Business leaders in last-minute push for charter schools

Date Published: 
March 18, 2014
Mary Moore
News Type: 

Nearly 150 business leaders in Massachusetts have signed a letter addressed to legislative leaders, urging the state’s Joint Committee on Education to approve legislation that would lift the cap on charter public schools in some of the lowest performing school districts.

The House and Senate versions of the legislation will die in the joint education committee if lawmakers do not act on it by a Wednesday deadline.

Among the letter’s 145 signatories from the business community are Joshua Boger, former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals;Paul Sagan, partner, General Catalyst Partners; Joseph Tucci, CEO of EMCCorp. and Richard Burnes, general partner of Charles River Ventures. Sagan is the chairman of the business group Massachusetts Business Leaders for Charter Schools, which is pushing on the charter schools issue.

The letter is dated March 14 and is addressed to state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diazand state Rep. Alice Peisch, who chair the joint committee on education.

“We are committed to a Massachusetts where all students are college-and-career-ready, because that will help establish a sought-after, locally grown, talent pool to attract employers from around the globe,” the group wrote in its letter.

Right now, 18 percent of school district funds can go to charter schools, a cap that was created during a statewide school reform initiative in 2010. State legislation that was passed at the time boosted the charter school cap from 9 percent.

The Boston public school system, for one, already has reached the 18 percent cap, which means there can be no new charter schools created.

Charter schools do not employ union teachers or administrators and, according to supporters, provide a number of benefits when compared to district schools, including longer school days and the ability to freely make staffing decisions.