Charter School Waiting Lists Questioned

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A review has found that the waiting list for charter schools in Massachusetts is not as long as it appears.

The state says there are more than 53,000 students on waiting lists statewide.

But The Boston Globe reports that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education frequently counts the same students more than once if that student's name appears on more than one waiting list, or is on a waiting list for one school while enrolled at another.

Some schools keep names on waiting lists for years, without knowing whether that student is still interested.

Advocates say the list is evidence of the popularity of the schools and the need to add to the state's 81 charter schools. Critics say demand for charter schools is based on exaggerated numbers.

Marc Kenan, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, acknowledges the state's numbers might be off but says it's a sign of parents' desperation.

"Parents in Boston particularly are desperate to try and get into our schools, and they're applying to multiple schools — and that's well known and public knowledge to everybody," Kenan told WBUR.

But he says that a correct count of waitlisted students is necessary.

"We will be working with the state to develop a good system that will accurately reflect the intensity and the scope of the demand for our schools."

Kenan also disagrees with efforts to cap the number of charter schools in the state.

"The demand is going to increase as years go by if there is a cap and there are no more charter schools in the state," he said. "That number's just going to keep going up."

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

This article was originally published on April 08, 2013.

This program aired on April 8, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.