BOSTON, – The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) today delivered more than 1,000 letters from parents and community leaders to Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) calling on her to support legislation lifting the cap on charter public schools.
The individual letters, many written in Spanish and many from parents of special needs students, have been collected over the past two weeks as the Association has mobilized charter school parents across the state to ensure the bill moves out of Committee and to the full Legislature for debate. The bill (H.425/S.235) would lift the cap on charter enrollment in underperforming school districts and provide targeted interventions to underperforming district schools.
Sen. Chang-Diaz, who is the Co-Chair of the Committee, has been holding up the bill’s progress. The Committee has until to act.
“We could not afford private schools and were not eligible to take advantage of the Metco program,” one parent wrote. “I cannot tell you the relief experienced in knowing that my daughter had A CHOICE in where she went to school. A choice as working parents, we could afford.” That parent continued: “I am a huge believer in the public school system. It is imperative that it continues to improve…but knowing that we had a choice…had to be one of the most reassuring feelings I have ever experienced. By your voting against lifting the cap, you are denying this chance for hundreds of other Boston children.”
Another parent wrote: “My son was labeled as unable to learn by the public school system. Two excellent charter schools later he is about to graduate from Wentworth Institute of Technology with a degree in computer engineering. Please allow other students to have the same opportunity the charter schools provided to my son.”
Parents of special needs students also wrote letters, countering the myth that charters do not welcome children with disabilities.
“The notion these schools do not want or accept children with special needs is absurd, one parent wrote. “Boston Collegiate requested my son, who has Down Sydrome, to attend their school. This is a misperception exacerbated by charter school opponents. Parents and voters have a right to expect their public officials to represent their interests in having outstanding educational opportunities available to them. They do not expect them to maintain a sub-standard operation only to appease the special interests.”
Another parent wrote of her son’s illness and how it robbed him of his short-term memory. “It was discovered in 3rd grade that he had ‘lost’ most of his math knowledge,” the parent wrote. “The Brooke (Edward Brooke Charter School) did not abandon him, they doubled their investment. He has gone from having the hardest time with simple math facts to proficient on his 4th grade MCAS. All students in Boston deserve the exposure to tremendous teachers.”
In Boston, and other urban communities, charter school expansion is frozen despite the fact that 40,000 children currently sit on charter waiting lists. More than half of the 29 lowest performing districts in the state are either at the cap or have room for only one more charter. These include large cities like Boston, Holyoke, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, and Chelsea, as well as several smaller communities in Central and Western Massachusetts.
Nearly 17,000 unique names are on waiting lists for Boston charters, and last week more than 13,600 applications were received by Boston charters for only 2,200 seats.
“There can be no doubt that parents across Boston and the state support more charter schools in their communities,” saidMarc Kenen, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. “We are hopeful the Committee will hear their calls, and approve a bill that lifts the cap on charter schools without compromising their future.”