Massachusetts' Charters Draw Support

Dale Patrick Dempsey

The picture is overwhelmingly clear: People in Massachusetts view public charter schools favorably because they are seen as delivering the goods academically and have be set up with solid rules, strong accountability and transparency. Those are three things Ohio’s charter school program is still developing.

A poll by the Massachusetts State House News Service and KRC Communication, conducted in early March 2006, showed that the state’s residents support charter schools by a 67 percent to 28 percent margin. Support is equally strong among men and women, and strongest among adults aged 18-39, with a 78 percent approval rating. This contrasts with a Fordham Foundation survey of Ohioans in November 2005 that showed 51 percent of citizens strongly or somewhat favored charter schools.

This latest poll information from Massachusetts underscores information reported in a recent series by the Cleveland Plain Dealer that spotlighted problems with charters in Ohio and pointed to Massachusetts as a more successful model.

Public support for charters in Massachusetts has grown since 2002. This support is connected to the fact that the academic performance of charter schools in Boston surpasses that of its district competitors.

In stark contrast to Ohio, the poll showed strong support among all political parties, although Republican support is firmest.

By a wide margin (54 percent to 37 percent) Massachusetts residents said they are in favor of raising the spending cap on charter schools in underperforming districts. The current law limits the portion of a district’s budget that can be transferred to charter schools, thus limiting the number of charter schools.

Massachusetts State House News Service and KRC Communication Charter Poll," by Gerry Chervinsky, March 2006.

Halfway Out the Door: Ohioans Sound Off on Public Schooling,” by Ann Duffett and Steve Farkas, November 2005.