Although the Massachusetts Senate recently rejected a proposal to increase the number of charter schools in the state, newly-elected Governor Charlie Baker is now asking for an increase to the charter cap.
Charter schools are public schools that are operated independently from the public school system and are open to any child in the state. The schools must have a charter that has been approved by the state, and are overseen by a board of trustees.
“For Gov. (Charlie) Baker to highlight the need to the lift cap on charter schools in his inaugural address was a huge expression of support from him,” said Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School Association. “We’re very hopeful that with Gov. Baker’s support and new leadership in the state Senate that we will be able to pass legislation raising the cap on charter schools in this session.”
Baker recently chose James A. Peyser, who is known as an advocate of charter schools, to fill the vacant role of Secretary of Education.
The state has been witness to a division over the issue, with charter proponents claiming the schools have a higher degree of autonomy that allows them to test out different methods to increase student success, and critics arguing that the schools are taking resources away from the public school system.
According to state law, only 9% of a public school district’s total school spending, or the amount that a city or town is allowed to spend on public education, can go toward charter schools, writes Gerry Tuoti for The Herald News.
The number has since been raised for 18% for the lowest-performing 10% of public schools. The increase was done in order to allow students who attend low-performing schools to have the choice of attending charter schools.
While Needham’s School Committee chairman Michael Greis believes public education to be “the bedrock of our democracy,” and as such is against raising the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state until there is more discussion concerning the role they play. He went on to say that he is worried that charter schools are acting as “private schools under another name. That to me is extremely dangerous.”
Medford School Committee member Ann Marie Cugno also opposes raising the cap, calling it “a matter of equality,” as many charter schools have a lower number of at-risk students than public schools do and many are not held accountable to local officials, reports John Laidler for The Boston Globe.
Not everyone feels that way, though. Mark Logan, superintendent of the Foxborough Regional Charter School, would like to see the cap raised so long as it follows a discussion concerning how to “appropriately fund public education for all public schools.”
“We should remove the barriers to families and students getting an education they would want,” he said.