Mayoral hopeful John Barros, in an effort to simplify the often arduous process of registering for school, is calling for a single application that can be used in Boston’s school system and at independently run charter schools.
The proposal is reminiscent of the common application used in higher education that has enabled students to fill out one application that can be sent to multiple colleges across the nation — a system that has caused the number of applicants at many institutions to soar in recent years.
A single application for Boston’s city and charter schools would represent a major departure in how parents register their children for school.
Currently, families must navigate several different systems. The School Department requires parents or guardians to visit a family resource center, where they submit a list of school choices in rank order. Each of the city’s approximately 20 independently run charter schools has its own application, deadline, and process for applying.
The fractured registration system, Barros said, hinders the ability of families juggling multiple jobs and commitments from applying to all the schools they might like to.
“Parents should not have to go school to school to figure out what the application process is,” he said. “A single application would give every family a fair shot at any school they want to apply to.”
Barros, a former School Committee member, will officially announce his proposal at a mayoral forum on education set for Wednesday night in Roslindale. It is one of two education proposals expected to be pitched on Wednesday by a mayoral candidate.
In the morning, City Councilor John Connolly plans to hold a press conference outside the former site of the Mission Hill K-8 School, where he will announce a proposal to “fast-track” the review process of large development projects in exchange for funding the construction of a new school or a large-scale renovation project.
“We need an infusion of creativity and new ideas to address school facilities and not leave [the Boston public schools] on its own to squander opportunities,” said Connolly, noting that the city’s school system has more than $600 million in deferred maintenance projects.
Under the proposal, the review process could transpire over six months instead of several years. Connolly, however, emphasized that the community would still have an opportunity to weigh in on the development projects.
Barros’s proposal comes less than three months after the Boston School Committee approved a new school-assignment system that will allow more students to attend schools closer to their homes.
He said the single application would require no changes to that system, which goes into effect for fall 2014, and would simply make it easier for parents to register for school. Similarly, charter schools would continue to hold their annual lottery for seats, as prescribed by state law.
Lee McGuire, a School Department spokesman, declined to comment on Barros’s proposal because school officials have not been briefed on it.
But he noted the School Department has been trying to simplify the registration process for more than a year, and has heard concerns from parents about the varying deadlines and requirements to register for different schools.
“It requires families to manage a lot,” McGuire said.
Kevin Andrews, chairman of the Boston Alliance of Charter Schools, said he found the idea of a single application to be interesting, but had a lot of questions, such as who would manage the single-registration system.
“Once laid out, it might be the best thing since slice bread, or maybe it won’t work,” said Andrews, headmaster at Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester. “I would like to examine the issue further.”