public Schools’ argument everything from “absurd” to “an outright lie.”

    According to The Boston Globe, “[charter schools] don’t siphon off state dollars meant for the traditional schools; the funding charters receive reflects the amount the state and district would spend educating a charter’s students if they were in the district schools,” and “there is no charter line in the budget, just one pot of education funding for public schools.”

    According to Farah Stockman of The Boston Globe, “the truth is that the budget for Boston Public Schools has risen every year, from $737 million in 2011 to more than $1 billion today. That’s a 25 percent increase, greater than the growth in the budgets of police, fire, and the city itself…If that’s what starving looks like, where do I sign up?

    According to the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, “the contention that the Boston school budget is being affected by the increase in charter school tuition is not accurate.”

    The Boston Herald calls Save Our Public Schools’ claims “absurd”, noting that teachers unions have used this argument “to scapegoat charter schools.”

    The Lowell Sun calls Save our Public Schools’ claims “ill-informed union arguments and outright lies.”

    The Pioneer Institute notes that “Charter detractors would have the public believe that charter schools drain funding from their district counterparts.  Charter public schools may attract students away from other public schools, but they certainly do not drain those schools of funding..the loss of students to charter schools actually increases district [school] budgets for a period of time.”

    The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune says “Charter schools are, in fact, public schools — funded with public money and subject to the same performance requirements as municipal public schools.”

It’s a shame that special interests would rather protect themselves than fight on behalf of nearly 33,000 kids desperate for better schools. It’s time for a change.