The City Council voted 11-2 today to oppose what two called the pending "catastrophe" of expanding charter schools in Massachusetts.
Councilors Tito Jackson (Roxbury) and Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) said the measure would suck money out of both Boston Public Schools and even the entire city's coffers, because state legislators have fallen behind on promises to reimburse Boston for students who move from BPS to charter schools. Jackson, who sits on the board of the Boston Renaissance charter school, also predicted a "catastrophe" for Boston's Catholic schools if they lose students to charter schools.
"This is actually not a question of pro-charter or pro-public schools, but of sustainable funding for the Boston public schools," Jackson said. He said the city will lose $18.5 million in state education funding because of a state decision to allow 1,000 new charter seats in Boston - a decision, he noted, made by a board headquartered in Malden, not Boston.
"It could be utterly catastrophic for traditional public schools," O'Malley said.
"The state hasn't helped us all and has not held up their end of the bargain," at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George - a former teacher at East Boston High School - said. Essaibi-George briefly stopped her statement to look at pro-charter people in the audience behind her, several of whom were shuffling from foot to foot in a not-quite-silent protest.
Councilor Andrea Campbell (Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale) voted against the proposal. She said she felt this was an issue best decided by voters. She said had heard from parents in her district that they enrolled their children in charter schools because none of their BPS options were good. At the same time, she said, BPS funding needs discussion as well. She added, she wants a broad discussion about education in Boston, "not us vs. them."
Councilor Josh Zakim (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill) also voted against the proposal, saying he doesn't know enough yet to take a stance on the issue. "I'm a little concerned about using a broad brush in this forum," he said.