Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has proposed legislation that would allow more charter schools to open across the state.
The bill will allow for 12 additional charter schools to open each year or for the expansion of already existing schools. However, this would only be the case in districts that perform in the bottom 25% on standardized tests. This would include Boston, Fall River and Salem, as well as the two districts in the state that were placed into receivership, Holyoke and Lawrence.
In addition, districts would be allowed to unify enrollment systems to include charter schools as well as district schools. Doing so would allow students to apply to charter schools and district schools simultaneously, writes Jeremy Fox for The Boston Globe.
According to Baker, approving the bill would increase charter school offerings, which would provide relief to the families of the 37,000 children currently on waiting lists by giving them access to a high-quality education.
“This is Massachusetts. . . . We’re like the home and the founder of public education. We should be able to make sure that every kid in Massachusetts gets the kind of education that they deserve,” Baker said at a news conference outside the Brooke Charter School in Mattapan.
Under the new bill, charter schools would have the ability to show preference in their admittance lottery to low-income families, those who live in certain areas, have special needs, or are English language learners. Critics of the independently-operated schools have long argued that charter schools do not offer enough services for special education students or those who do not speak English.
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni said the bill would aid in the creation of a two-tiered education system financed with public funding, one of which would be public and the other private.
“The truly public system will always welcome all students. The private system will continue to find ways to underserve those with the most needs and then use inflated claims of success to grab an ever-larger share of public education funding,” Madeloni said in a written statement.
The first charter schools opened in the state in 1995. There are currently around 80 such schools in operation across Massachusetts, most of which are referred to as Commonwealth Charter schools and operate independently of local school districts and union contracts. In addition, there are a few Horace Mann Charter Schools that operate under the approval of local districts and teacher’s unions.
Baker — no stranger to Massachusetts politics — won election in November, 2014 and was sworn into office in January. As a former member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, he has announced his commitment to closing the state’s achievement gaps and ensuring that education, which Baker says is a civil right, is delivered adequately.