DeLeo dials up pro-charter commentary

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo not so subtly sided with Gov. Charlie Baker this week as the high-stakes, election year debate over charter school expansion unfolds.

With charter advocates pressing forward with an initiative petition to greatly expand access to charter schools, DeLeo in a public address to the House on Wednesday said school districts that want charters “should be given the chance to pursue them, or any other option that they may deem necessary, in order to do right by their students.”

Then, on Thursday, DeLeo suggested lawmakers need to clear out of the way and afford more educational choices.

“We have to give every child in the state the opportunity to succeed and quite frankly, I have so many parents who come in to talk to me, some of which are almost crying to the fact that they want to see their child in X, Y, Z school,” the Winthrop Democrat told Boston Herald Radio. “And I feel that who am I to deprive that child, if they have that opportunity, not to be able to attend a school of their choice?”

Calling education the “great equalizer,” he concluded, “When I hear some of these charter schools having test scores into superior, to some of our more wealthier communities in the state, you’ve got to sit up and take notice. When I take a look at some of those MCAS scores, and see that some of them are some of the highest in the state, you have to take notice of that.”

Defenders of traditional public schools say public charters are siphoning money away, pulling down the capacity of non-charter public schools to deliver quality education. Charter critics further claim that charter wait list figures exaggerate the demand for entry into charter schools.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the speaker appears to be buying into the anti-public education agenda,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni told the News Service. Madeloni also called Gov. Charlie Baker’s 1.6 percent increase in Chapter 70 education aid “profoundly inadequate.”

— Written by Michael Norton

Copyright State House News Service