Sophian Survey: Smith Students on Massachusetts Ballot Questions

Katherine Hazen ’18
Associate Editor

In a few days, students voting in Massachusetts will have some important decisions to make on the ballot. The state poses four questions on some controversial topics, namely the legalization of recreational marijuana use and the raising of the cap on charter schools, which would permit up to 12 new charter schools or enrollment expansions each year.

The Sophian conducted an anonymous survey on how Smith students plan to vote on these questions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, over 85 percent of students surveyed plan to vote “yes” on Question 4, which would legalize recreational marijuana use. Nearly the same amount also plan to vote “no” on raising the cap of charter schools in Question 2, compared to a mere 52 percent of likely voters across the state in a WBUR poll.

“As a charter school grad, I’ll be voting no on Question 2,” said Sophia Buchanun ’18. “A quality education should not be at the hands of fate – that is to say, I have parents who had the social [and] financial capital and personal investment in my education to take me out of my failing public school system and into a charter school.”

Buchanun added, “It’s for this reason that I ended up at a place like Smith. But being successful should be accessible from all schools, especially our public schools. Question 2 would drain more money from our public schools and continue to contribute to a crumbling public school system, which is far less than what future generations deserve.”

The state is supposed to reimburse public schools for part of the loss in funds that occurs when students leave for charters, but that, according to New England Public Radio, is decided by the legislature and can vary each fiscal year. But supporters of the measure, which include the Governor Charlie Baker and the editorial board of The Boston Globe, argue that raising the cap gives underprivileged populations in urban areas better access; and while Massachusetts may have one of the best public educational systems, raising the cap, they assert, could help close the achievement gap.

A “yes” vote on marijuana legalization, which statewide has an approval of 55 percent according to WBUR, would permit recreational use for those age 21 years and older, in addition to creating a commission to regulate its sale. Arizona, California, Maine and Nevada are also considering the question of legalization this year. While some opponents of the measure are wary of the detrimental effects this could have, most are concerned that the tax revenue will not pay for the costs incurred by bringing this market above ground.

For many, this question is so uncontroversial, it’s almost a no-brainer.

“I voted ‘yes’ on Question 4,” said Emma Shoemaker ’18. “I remember when I went to the polls with my mom in 2008 and we basically voted to decriminalize marijuana, but it’s been a pretty steady expansion of rights to marijuana in [Mass.], it seems.”

On the far less controversial questions, nearly 80 percent of Smith students surveyed plan to vote “no” on expanding slot machine gaming in the state, which would allow a second slots parlor to exist in the state, and 93 percent of students surveyed plan to vote “yes” on Question 3, which would ban small cages for animals.

Smith students overall seem to be somewhat unified in the way they plan to vote this Tuesday.

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