Massachusetts to Consider Applications for Ten More Charter Schools

The Massachusetts State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering ten applications from entities seeking permission to operate charter schools, and operators who win an approval could be ready to open the doors of their new schools as early as 2014.

As Katherine Landergan of The Boston Globe reports, the applications currently before board members are preliminary. Members will select the best of the bunch, and ask them to submit the final proposals in the middle of next month. The last day to submit the final apps and still hit the fall 2014 deadline is October 25th of this year.

"For each prospectus, we'll look closely at how well the founding groups articulate their vision for delivering an outstanding educational program to students and then invite final applications where appropriate," Mitchell Chester, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said in a statement.

Chester will then recommend candidates to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which will take a final vote in late February 2014.

The bar for charter school approval is set high in Massachusetts, which could explain why a recent CREDO Stanford University study found that charter schools in the state provide better quality of instruction than traditional district schools. In response to the study, two Democratic state lawmakers have called on the state to lift the amount districts are allowed to spend on charters every year, along with the hard cap on the number of charters allowed to operate in the state. As of last spring, there were 76 charters operating in MA, well under the cap of 120.

Predictably, calls for lifting the charter cap have drawn criticisms from education reform critics like teachers unions. Last month, the Boston Teachers Union along with Youth Organizers United for the Now Generation protested on the steps of the Statehouse while lawmakers considered a measure that would lift the cap.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would eliminate the cap on charter schools that are allowed to be opened in low-performing school districts. Currently, the Massachusetts statewide limit on charter schools is 120.

Instead of opening more charter schools, the rally organizers say the answer is more funding for public schools and to develop schools that have the ability to accept and serve every student.

Among operators submitting applications this year are several that already operate successful charters in MA.

The applicants include the Academy for the Whole Child Charter School in Fitchburg, the Chinese Immersion Charter School for Newton and several nearby communities, the Fenix Charter School in Lynn, and the Innovation Charter Academy in Fall River.

Also submitting applications were the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics via Language Immersion Public Charter School in Westborough and several other communities, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Design and Mathmatics school in Andover.

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