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August 22, 2016

Mass. Charter-School Campaign Funded by Secretive Nonprofits

A campaign to expand charter schools in Massachusetts is being funded in part by nonprofits that do not have to disclose their donors, highlighting the difficulty states are facing in tracking political money in the wake of court decisions that have loosened restrictions on such spending, The Boston Globe writes.

Question 2, a ballot initiative on the November state ballot, would allow for the creation or expansion of up to 12 charters per year in underperforming districts. Backers of the campaign — among them nonprofits with unremarkable names like Strong Economy for Growth, Education Reform Now Advocacy, and Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy that are not required to identify their funding sources — recently released a $2.3 million ad touting charter expansion. Overall spending in support of Question 2 is expected to exceed the previous high of $15.5 million for spending on a ballot question.

State and federal records show that the groups have ties to investors in Boston and New York who have spent millions to lobby and promote charter schools. Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy is chaired by Paul Appelbaum, principal of New York investment firm Rock Ventures, which has run ads criticizing New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for his opposition to charters.