A ballot question to lift the cap on charter schools statewide was shot down Tuesday night, with a landslide 2-to-1 victory. Yet just when it seemed the battle was over, President-elect Donald Trump introduced a plan (of sorts) for his first 100-days as president, including a plan to fund school choice, private, and charter options. “You’re going to see some national effect here,” Former Secretary of Education Paul Reville said in an interview with Boston Public Radio Thursday. “If the federal government is going to go whole-hog in the direction of choice and provide powerful incentives for states, then I’d say we’re not done with the discussion of that topic at the state level.”
The actual steps of the plan, according to Reville, are still a bit vague. “If you look at his website, and what he’s made a commitment to, there’s only one really big bet there, and that big best surrounds school choice,” Reville said. “I don’t think we really know what he stands for in education. He had be willing to say almost anything that he thought would be appealing to the crowd, but when it comes to governing, that’s a different matter, and we’ll have to wait and see what his actions are.”
On a local level, Governor Baker issued a statement Tuesday night that expressed optimism about the continuation of the charter school debate. “While Question 2 was not successful, the importance of that goal is unchanged,” Baker wrote. “...I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders toward our common goal to ensure a great education for every child in Massachusetts, regardless of their zip code.”
According to Reville, presenting the cap-lift as a ballot question was a bad strategy. “You’ve got to make a package out of it,” he said. ”There was an opportunity to do this, and I think it was a very risky strategy to put this out there on its own, either as a legislature as a cap-lift-only kind of bill, or out to the general public, where a lot of people were ill-informed about it.”
The key, according to Reville, is to think of a possible cap-lift as just one part of a much larger, broader plan that encompasses a variety of needs and communities. “I hope, number one, for the Baker administration, that they don’t give up on pushing for choice and more charters in some way, but number two, that they broaden the agenda significantly and move to early childhood education, school to career pathways, providing support for kids who come from tough backgrounds so that they can come to school ready to learn,” Reville said. “I think that’s going to be important.”
Paul Reville is a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education where he runs the Education Redesign Lab. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.