Advocates Push For Bill To Expand Mass. Charter Schools

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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

This article was originally published on March 12, 2014.