Four proposals to open charter schools in the Boston area — in addition to 17 proposals submitted throughout Massachusetts — prove that operators are showing an increasing interest in growing the number of charters in the state. Three of the proposals are from operators of established charters looking to either expand their facilities or open new schools elsewhere. Three additional groups representing other popular Boston-area charters are planning to submit their applications next week.
Massachusetts law severely restricts the number of students who may enroll in charters every year, which means that all the Boston-area applicants could be competing for as few as 1,000 additional seats. Other cities around the state are also struggling to juggle their charter school permit submissions against their strict quotas.
Still, according to Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner for the elementary and secondary education, successful charters looking to expand could only mean good news for MA students.
“I’m always heartened by the interest of high-quality providers to take on schools in communities where kids are not currently succeeding,” Chester said.
But he said it is premature to raise the limits on charter school growth, noting that the state’s methodical approach to opening new charter schools has resulted in a prevalence of high-performing schools.
The 21 applications submitted this year represent another strong showing since state officials first began accepting an increased number of proposals for independent charter schools in 2010. That year, when the state doubled the number of students who were allowed to leave low-performing public schools and enroll in a charter, 38 operators applied to open schools throughout the state. Thirteen ultimately were approved to open.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approves charter school applications each year in February, based on Chester’s recommendations.
Boston charter schools seeking to open additional campuses are Edward Brooke, MATCH, and City on a Hill, which is also pursuing a school in New Bedford. There is also a proposal for a Heights Academy Charter School, an elementary school.
Erica Brown, who is organizing the City on the Hill’s proposals, says that the fact that theirs is one of the few high school charters looking to open will give them an advantage during the competitive selection process. However, any school gaining approval will be seen as good news for school choice advocates in Boston and around the state.
The Massachusetts Public Charter School Association is hoping to use these indicators of interest to buttress its argument as it plans to approach the state legislature to request that the charter school caps are lifted next year.