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Citing High Demand, State Lifts Charter School Moratorium

BOSTON — Amid growing demand for seats, state education officials are lifting a temporary moratorium on new charter school applications in certain locations in Massachusetts.

“There’s tremendous demand in some of our cities,” Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester told WBUR Morning Edition host Bob Oakes. Chester said Boston is the focal point for that interest, but he also cited Lawrence, Springfield and Worcester.

According to the Boston Globe, which first reported the cap’s lifting, 68 existing charter schools statewide “have waiting lists for this fall that total more than 45,000 students.”

“Parents are looking for high-quality options for their children, whether those options are in traditional public schools … as well as placements in charter schools,” Chester told Bob.

The move, considered a victory for charter school advocates, could clear the way for 1,000 additional student seats in Boston alone.

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a law that effectively doubled the number of charter school seats in urban school districts over several years. Chester introduced the moratorium because certain cities were at or nearing their maximum allotment of charter school applications, and he worried that more proposals would be approved than the law allows.

Now, Chester said he expects a slew of new charter school proposals, but, he cautioned, “We do not approve any applications that do not meet that high bar of quality. And we cannot approve any more charter schools than the seats allow.”

Chester also stressed that the approval of charter schools is not his top priority.

“My first and foremost concern is providing high-quality options to every student in the commonwealth,” he said. “If that’s a charter school, so be it. If it’s a traditional public school, so be it.”

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