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Pioneer Institute Statement on Senate Charter School Cap Lift Vote

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The Senate Turns Back the Clock

Today, the Massachusetts State Senate voted against S2262, a bill to lift the cap on charter school enrollment in the state’s lowest-performing public school districts.

The Senate bill would have tied charter school expansion to full funding of reimbursement to sending districts. Under the bill, charter schools would have been responsible for 50 percent of extended day and extended year transportation costs. The Senate also filed dozens of amendments to the bill, which, with few exceptions, would have imposed unrealistic, harmful, and petty regulations on charter schools.

The Senate gets a low grade for the quality of the debate and a failing grade for the misrepresentations made about charter schools. Senator Barry Finegold said it best when he noted that we know what works, what’s working in Lawrence and around the state to bridge the achievement gaps, and it is charter public schools.

Massachusetts charters are the most successful public schools in the country at closing achievement gaps among low-income and minority students, largely because they have flexibility from state regulations in exchange for more school autonomy.

A 2013 Stanford University study found that Massachusetts charter students gain an additional month and a half of learning in English and two and a half months in math each year compared with traditional public schools.
Massachusetts charter schools enroll over 32,000 students, while over 40,000 are on waiting lists. In Boston, 7,000 students attend charters, while 15,000 are waitlisted.

A recent vote by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to change the way school district performance is calculated will impact which districts are considered to be in the bottom 10 percent, reducing the number of students eligible to attend charter schools.

The 2014 Senate seems bent on returning education debates back to 1992. Massachusetts has benefitted too much from the 1993 Education Reform Act to turn back the clock.