BOSTON (AP) — The battle over a charter school ballot question is heating up in the sprint to Election Day.
On Tuesday, opponents of the question , about expanding the number of charter schools in the state, released a statement from independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders calling for the measure’s defeat.
Sanders, a former Democratic presidential candidate, faulted the question for relying on money from New York backers. He said the question would drain resources from traditional public schools.
“Wall Street must not be allowed to hijack public education in Massachusetts,” Sanders said in a statement. “This is Wall Street’s attempt to line their own pockets while draining resources away from public education at the expense of low-income, special education students and English language learners.”
More than half of the nearly $22 million raised by backers of the question has come from the New York City-based Families For Excellent Schools Advocacy.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who said charter schools offer important educational options for minority students, spent Tuesday morning going door to door in Springfield drumming up support for the question. He was joined by Henry Thomas III, president of Urban League of Springfield, which says it serves the black community and advocates for services that enhance the academic and social development of young people and families.
Baker said that charter schools are “the single intervention of the past 20 years” that has worked to eliminate the state’s persistent achievement gap between white students and minority students.
“The reason why we have to vote yes on Question 2 is because our obligation goes to more than our own children, it goes to all children,” Baker said in a press release.
Democratic President Barack Obama’s former secretary of education, Arne Duncan, also has endorsed the question.
Others who oppose the measure include Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh, who planned to headline an anti-Question 2 rally Tuesday evening in the Dorchester neighborhood with Democratic U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and Boston city councilors and community leaders.
Walsh has argued that approving the question will drain away money from district school budgets. The campaign to defeat the question has been funded largely through teachers’ unions.
The ballot question asks whether to let the state board of education approve to up to 12 new or expanded charter schools each year in Massachusetts.
The charter schools would be exempt from existing limits on the number of charter schools, the number of students enrolled in them and the amount of local school districts’ spending allocated to them.
If the board received more than 12 applications in a year, the proposed law would give priority to new or expanded charter schools in districts where student performance on statewide assessments is in the bottom 25 percent of all districts in the previous two years and where parent demand is greatest.
The schools would be subject to annual performance reviews.
The question is one of four statewide initiatives to be decided by voters.
Election Day is Nov. 8, although hundreds of thousands of voters already have cast ballots during the state’s early voting period.
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