A donation made by the chairman of the Massachusetts board of education prompted calls for his resignation Monday after the public learned the contribution was to a pro-charter school group.
According to the state office of Campaign and Political Finance, Paul Sagan donated $100,000 to the Campaign for Fair Access to Quality Public Schools in August. Sagan heads up the state's Board of Secondary and Elementary Education, and the contribution comes just weeks before voters will decide whether to remove a cap on charter schools, allowing for more each year.
"He should step down immediately," said Stephen Crawford, spokesman for Save Our Schools.
The organization has been pushing to keep the cap in place. After learning of Sagan's contribution, they said he crossed a line.
"When a charter school is created the control of the money that pays for those students is taken away from the local voters, away from the elected representatives and given to the appointed board that Paul Sagan chairs," said Crawford. "I don't know the man, but it just seems at best inappropriate."
But Sagan has the support of Gov. Charlie Baker, who appointed Sagan and supports charter school expansion. Baker said Monday the criticism was detracting from the real issue-students.
"That's a nothing burger," Baker said. "He filled out all the proper paperwork and the ethics commission signed off on the donation. Are we going to get into the business of saying every private citizen of Massachusetts has no ability to do anything associated with their private position?"
In a written response to the criticism, Sagan made no indication he planned to leave his post:
"I was happy to disclose my personal contribution to the Commonwealth under the State's ethics guidelines. I am a dedicated supporter of all of our public schools, district, public charter, and turnaround. It is an honor to serve as Chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary to Education and I am thrilled to work toward maintaining Massachusetts' position as a national leader in public education."
Crawford countered that the issue was not only the donation, but the value. According to him, Save Our Schools received a $50 donation from board member Ed Doherty. Monday, he said they planned to return it.