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On 09/22/2016 this letter has been sent to Boston Globe as an opinion piece, but, naturally, was not published.

Why should every charter school proponent vote “NO” on ballot 2?

In general, I agree with people advocating for giving more flexibility to school principals in the way the manage their schools. That is why, in general, I am in a favor of the idea of charter schools. And that is why on November 8, 2016, for Question 2, I will vote “NO”.

TV time is field with adds where the both sides tell us “The truth is ...”. But the truth is that no one knows the truth!

At the current state of the affairs, neither proponents nor opponents of charter schools have reliable data to support their point of view. The discussion is mostly based on beliefs, cherry picked figures (on both sides), and fueled by emotions.

If the proposition wins, what the most likely will happen is the rising number of charter schools will ignite even more resistance from the opponents. If, like in other states already happened, at least one of the new or current charter school fails (and the risk of this to happen rises with the rising number of schools), this failure will be used as a proof that the whole concept is wrong. If the opinion pendulum of the public swings in the opposite direction, the proponents of charter schools will lose more than they would have achieved by winning the vote.

The best way to win the public is not by knocking down the opposition. On the contrary, the best way to win the public would be to invite the opposition to a discussion. If the proponents of charter schools’, together with the opponents, and, possibly, with mediators, could find an agreement on how to assess the quality of charter schools’ work (e.g. what parameters of the school’s functioning would have been assessed, how it would have been done, and what are those benchmarks which would tell everyone “Yes, it works!”, or “No, this is bad”), then the discussion could be redirected from a destructive resistance to a constructive collaboration.

Who knows, maybe afterwards the same assessing procedures would be used for evaluating regular public schools, too? In the end, all parties, i.e. teachers, parents, but most importantly - students, would only win from this mutually beneficial cooperation. But this can only happen if “Charter School Expansion Initiative” will lose on November 8.

An Appendix (this opinion was written about one year ago)

Do we really know if charter schools work and – more importantly – do we want to know?

Baker said expanding access to charter schools, especially in low-performing districts, would provide relief for the families of 37,000 students on waiting lists.”

Opponents of charter school expansion, including teacher’s unions and many parents, argue that such institutions drain funding from school districts and use rigorous discipline policies to drive out low-perfuming students, assertions that proponents dispute.”

The two quotes above come from Friday’s Boston Globe (10/09/2015). They reflect common sentiments familiar to everyone following the pro-con-charters discussion. The most striking attribute of this discussion is that neither party can offer solid statistical data to support its view against the opponents’ view. There are people, including parents of 37,000 students who believe that charter schools would do for their kids a better job than public schools. There are people, including many teachers and their union representatives, who believe that charter schools do not do much good for the most of the students. But if a discussion is based solely on believes and emotions it never can lead to a productive resolution (the Congress comes to mind).

I would like to ask one question to both sides: “Are you really so supercilious that you deny the right for your adversary to be right on something?”.

If the answer is “Yes” (meaning “I am right on everything and they are totally wrong”), this situation is helpless; there will be no discussion, no communication, just yelling at each other and accusing each other in all the evil in the world.

But if both sides have people who are capable of communication with the opposite side, this is what I would suggest them to do.

Sit down together and instead of arguing if charters are bad or good, start talking about how can they decide if the charters are bad or good.

Each side should say: “OK, I want to know this kind of numbers, because I believe those numbers will prove that I am right. I do not mind if you want to know other numbers important for you. Let’s figure out how do we measure together all those numbers and also let’s agree on the decision making criteria; if such and such numbers reach such and such level charters are bad/good.”

When the both arguing parties find an agreement on how will they both validate their views, only then the discussion will be directed into a constructive direction.

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