BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 15, 2013 – The Commissioner of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) today recommended that four new Commonwealth charters be granted in Boston, New Bedford and Saugus, and 11 applications to expand enrollment at existing Commonwealth charters be approved.
If the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approves the Commissioner’s recommendations at its next meeting on Feb. 26, then 835 new seats would be created in Boston and another 1,475 seats outside of Boston, mostly in urban areas. In addition, the Commissioner recommended approval of a new “in-district” Horace Mann Charter school in Boston that would serve 740 students.
If these new seats are approved, several low-performing districts, including Boston, Holyoke and Lawrence, will be at or near charter enrollment limits. Marc Kenen, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said that it is time for the Legislature to look again at lifting caps that artificially control access to charter public schools in underperforming districts.
“If you’re one of the lucky families to win charter lotteries, your children are receiving a high quality education and are building a strong educational foundation for future success,” Kenen said. “But there are 45,000 children on charter wait lists, and caps prevent additional charter schools from opening in some communities. How long should we make them wait?”
New legislation was filed last month that would eliminate all charter caps in districts that rank in the bottom 10% academically, and would create more room to open new charters all across the state. This legislation, sponsored by Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) and Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Mattapan) is part of a comprehensive effort to build on the state’s two-decade-old education reform effort raising academic standards, strengthening accountability and increasing parental choice.
Right now, more than half of the 29 districts that rank in the bottom 10% academically are either at the cap or have room for only one more charter school. These include large cities and towns like Boston, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Chelsea, and Randolph, and several smaller communities in Central and Western Massachusetts.
Among the schools recommended for approval are:
- City on a Hill Charter Public School II, Boston (280 seats, Grades 9-12)
- City on a Hill Charter Public School, New Bedford (280 seats, Grades 9-12)
- Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Springfield-Holyoke-Chicopee (250 seats, Grades9-12)
- Pioneer Charter School of Science II, Saugus, Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Lynn (360 seats, Grades7-12)
- UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (750 seats, Grades K1-8)
The Commissioner also recommended the following schools be approved for expansion:
- Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School (45 seats)
- Codman Academy Charter Public School (200 seats, adding Grades K1-8)
- Conservatory Lab Charter School (275 seats, adding Grades 7-8)
- Edward W. Brooke Charter School (35 seats)
- Edward W. Brooke Charter School 2 (35 seats)
- Edward W. Brooke Charter School 3 (35 seats)
- Excel Academy Charter School – Boston/Chelsea (148, adding Grades 9-12)
- Excel Academy Charter School – Chelsea (224, adding Grades 9-12)
- Community Day Charter Public School – Prospect (69 seats)
- Four Rivers Charter Public School (8 seats)
- Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (284 seats, adding Grades 9-12)
“We urge the Board to approve these applications for new and expanded charter schools to allow more families to enroll their children in high quality public schools,” Kenen said. “But we are also disappointed that the Commissioner denied high quality applications for charters to locate in some of our state’s Gateway Cities where the Patrick Administration has made education reform a top priority. These include Brockton, Fall River, Springfield and Lawrence.”
Last month, the Board approved three charter expansions: 55 new seats for the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School (Adams), 90 new seats for Christa McAuliffe Regional Charter Public School (Framingham) and 100 new seats for Foxborough Regional Charter School.