Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Written Testimony Against Lifting the Charter Cap 10-13-2015
By Gus Morales, MA BAT and Member of the BAT Leadership Team

Testimony submitted 10/13/15 for the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education hearing on Senate Bill 326. This bill suspends the approval of any more charter schools in Massachusetts until Sept. 1, 2018.

My name is Gus Morales. I am a resident of Holyoke and president of the Holyoke Teachers Association.
I would like to preface my testimony by first stating that my position against charter schools is solely focused on the movement and expansion, not an attack on the students and teachers that make up the charter schools. 
The rise of the charter schools is troubling. We have here an attempt to create a two-tiered “public education” system where one of them is bound by an elected body and the accompanying constituents that elect them. That system is the Public Education system. Then you have the other that is “public” in name only. Charter schools operate under different rules; my proof of this is the very existence of charter schools. Were they to operate within identical confines and bureaucratic parameters as public schools are made to, we would not be having this discussion at all.
Charter schools had a noble beginning, at least in idea. Their purpose was to serve as a petri dish for the public school system. Operating outside of the bureaucracy that hampered traditional public education, they were tasked to try new pedagogical approaches and play around with traditional curriculum and scheduling. The charter schools were to essentially serve as pilot schools so that different practices and theories, as they proved to be useful and productive, could then be passed on to the public schools. But that never happened.
As with many stories that are told through the lens of capitalism, this one had a terrible plot twist. Information was not being shared. What was supposed to be cooperation/collaboration turned into competition (contrary to popular belief, this is not good for public education). All of a sudden the word “proprietary” took hold and what was to be never had a chance. Public schools had become the enemy of charter schools and all of its supporters.
Unfortunately for the world, the greedy and the opportunistic quickly took hold of a promising idea and turned it into what we are dealing with today; a two-tiered education system where charter schools syphon public funds from public schools already starving to death. Unlike public schools, they are bound to the embezzlers, profiteers, and those who would have our entire educational system privatized in order to capture greater market shares. To truly reveal the intent of charter schools today, one need only ask one question: Why are the hedge fund managers so interested in them?
Instead of purporting a false narrative about how public schools are failing our students and how teachers’ unions are the bane of Public Education, why don’t we instead deal with the real problems. Like the fact that across the country we have over 400,000 less teachers than are needed, leading to: larger class sizes when we need smaller ones; the cutting of special programs like art, music, and extracurricular, and an attrition rate in the teaching profession that we should all be ashamed of. If we truly cared about our students and their futures we would be fully funding all of our public schools and providing the kind of topnotch, quality education that folks like Arne Duncan afford their own children. 
Do not lift the cap. Instead, take the time to read all that is already out there about this subject matter. You will see that this, like most things touted as excellent by the greedy, is all about the money. We need not have a two-tiered system of education when one well-funded, fully staffed, widely supported one will do.
Thank you.


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