Metro

Charter school applicants in Brockton, Fitchburg appeal rejections

Two applicant groups whose proposals to open charter schools in Brockton and Fitchburg were rejected by the state filed appeals Thursday with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in hopes of reviving their proposals.

In each case, the applicants contend that state education officials wrongfully recalculated the list of school districts that qualify for additional charter school seats -- based on a new formula -- after the applicants already had filed their proposals for new independently run charter schools.

Under that change, Brockton and Fitchburg were bumped from the list, ultimately preventing the proposals from moving forward, even though the state had named them just days earlier as the only two finalists for the entire state.

Advertisement

The switch means that Massachusetts is poised not to approve the opening of any new independently run charter schools this year for the first time in 15 years.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“One day our applicants are given the green light; the next day they are told never mind,” Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, which announced the appeals Friday, said in a statement.

He added, “We sincerely hope the Department and the Board can come together with the applicants to resolve this issue” when the state board meets on Tuesday.

Mitchell Chester, the state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said the department is reviewing the appeals as well as the applicable state laws and regulations.

“We don’t quite have our arms around this yet,” Chester said.

Advertisement

He said the issue is not slated to be discussed at the board’s meeting Tuesday but will likely come up at the board’s meeting in November. He also said the respective school districts still need to be notified about the appeals in case they want to respond.

A coalition of 25 nonprofits and educational advocacy organizations, known as the Race to the Top Coalition, also submitted letters to the state board Friday urging them to scrap the new formula that determines where additional charter seats can go and instead revert back to the old formula.

The old formula relies on a ranking of actual MCAS scores, while the new formula adds an additional barometer that gives districts credit if they boost student achievement at fast rates even if their overall scores remain low. The change makes it more difficult to open charter schools in several cities.

“We hope the two applicants can go forward,” Paul Grogan, president of the Boston Foundation, a coalition member, said in an interview. “It seems terribly unfair they started the application under one set of rules and then were informed they were ineligible because the formula changed.”

The coalition joins a growing list of charter school proponents, including both gubernatorial candidates Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley, who are calling on state education officials to reverse their rejections of the two charter proposals.

James Vaznis can be reached at jvaznis@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globevaznis.