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Advocates Push For Bill To Expand Mass. Charter Schools

BOSTON — Charter school advocates are calling on lawmakers to finalize a bill that would raise the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.

A coalition backing the bill called on the Education Committee on Wednesday to release the bill before a legislative deadline next week.

Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from local school districts.

Advocates say charter school students consistently outperform academically their counterparts in traditional public schools.

State Sen. Barry Finegold, who sponsored the bill, says more charter schools would be part of improving education across the board.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think parents really care whether you call the school a district school or a charter school,” Finegold said. “What we really want to try to do is give any child the opportunity to get the best education possible.”

Critics say charters don’t cater to students with special needs, such as English language learners, and drain financial resources from other schools.

“Charter schools unfortunately draw resources away from our regular district schools, and when they are operating in our most needy, urban areas, that’s just drawing more and more resources away from the students that need it most,” said Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

The push on Beacon Hill came on the same day a lottery was being held for more than 13,000 Boston students seeking spots in charter schools. Only 2,000 will be selected.

The legislation would also give state education officials more flexibility to intervene in low-performing schools.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

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  • jonshore

    Charter schools make people money at the expense of urban children and the cities they live in. Massachusetts was awarded $11,786,000 Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) and another 130,000,000 in New Market Tax Credits (NMTC). Before any new charter school is allowed to open or increase seats in Boston, or any other urban school district that has been decimated by charter schools, “Parent Choice” needs to be extended to include the toney suburbs where those who are investing in charter school proliferation, and getting big tax credits in QZABs & NMTC, live.

    Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School got shot down when it wanted to open a regional charter clone and accept students from Newton, Brookline, and Weston! The Asian student population in Newton is 16.8%, Brookline’s is 18.2%, and Weston’s is 12.6%. You would think that with such large Asian populations they would welcome the opportunity to give “parents choice” of an Asian themed charter school. But no two-tiered school district for those toney suburbs.

    Andover said no to STEAM Studio charter’s proposal. Good for them! The Andover School Committee believes that funds available for education should
    be invested wisely in their existing schools in order to move Andover’s
    Strategic Plan forward. Elected officials in these suburban communities are saying no to charter schools. They understand how a charter school would drain resources from their traditional public schools. They see what is happening in Boston Public Schools and don’t want their schools to be turned into the two-tiered system that has been fostered. by the state, on Boston Public Schools.

    I wrote more about this issue here:

    http://bluemassgroup.com/2014/03/massachusetts-charter-public-school-associationlisten-up/

  • WIllard

    Or is it because the tony suburbs have other good options, unlike Boston where for too many parents and students, they are limited to low-performing schools that leave them no shot at success after “graduation”? For Andover, a STEAM Charter could offer something interesting and important, but it’s almost like an elective. In Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, or places like Lawrence and Lowell, not quite the case.

    Of course, the tired finance argument is undercut by the fact that the district gets reimbursed by the state for 6 YEARS after a student moves from a district school to a charter…

    We do need to fix our district schools in many places. It’s not an either/or. We need both good districts and options like charters – because if you’re a kid today, the possibility that your district school will be better in a decade does nothing for you.

    Oh, and introduce us to one of those charter school profiteers in Massachusetts. I keep hearing about them…

    • jonshore

      Boston Public Schools is the Number 1 Urban School District in the Nation! The 6 year reimbursement falls short when you consider a child spends 12 years in school! There is nothing “tired” about the “finance argument,” and it explains the gap between the “haves and have not!”

      Let me explain how it works in Boston. A regular ed student in a BPS
      traditional school cost $11,855. However, when you add the cost of
      all the BPS Special Ed and Ell students, the cost “averages” out to $15,227. Charter schools are paid the “average” $15,227. even though their population of students is mostly regular ed, and in no way reflects the English Language Learner and Special Education demographic of the Boston Public Schools! This $15,227 tuition figure BPS pays, does not include the “city-wide” busing expense, which BPS pays for, nor does it include the “non-tuition” revenue.

      A Boston charter school regular ed student receives $3,372. more a year than a regular ed student in a Boston traditional public school. That $3,372. represents services that the BPS is not able to provide for the neediest children remaining in Boston’s traditional public schools; the money is just not there! Taxpaying families of students in Boston’s traditional schools should revolt and file a suit against the city! After 12 years their child is not getting $40,464. worth of services! Even more when you consider the 5% yearly increases anticipated and budgeted for charter schools!

      You want me to introduce you to only one charter school profiteer in Massachusetts? Why not several:

      http://www.novoco.com/new_markets/resource_files/advocacy/charter_schools_urge_extension_111212.pdf

      • WIllard

        But what about the reimbursement? The district gets reimbursed that $15K in year one, and 25% of that for the next five years. That’s 2.25 years of tuition through 2018 for a kid who doesn’t set foot in a BPS school after 2013. And your argument assumes NO SpEd or ELL kids go to charters – which even you have to concede is not the case.

        The reason I call the argument tired is because it keeps calling out the charters as *the reason* for BPS troubles, when it’s a combination of factors ranging from a very significant loss of state and federal funding to the district’s failure to estimate its own enrollment properly. You make charters the target, but when you factor in the reimbursements, it doesn’t add up. Take your $87 million “cost” of charters and divide it by the 7600 charter public school students in Boston, and you get about $11,400 – even less than your “regular” student.

        Should we fund our public schools more? OK, let’s agree on that. But we may disagree when I say there are thousands of kids in Massachusetts getting a better education than their district has been able to provide because of charter public schools.

        As for your millionaires list – you just gave a list of charter providers. No proof of millionaires.

  • smithie30

    “Advocates say charter school students consistently outperform academically their counterparts in traditional public schools.” This is patently untrue. As previous commenters have noted, most charter schools only pay lip service to educating special populations. They may admit ELL, low income, or Special Education students (because they have to by law), but they do not keep them. My experience in the Salem Public Schools was that the charter school accepted some of our elementary students on IEPs as part of their lottery for grade 6, but by about Thanksgiving, the ones who required the most support were counseled out and returned to the public middle school (the money, however, stayed with the charter school). So comparing the test scores of charter school students and public school students is comparing apples to oranges.

    Charter school advocates are not interested in providing a great education to all students. Follow the money and you’ll see where their interest lies.

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