Massachusetts voters reject charter public school expansion; more on ballot issues across nation

Massachusetts voters Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have increased the number of charter public schools in the Bay State. We previously wrote about research demonstrating how students in Massachusetts were benefitting academically from charters and about the opposition campaignunfolding in the state. At the time (we were writing in late September) The American Interest reported

While the pro-charter side had a wide lead in the Spring, more recent polling shows the anti-charter forces with a slight edge going into the last several weeks of the campaign. Part of the reason is that advocates have not done enough to win over local teachers. Unions are united against the measure, and fighting tooth-and-nail, often with outright misinformation. That is a shame, as one of the goals of charter schools should be to empower good teachers to manage their classrooms more effectively.

The linked poll showed 48 percent opposition to the measure, with 41 percent support.

In the end, it wasn’t that close. The Boston Globe reports 62 percent voted against, with just 38 percent supporting the expansion. The Globe’s report on the election results says,

The vote is a major victory for teachers unions and civil rights organizations, which argued that charters are diverting too much money and attention from traditional public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of students.

The defeat is a setback for education reform and for students in urban centers.

Research shows that Massachusetts urban charters have made substantial gains with black and Latino students, in some cases out-performing schools in white, wealthy suburbs. That track record attracted heavy interest from national charter advocates, who saw the state as an important testing ground for the movement.

A disappointing outcome.

Updating previous posts: Yesterday we wrote about ballot issues addressing taxes and state minimum wage changes. 

 Our post did not mention that voters in four states considered raising cigarette taxes. In three states, the increase was defeated. Washington 

Voters in California, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota were all asked to increase their state’s cigarette tax on Tuesday. But only Californians obliged.

California had room for an increase, with an 87-cent tax per pack ranking 37th in the nation. By comparison, Washington’s cigarette tax is $3.025 per pack, ranking 7th. 

And in our post on the minimum wage, we overlooked the odd South Dakota measure.

In 2014, voters in South Dakota decided to increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour. It was one of four Republican-led states that year that approved a minimum wage higher than what federal law requires.

Two years later, the state asked voters to do something no other state had done in recent memory: reduce the minimum wage. More than 70 percent of South Dakota voters rejected the measure, which would have created a lower minimum wage for workers under 18 years old.

For a comprehensive overview of all state ballot issues, we recommend this easy-to-use database at the National Conference of State Legislatures.