A fully funded system of free public schools to provide an equal, quality education for every child of the Commonwealth is one of the foundations of a democratic society and an essential building block to a healthy community. It helps make possible a Commonwealth valuing the worth of each individual and living in peace with others and in harmony with our natural environment. Ballot issue 2, supported largely by for profit charter school companies, would divert tens of millions of dollars from the already seriously underfunded public schools and undermine the campaigns for equal rights and democracy that we understand are important to the struggle for peace.
Massachusetts and Public Schools: It is ironic that this crucial battle for public education should take place in our Commonwealth because it has been one of the critically important cites in the struggle to win free and equal public schools. South Grammar School (later Boston Latin School) was founded as the first partially publicly funded school in 1635 and a similar school in Dedham, Massachusetts, was founded in 1644 as the first totally publicly funded school in the US. Early founders of our country, including Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, were products of our state’s public srchools in the 18th century, and in the 19th century Massachusetts under the leadership of such champions of public education as Horace Mann, became the first state to establish universal, mandatory public education. In the 20th century our Commonwealth became one of the focus states in the struggle to win equal education for African Americans as the civil rights struggle turned to segregated northern cities.
Education is fundamental to democracy: Itself a product of popular struggle, free public education for all, is a key element of the success story of the U.S. economy and the underpinning of the struggle to expand democracy in our governing institutions. The struggle for equal educational opportunity has been a hallmark of the civil rights movements as different groups of us struggled for basic political and economic rights, because political participation and economic success are often dependent on access to quality education. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the fundamental documents of the United Nations, the universal right to education is recognized.
Public Education has been horribly underfunded: As the 1% at the top of the economic pyramid and the corporations through which it acts have achieved increasing dominance over the decisions of our federal government through campaign contributions and lobbying, a huge distortion in priorities has imposed effective cuts on all programs which address the needs of the 99%. To preserve and expand tax cuts on wealth and expand the military industrial complex upon which many fortunes depend, spending on education has been frozen and cut exactly when huge new investments were necessary to meet the educational challenges of our information age.
Peace Action has been a leader of the campaign to redress and shift our nation’s federal priorities to meet the needs of our population instead of the greed of the 1 %. The need for funding public education has been part of the fuel behind our Budget for All campaign and the People’s Budget Campaign. These campaigns would shift from tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy 1 % and from the gargantuan military budget to the public schools.
A similar distorted priority in Massachusetts led to a student walk out early this year when confronted by the simultaneous cuts to Boston’s public education budget and the tax breaks by the city and state offered to lure General Electric to locate its corporate HQ in Boston. Peace Action’s participation in the RaiseUp Coalition’s Fair Tax proposal has been fueled in part by the need to prioritize spending on public education over protecting the the wealthiest from paying their fair share.
Raising the Charter School Cap Steals More funds from our underfunded schools: The gap between the needs of public education and the inadequate funds allocated to our schools is the space in which the charter school movement has based its drive for privatization of public education. Parents who confront inadequate schools because of serious underfunding look for immediate alternatives for their children and the Charter school companies milk this concern using false claims of superior education alternatives for a few. Even if the educational offering they presented were in fact superior, they would only offer it to a selected small minority of students and leave the huge majority of students, particularly minority students to a system with even greater underfunding. It is estimated that every year, local school boards in Massachusetts loose around $400,000,000 because the money is transferred to (often for-profit) charter schools. If the Ballot measure 2 passes. See map showing loss of Massachusetts public school dollars to charters by school.
Massachusetts Peace Action calls for “No on 2”: Peace Action’s work in Budget for All, RaiseUp, the People’s Budget all have in common opposition to the growing inequality which surrenders all power to an elite that has found its interest to be rooted in militarism and war. Continuing that opposition we call on all supporters to join the broad coalition of community groups, civil rights organizations, and labor unions and campaign for a No vote on 2.
Read the Charter Schools Fact Sheet