Voters Reject Question 2, Charter School Cap Will Remain

Charter advocates hit a snag at the ballot box.

Photo via iStock/monkeybusinessimages

Photo via iStock/monkeybusinessimages

The cap on charter school expansion in Massachusetts is here to stay—for now.

Voters have rejected Question 2, the ballot measure that sought to lift the cap, which limited the number of charter schools in operation to no more than 120. If passed, up to 12 new charter schools, or enrollment increases at existing charters, would have been permitted each year.

“The people of Massachusetts have clearly and overwhelmingly rejected the expansion of a separate and unequal education system that would cause irrevocable damage to the public schools that educate all children,” said Juan Cofield, chair of Save Our Public Schools. “Now we must move past this wasteful and divisive ballot question and work together on investing in our local district public schools and the future of all students across Massachusetts.”

Despite proponents enlisting the help of the same firm behind the “Swift Boat” ad campaign that helped sink John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid, Question 2 has failed 62-38 with 40 percent of precincts reporting.

“Although we are disappointed with tonight’s result, the work being done by Massachusetts best-in-the-nation public charter schools continues,” Yes on 2 spokesperson Jacqueline Bart said in a statement. “These great schools will continue to provide first-rate education choices to kids stuck in failing schools. The creation of the charter movement, and the effort to reform a system that has changed so little in a hundred years isn’t easy, but we know the thousands of parents, teachers and students that have fueled this campaign will press on.”

The ballot measure faced opposition from more than 200 school districts across the state, including the Boston School Committee. Mayor Marty Walsh, a longtime supporter of charter schools, opposed Question 2 in a Globe op-ed, arguing that it would destabilize school governance over time.

Gov. Charlie Baker, on the other hand, campaigned door-to-door in favor of Question 2 and appeared in a television ad in the final weeks of the campaign.

There are currently 78 charter schools in operation across Massachusetts. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is tasked with approving the new charter schools, is led by Paul Sagan, a Baker appointee and former Akamai CEO who contributed $100,000 to the pro-charter campaign in September.

Related Reading:

The Great Charter School Debate
A Guide to Charter Schools in Massachusetts

Why I Love My Charter School

Why I Love My Traditional Public School

How Existing Charter Schools Are Doing Right Now