New Bedford Leaders Needed on Charter School Expansion [OPINION]
Alma del Mar, a charter school in New Bedford, is asking the Commonwealth to expand its population by over 1,000 new students. The mayor of the city opposes it.
The city of New Bedford is ground zero for a serious discussion about education standards, funding, and best practices for delivering on the promise that all children have a human right to a quality education.
Republican Governor Charlie Baker is a big supporter of charter schools, and he is about to be reelected overwhelmingly in November. However, he is also a former town selectman and he understands the financial realities of local government. The case the city has to make to the state is that it can't afford to fund more charter school students out of the local budget. It also happens to be the case Mayor Mitchell is making on the matter.
Who will join with Mayor Mitchell to make the case against charter school expansion in the Whaling City? This is a delicate matter because there are children involved, and the tone must stay high above the level of what is considered political debate today.
Everyone wants the best for their kids and secondarily for every other child. Everyone understands the importance of giving children a quality education. However, a family and a community have to make decisions about finite resources and where to spend those resources on a multitude of needs.
Most families would love to send their kids to a private school like Tabor Academy, Deerfield Academy or Friends Academy. The reason those families don't send their kids to those expensive schools is that they have other requirements such as a mortgage, food, health care, retirement funding, and a reserve fund for financial emergencies. They don't love or respect their children less simply because they acknowledge their financial limitations.
I understand Ward Three City Councillor Hugh Dunn has been diligently researching the matter since the Alma del Mar announcement last week and will soon make his opposition known. His decision is based on a concern for all of the public school children, as well as the financial realities of the city budget and in the interests of the taxpayers.
The proponents of charter schools are a powerful group. Business leaders, foundations, think tanks and Republican politicians all support the move to privatizing education and some see charter schools as a bridge to that new world. Mayor Jon Mitchell and Councillor Hugh Dunn have their work cut out for them in this fight.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.