The state’s 80-odd charter schools and their supporters point proudly to a 53,000-student waiting list as proof for the need to raise the state cap on these K-12 classrooms that operate outside the control of local school districts. It’s true that parents are queuing up to get their children a seat in charter schools known for impressive MCAS scores, flexible teacher hiring practices, and a longer school day. But the list is inflated by duplicate entries that arise when families join the lotteries for more than one charter school.
Officials of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education acknowledge that charter schools provide the raw data, including student names and addresses, needed to create an accurate count. But state officials have failed to sort the information. Even with recent periods of erratic staffing in the department's charter school office, the creation of the list should be a relatively simple and inexpensive computerization task. It should be a priority, too. The failure to provide accurate information just plays into the hands of officials in poorly performing school districts who resent competing with charter schools for resources.