Since Governor Bentley and the state board of education believe the pot at the end of the education rainbow is in Massachusetts these days we should keep an eye on things in the Bay State.
This New England state has long had charter schools. In fact the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 that our new state superintendent Michael Sentence is so proud of opened the door for charters and authorized the state to approve charter schools exempt from local control and union contracts. (Massachusetts is one of the country’s most heavily unionized teacher states, but Governor Bentley has not said we should follow this example too.)
Presently state law caps the number of charters in Massachusetts at 120, though my info says there were only 81 in operation in the 2015-16 school year. Even so, it has been estimated that this year charters will divert $450 million from public schools there.
On November 8, voters will decide whether or not in increase this cap by as many as 12 new charters per year.
As is often the case, the campaign in support of raising the cap is receiving major support from billionaires who don’t live in Massachusetts. According to Dr. Mercedes Schneider, as of September 9 more than $11 million has gone into the effort urging a “yes” vote.
The largest contributors known to date are Jim and Alice Walton of the Wal-Mart fortunes. They have chipped in $1,835,000. (These two people are not strangers to Alabama. Jim gave $150,000 to the Alabama Federation for Children on Oct. 8, 2014 to use in state legislative campaigns, while Alice gave $50.000 on March 21 of this year to be spent on state school board races.)
Republican Governor Charlie Baker is very pro-charter and his hand-picked chair of the state school board, Paul Sagan, gave $100,000 to the vote yes effort.
Is all of this a foretaste of what we can expect in Alabama? I would not bet against it.