Recent Teacher Union Turbulence in Massachusetts
Over the past decade in Massachusetts, the popularity of charter schools has exploded — the amount districts pay in charter school tuition increased from $260 million in 2009 to $660 million in 2018. In 2016, one of the most aggressive pro-charter bills in the state, the Massachusetts Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion Initiative (question 2), got the endorsement from Governor Charlie Baker and The Boston Globe, with plenty of air time devoted to its parent nonprofit coalition, Great Schools Massachusetts.
While the voices of educators prevailed at the voting booths (with 60% opposed to the measure), Great Schools Massachusetts raised $23.6 million in its campaign (vs. $14 million from the Massachusetts Teachers Association [MTA]’s, “Save Our Schools'' campaign), with significant funding coming from ALEC-backed entities: Arkansas' Alice Walton, who runs a family foundation funded by the proceeds from Wal-Mart, donated $710,000, while her brother, Jim Walton, gave $1.1 million; Seth Klarman, the billionaire head of a Boston hedge fund, donated $3.3 million; and Families for Excellent Schools, a New York-based charter school advocacy group with ties to ALEC, gave a staggering $15 million.
On the coalition’s social media, anti-union rhetoric could be seen in hundreds of comments leading up to and after the election, parroting the exact language from ALEC’s marketing campaigns. “MA voters believed the lies the teachers put out there,” one commenter wrote. “Public schools are failing and more charter schools would make them improve. What are they afraid of [?]”
“As a future parent, this was the easiest vote of all the questions,” another said. “Get the kids a real education without the unions. These poor kids would fall behind without the charter schools.” As the existing cap on charter schools in Massachusetts remained, so, too did the disdain for educator unions among many families.