Massachusetts: More than $43 Million Spent Last Fall in Losing Effort to Expand Charter Schools

The battle over Question 2 in Massachusetts was overshadowed by the national election, but it was an important bellwether in the fight against privatization.

The amount of money spent was phenomenal. The usual billionaire suspects put up most of the money to promote the measure and the teachers’ union, spending the dues collected from individual teachers who work daily in the classrooms of the state, put up most of the money to resist increased privatization of public schools.

The ballot measure was defeated overwhelmingly, by 62-38. The only districts to approve it were affluent districts that would unlikely to have any charters, and the districts that voted against it most heavily were those that already had charters and saw the drain on their budgets.

An Associated Press review of donations to school choice ballot questions and candidates found that spending on the 2016 question — which would have let Massachusetts add up to a dozen new or expanded charter schools each year outside of existing caps — topped $43 million.

Of the nine school choice-related ballot questions put before voters across the country since 2000, that level of spending was second only a 2000 ballot question in California, which would have established school vouchers.

Spending on the California question neared $63 million.

Both the Massachusetts and the California question failed. In Massachusetts, more than six in 10 voters rejected the proposal.

Those supporting the Massachusetts question included a handful of big money donors who rank among the top 48 individuals or married couples who gave at least $100,000 from 2000 to 2016 to support statewide ballot measures advocating for the creation or expansion of charter schools or taxpayer-funded scholarships that can be used for private school tuition for students in kindergarten through high school, according to the AP review.

Some of those top money donors to last year’s ballot question hailed from out-of-state including: Alice Walton, of Arizona, a member of Wal-Mart’s Walton family, who gave $740,000; Bloomberg founder and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed $490,000; and John Douglas Arnold, of Texas, a Centaurus Advisors hedge fund manager and former Enron trader, who gave $250,000.

The top 48 donor list also includes Massachusetts residents who supported the 2016 charter school question, including: Edward Shapiro, a Wellesley resident and partner at Par Capital Management, who gave $225,000; Bradley Bloom, a Wellesley resident and co-founder of Berkshire Partners, who gave $150,000; and Ray Stata, a Dover resident and Analog Devices founder, who contributed $125,000.

All told, supporters poured nearly $27 million into trying to persuade Massachusetts voters to support the initiative. The opposition, funded largely by teachers unions, spent more than $16 million fighting the question.

The group spending the most to support the question — the New York City-based Families for Excellent Schools — contributed more than $17 million. The group has refused to say who is funding them.

New Yorkers are familiar with “Families for Excellent Schools.” This is the group that spent millions on television advertising to attack Mayor Bill de Blasio when he tried to rein in Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academy schools. The New York Times reported that the group consists of wealthy Wall Street moguls. These “families” for “excellent schools” are rich white men who live in places like Greenwich, Connecticut, and other affluent suburbs, who have probably never set foot in a public school.

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2rCnxdu

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