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Massachusetts is considering lifting the cap on charter schools. This move is being pressed by Republican Governor Charlie Baker and the usual gang of hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs, and free-market ideologues.

Public school parents are rightfully alarmed. Massachusetts is renowned for having the best schools in the nation. It is the birthplace of public education. This is where Horace Mann, as the state’s first Secretary of Education, persuaded his fellow citizens that the entire community would benefit by supporting the education of the young in common schools.

Now, almost 200 years later, a coterie of faux reformers want to destroy the great public school system that Horace Mann built and that millions of taxpayers have sustained. These so-called reformers believe that Horace Mann was wrong. They want taxpayers to fund privately managed schools, chain schools run by corporate entities.

Andrea Gabor, professor of business journalism at Baruch College of the City University of New York, writes here that Massachusetts should learn from the “calamity” caused by charter school expansion in Michigan.

She analyzes a study by David Arsen of Michigan State University that shows how the growth of charters affects the remaining public schools. (Jennifer Berkshire, who blogs as EduShyster, interviewed Arsen about his study, which is cited by Gabor.)

The charter landscape in Detroit is so bad it makes New Orleans, which has the largest concentration of charters in the country and, a decade after Hurricane Katrina, more than a few growing pains—see here and here and here and here look like a well oiled machine. While there is little transparency or regulation in either city, Detroit has so many charter authorizers that when a school’s charter is revoked for poor quality—as has often happened—they need only go shopping for a new authorizer; New Orleans, by contrast, has had only two main authorizers.

Arsen’s study, which looked at every school district in Michigan with at least 100 students and followed them for nearly two decades, found “that 80 percent of the explained variation in district fiscal stress is due to changes in districts’ state funding, to enrollment changes including those associated with school choice policies, and to the enrollment of high-cost, special education students.”

To put it simply, Arsen told Berkshire: We found that, overwhelmingly, the biggest financial impact on school districts was the result of declining enrollment and revenue loss, especially where school choice and charters are most prevalent.”

Arsen points out that Michigan has one of the most “highly centralized school finance systems” in the country. “[T]he state sets per pupil funding levels for each district, and most operating revenues follow students when they move among districts or charter schools. Districts have very limited authority to raise additional tax revenues for school operations from local sources.” Consequently, when enrollments decline, either because families move out of the district or put their children in charter schools, local authorities have little choice but to reduce spending.

Arsens study….shows that the impact of this funding formula hits the mostly African-American central cities the hardest, with a 46 percent drop in inflation-adjusted school funding revenue between 2002 and 2013.

Bottom line: as charters grow, they suck the resources and the life out of nearby public schools. They are like a parasite that kills its host unless it is contained or removed.