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This high tech exec thinks Mass. employers should support charter schools

Aug 7, 2015Boston Business Journal, Council in the News

By Mary Moore



Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Tech Council, is among those behind a petition filed this week for a ballot measure that would pave the way for annual increases in the number of charter schools statewide.

Priority would be given to areas that have the longest waiting lists of students and the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would continue to have oversight of the schools. Existing caps on charter school expansion would remain, but the ballot measure would create exemptions allowing for the creation of more charter schools.

The proposed ballot measure comes after the Massachusetts Senate last year defeated a bill that would have gradually lifted the cap on charter school seats. Charter school supporters likely would have faced similar legislative opposition again, Anderson said.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is reviewing the ballot language and, if approved, supporters like Anderson would, by early December, need to meet a threshold of signatures from voters before the measure would qualify for the ballot.

Anderson called the current proposal “manageable and sustained expansion” of the charter schools, and he spoke on Friday about why Boston’s business community should care.

Why should this ballot measure matter to the business community?

The ability to train, educate and inspire students attending Massachusetts public schools in the areas of (science, technology, engineering and math) and in the areas of life that will transform their lives – it depends on creating a professional environment in schools that attract and retain top quality faculty. Innovative education will help transform lives whether these kids go into high tech or any other career. They will be more likely to succeed. That’s the imperative for the employer community in Massachusetts, at least for the high tech community. We have to fundamentally change the (education) model..

To what extent are business groups behind this ballot measure aside from the Massachusetts High Tech Council?

They’ve all been very helpful in past activities. This is the front end of a very lengthy process. Getting the signers on the petition is an early step. Framing a coalition starts today. Literally now. We’ll be able to count on many of the business leaders who have rallied in the past.

What happens if this measure is not successful?

There will always be a push to expand charters schools. The effort will not pack up and go away. The sense of urgency continues. Even with the passage of this ballot question, demand will continue to exceed capacity. But this provides us with certainty in the rate of growth.

How are you planning to organize the business community?

We’ll be meeting with the employer community as we have in the past. We’ll probably be convening several organizational briefings and strategy sessions. We’ll want to see what the (Baker) Administration’s view is on the legislative landscape coming up will be. (House Speaker) DeLeo and Gov. Baker, I think, will be close allies on this. DeLeo put himself out there during the Patrick Administration on charter schools and he didn’t get much support. He might have a friend in the corner office. It would be terrific if we didn’t need to go to November 2016.

How would that happen?

If the legislature passes and the governor signs legislation, we may not need to go forward.

Increasingly, the Massachusetts High Technology Council is stepping up to create, execute, and lead critical statewide competitiveness strategies. Fostering a vision for our innovation economy under the MassVision2050 banner, the Council solidifies its position as a thought leader providing valuable insights to navigate emerging technologies, facilitates long-term planning, and reinforces the Council's commitment to excellence and action in the evolving Massachusetts tech-driven economy.

To learn more, contact Council President Chris Anderson.