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Financial Stakes "Beyond Education" in Question Two Vote

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson says lifting the cap on charter schools would have long-term negative impact for a number of cities in the Bay State. (L. Barrett)
Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson says lifting the cap on charter schools would have long-term negative impact for a number of cities in the Bay State. (L. Barrett)
November 7, 2016

BOSTON -- When voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of Question Two, a Boston City Councilor says the financial implications reach far beyond education - the entire city budget is at risk.

Education Committee Chair Tito Jackson based his assessment on a report from the Boston CFO which said if Question Two passes and three new charter schools are opened in Boston every year for the next ten years, the cost to the city would be $800 million per year.

"And so, we're no longer speaking about education budgets in that conversation,” Jackson said; "we're speaking about firemen, policemen, public works and basic city services that would have to be cut."

Question Two supporters, including Gov. Charlie Baker, dispute the claims that the economic impact would be that significant, saying every student who moves to a Charter School is one less student the public system has to educate.

Jackson said he disagrees, noting that mayors, city councils and 210 school committees across the state have voted to oppose Question Two because they are worried about the financial impact.

Jackson said he was sounding the warning about the impact on credit ratings months before The Boston Globe broke the news last week that Moody's Investors Service had alerted mayors in Boston and three other cities that they could face downgrades in their bond ratings if voters approve an expansion of charters on Election Day.

When it comes to municipalities, Jackson said, credit agencies are most concerned with adequate and stable funding for public services.

"They like predictability, they only like surprises on birthdays and Christmas,” Jackson said. “So, there's a huge amount of variability in terms of what could happen, and that could be crushing."

The ballot measure would allow the state to add up to a dozen new or expanded charter schools each year, and would abolish all limits on how much of a district's budget could be diverted to charter schools. A lowered credit rating can lead to higher borrowing costs for municipalities.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA