Massachusetts is widely considered the state with the most successful public schools in the nation. Its students outperform the rest of the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The state has a strong tradition of local control. It also has great independent schools. But it is the state that launched public education, whether you trace them to their 17th century roots or to the common school revival led by the great Horace Mann in the 1830s and 1840s.

But now the cradle of public education is under pressure to remove the state cap on charter schools, the entering wedge of privatization. The usual privatizing groups have descended on the legislature, abetted by a Republican governor.

The privatizers, as usual, claim they have silver bullets or secret sauce that can save poor kids from failing schools. This is balderdash, but who will tell the legislators? They are impressed by the Walton-funded CREDO studies and by a study from Harvard’s Center in Education Policy, not only Gares-funded but including leading charter advocates as faculty members (Thomas Kane, Martin West, Marguerite Roza).

But now another set of voices has weighed in: the Massachusetts school committees, or local school boards. The school committees ask the basic question: Whose children are served? Charters have a well-established record of selecting their students to reduce or exclude students who might pull down their scores. Charters are also known for boasting about their scores. They were supposed to be innovative, but the no-excuses charter look like 19th century schools. This is not the kind of innovation that should be imposed or shared with public schools.

In state after state, the charter industry is under a cloud because of political and financial scandals.

Why doesn’t Massachusetts improve its public schools, using research-based strategies, instead of privatizing them?