What’s Wrong with the New Charter Cap Bill

What’s wrong with H3984, the bill now in House Ways and Means that would raise the cap on charter schools? (The bill was introduced by Rep. Alice Peisch after she and her Education Committee Co-Chair Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz failed to agree on how to raise the charter cap.)

1. H3984 will take even more money away from the district schools that educate all children (not just high-scoring students).
The state is short-changing districts by 28 million this year, 27% less than they were promised as reimbursement for fixed costs they can’t quickly shed when a student transfers to a charter school. For FY15, it’s expected to be worse:  the Governor proposes to short-change districts by 35 million, a 32% shortfall. Sen. Chang-Diaz’ proposal attempted to deal with that problem, which is likely to get worse if more charter schools open. H3984 does not mention it.

2. H3984 falls short of making charter schools stop skimming the top-scoring students.
H3984 does attempt to deal with this problem, but the bill is unlikely to fundamentally change charter school behavior. For schools authorized under the new, much higher cap, it would require an opt-out lottery (everybody is entered, so there’s no complex application process) and these charter schools would have to fill the seats of students who leave (“backfilling”). Both of those may help, but they won’t stop charters from counseling low-scoring students out.  A recent MIT study, funded by the pro-charter Boston Foundation, found there were only a third as many English language learners among charter students as were in the lottery. Why did all those ELL students decide not to go, or leave once they were in?

3. H3984 will hurt students in the district schools.
With less money and a higher percentage of students who face challenges in their lives, district schools in our poorest communities will be marked for failure.

What can we do about it?
Write to the newspapers, including your local papers. Ask your School Committee to take a stand. Contact your state legislators. Tell them we need to educate ALL of our children, not fund escape routes for a few.