Our view: Yes on charter schools, no on legalized marijuana


In addition to the presidential and local elections, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on several ballot questions that will directly affect their daily lives.

Question 2 asks voters to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. If approved, the measure would allow Massachusetts to add as many as a dozen charter schools a year, with the focus being on communities with low-performing schools.

We urge a yes vote. Massachusetts has some of the best charter schools in the nation, many of them situated here in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore. At their best, they drive innovation at traditional schools and give worried parents another option when they feel local districts are failing their children. Multiple studies have shown Massachusetts charter school students make real gains in math and reading.

One need only look to Salem, Mass., for an example of how charters and traditional public schools can co-exist. The Salem Academy Charter School, is a strong, innovative school with a track record of success. Meanwhile, Salem's traditional schools, once facing a state takeover, are now ranked "Level 1," in large part because of the success of the Bentley Elementary School, an in-district charter where educators are encouraged to try new approaches.

Supporters of traditional schools argue that districts lose funding to charters. But in a report released last month, the highly respected Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation noted that charters receive about 4 percent of the roughly $12.7 billion the state spends on education — and educate about 4 percent of the state's children. The funding mechanism is similar to that used for school choice students, or those who attend regional schools like Essex Tech.

There are more than 30,000 children on a waiting list for a charter school in Massachusetts. It is time they had an opportunity to receive the education their parents wish for them.

Question 3 asks that the state ban the sale of meat and eggs from animals confined in a cruel manner. Voters should approve the measure.

The so-called "cage ban" would prohibit any confinement of pigs, calves and hens in a way that keeps them from lying down, standing up, fully extending their limbs or turning around freely.

Very few animals are treated so cruelly in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that is not the case in many other states. Question 3 would ban the sale of out-of-state eggs and meat raised in inhumane conditions. Wherever they come from, the animals deserve better treatment. If passed, the cage ban would improve conditions for farm animals and enhance food safety.

While there would be an added cost to some food products — an estimated penny per cage-free egg, for example — the proposed law would not take effect until 2022, leaving the market plenty of time to address the issue.

Question 4 would legalize marijuana for residents 21 and older. It is a spectacularly bad idea, both in concept and execution, and we urge a no vote.

The state is fighting a pitched battle against opioid addiction, with hundreds of residents dying each year. To legalize marijuana in the middle of such a fight is not only hypocritical, it is dangerous. Marijuana is not a harmless drug, and let's not pretend that making it easier for adults to use doesn't also make it easier for teens to obtain it.

Michelle Lipinski, executive director of the North Shore Recovery High School, helps dozens of local youth fight addiction every day. She sees first-hand the struggles they face.

The top reason adolescents age 12 to 17 enter substance abuse treatment in Massachusetts is for marijuana use, she said in an interview earlier this year. She also pointed to research that has shown marijuana use can lead to opioid use.

"Why would we even tinker with the thought (of legalization) knowing what's happening to this generation right now?" she asked reporter Arianna MacNeill earlier this spring.

The ballot question is written a way that invites disaster. If approved by voters, marijuana would be legal as of Dec. 15 of this year, leaving state officials little time to put rules in place regulating its use.

“The legal framework needed to protect the public safety if marijuana is legalized does not exist,” Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett noted last week.

It has taken years, but Massachusetts is finally committed to combating opioid addiction. This is not the time to invite a new raft of problems.