Bay State voters favor scrapping Common Core, raising charter school cap, poll shows

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BOSTON – A majority of Massachusetts voters support scrapping Common Core educational standards and raising the legislative cap on Bay State charter schools, according to a new poll by WBZ and UMass Amherst.

Two citizens’ initiatives, one of which would direct the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to repeal Common Core and another which would allow the Board the flexibility to increase the number of public charter schools in the Bay State, are headed toward the November ballot.

The poll of 891 registered Massachusetts voters conducted Feb.19 – Feb. 25 shows that 53 percent support doing away with Common Core and 51 percent support increasing the number of charter schools. But, although a majority of voters support the two education reform initiatives, a substantial number of voters remain undecided on both questions.

The proposed Common Core ballot question asks Massachusetts voters whether the state should keep Common Core, adopted here in 2010, or revert to the state’s own pre-Common Core standards.

Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt the controversial standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association. Like many states, Massachusetts chose to replace its homegrown standards with Common Core in order to improve the state’s chance of winning a chunk of the federal government’s $4 billion pool of “Race to the Top” money.

Upon implementation, however, there developed a groundswell of opposition to the new regime among Bay State parents and teachers who came to believe that Common Core’s emphasis on skills detached from substantive content watered down previously strong curricula at Massachusetts public schools.

Activists say Common Core has led Massachusetts schools to abandon reliance on memorization of math facts and traditional algorithms while simultaneously reducing the amount of poetry, drama, and classical literature taught in English classes.

Proponents of Common Core claim the standards are necessary to equalize schools nationwide, better prepare students for work and college, and help pupils prepare to compete globally.

Although 53 percent of those surveyed said they would vote Yes on a ballot initiative “to remove Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts,” 23 percent said they would vote No, and 26 percent said they were not sure.

The proposed charter school initiative asks Bay State voters whether the Ed Board should be permitted, at its discretion, to authorize 12 new charter schools a year, outside of the existing cap. Massachusetts law currently caps the number of charters at 120. Each charter is good for five years and can only be renewed if the school meets certain performance standards.

Proponents of the charter question argue that the Board needs flexibility to accommodate the tens of thousands of students currently on charter school wait lists.

Opponents claim that an increase in charter schools saps money and resources from other already struggling public schools.

In the WBZ/UMass Amherst poll, 51 percent said they would vote Yes on a measure that would “authorize the approval of up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions in existing charter schools per year,” 23 percent said they would vote No, and the remaining 26 percent said they were unsure at this time how they would vote.

Read the complete poll results here.