BOSTON, August 3, 2015 – Charter public school leaders filed applications to add more than 2,700 charter school seats in Boston, but district-level enrollment caps in the city will allow only a fraction of those seats to ultimately be approved by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
“This is a perfect example of why arbitrary caps on charter enrollment are unfair to families in Boston and other cities across the Commonwealth,” said Beth Anderson, President of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. “Highly successful public charter schools are ready to serve Boston parents who are clamoring for high quality public school options for their children. The current limits are unfairly denying these options for thousands of children.”
More than 13,000 Boston children sit on charter public schools waiting lists hoping for an opportunity to enroll, but the state will allow only 668 new seats to be created. More than 37,000 children are on waiting lists statewide. (These numbers reflect the elimination of duplicate names appearing on more than one school’s list, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education [DESE] under new wait list guidelines.)
Boston has been frozen to new charters since 2013, but because one of the state’s four enrollment caps is tied to district school spending, additional space under the cap opened this year when Boston’s school budget increased. The state recently announced that the city’s additional school spending created 668 new charter seats under the cap. Once these seats are taken, Boston will be frozen again. Across the state several other school districts with long waiting lists are also closed to new charters because of district-level caps, including Fall River, Lawrence, and Holyoke.
“Boston charter public schools have been recognized as the best in the country,” said Anderson, who is also the CEO of the Phoenix Charter Academy Network, which operates two charter schools in Chelsea and Springfield and an in-district high school in partnership with Lawrence public schools that focus on former dropouts and at-risk high schoolers. “There is no legitimate reason to limit new enrollment in these schools that have proven to be so successful in improving achievement for some of our most vulnerable children.”
The additional seats requested are as follows:
Boston Collegiate Charter School-High School (Grades 5-12), 30 seats
Boston Preparatory Charter Public School (Grades 6-12) 520 seats, including adding a 5th grade
Boston Renaissance Charter Public School (Grades K1-6), 66 seats
Bridge Boston Charter School (Grades K1-8), 65 new seats
Edward Brooke Charter (Grades K-8), 659, adding Grades 9-12
City on a Hill Charter Public School (Grades 9-12), 5 seats
City on a Hill Charter Public School II (Grades 9-12), 5 seats
Codman Academy Charter Public School (Grades PK-12), 20 seats
Conservatory Lab Charter School (Grades PK-8), 40 seats
Helen Y Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School (Grades 6-8), 275 seats, adding Grades 5 and 9-12
KIPP Academy Boston (Grades K-8), 588 seats, adding Grades K1 and 9-12
Neighborhood House Charter School (Grades PK-8), 428 seats, adding Grades 9-12 and expanding enrollment in Grades 3-8
Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Grades 5-12), 58 seats.
The applications will be reviewed by DESE, and final decisions will be made by the BESE early next year.
Legislation has been filed to increase mandated caps on charters, and provide districts with more flexibility to turn around underperforming schools. The bill is expected to be heard by the Joint Committee on Education in the fall.
Charter supporters are also considering filing an initiative petition to lift enrollment caps. The deadline for filing the ballot question is August 5 for the November 2016 election.