Lifting the Massachusetts Cap on Charter Schools: Pro and Con
On November 8, Massachusetts residents will vote on Ballot Question 2, a referendum on whether to lift a statewide cap and allow up to 12 new charter schools to launch each year, with a preference given to charters that would open in low-performing districts. Proponents note that charters in the Bay State show some of the strongest academic results in the country and that lifting the cap would allow more disadvantaged students to attend high-quality charters. Opponents argue that the students who enroll in charter schools drain more than $400 million a year in state aid that currently goes to traditional public school districts.
- While it is true that, under Chapter 70 of Massachusetts’ general laws, funding follows students from traditional public district schools to public charter schools, student enrollment in charter schools also effectively increases per-pupil expenditures at district schools. In 2016, charter enrollment had the effect of increasing per-pupil spending in district schools by approximately $85 million statewide.
- There is convincing evidence that charter schools have raised the performance of students in them. Multiple “gold-standard” studies have confirmed that enrollment in Boston charter schools has caused significant increases in students’ reading and math proficiency.
- There is little evidence that the performance of students in charter schools is dragging down the performance of the traditional local public schools. From 2011 to 2015, English and math scores increased in the 10 Massachusetts school districts with the highest local share of charter enrollment.
Max Eden is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.