NEW FEDERAL GUIDELINES ALLOW CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
TO HOLD WEIGHTED LOTTERIES TO PROVIDE PREFERENCES FOR EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN
State Legislative Approval Needed in Massachusetts
BOSTON, January 30, 2014 – Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidelines allowing charter public schools to hold “weighted” lotteries that would allow them to give preference to “educationally disadvantaged children.” The Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) applauds this change in policy and calls on the Legislature to change state law to allow Massachusetts charters to provide these preferences.
“Our schools have made great strides in recent years to increase the enrollment of special needs students and English-language learners,” said Marc Kenen, MCPSA Executive Director. “Several of our schools specifically target these populations, while others are focused on meeting the needs of former high school dropouts and other at-risk children. But, ultimately enrollment is determined by random lottery. The change in federal policy will assist our schools in recruiting and enrolling specific populations of educationally disadvantaged children.”
English-language learners account for 22% of new students enrolled in Boston charters since the 2010 education reform bill allowed for charter expansion in low-performing districts. That is a dramatic increase since before the 2010 law passed. Special needs students in all Boston charters now account for 16% of those enrolled compared to 19% in BPS.
Kenen added, however, that a change in state law would be necessary to adopt the new federal guidelines in Massachusetts.
“We are anxious to work with state lawmakers to allow charters to offer these preferences in their lotteries and hope they include such a provision in the education reform legislation currently before them,” Kenen said.
Legislation currently before the Education Committee would eliminate charter caps in underperforming districts and create more room to open new charters all across the state. It would also provide targeted interventions in underperforming districts, and extend certain authorities granted to superintendents to turnaround schools and districts.
The legislation 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.
“It’s time to lift the caps on quality,” Kenen said. “Charter public schools are making a dramatic difference in the lives of children, and are providing strategies that can be replicated in district schools to improve public education for all children.”
The new federal guidelines can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/charter/legislation.html.