Charter schools see big surge in Mass.
State education officials this week approved five new charter schools and expansion of 11 existing schools, extending an enrollment surge since the state passed a landmark education reform bill in 2010.
The move will create openings for some 3,100 new students, about half in Boston. The state education board granted charters to two new schools in Boston and approved expansion of seven.
Since 2010, when lawmakers doubled the number of charter school openings in struggling school systems, enrollment has climbed from around 28,000 to more than 33,000 in 77 schools.
Charter school supporters hailed the approvals, but said demand to attend the independently run schools is far outpacing growth.
“The more schools we open, the longer the waiting list gets,” said Marc Kenen, who directs the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association.
The group said that a number of cities — including Boston, Lowell, and Chelsea — have reached or are nearing their limit for charter school students and called for the cap to be lifted in low-performing school districts.
Some 45,000 students are on waiting lists for charter schools, which select students by lottery. Charter schools operate under fewer state regulations than traditional public schools and rarely have teacher unions.
Critics say new charter schools drain money from traditional public school systems and are largely unaccountable.
The state approved four new charter schools last year, after approving 16 in 2011. Last spring, state education officials lifted a temporary moratorium on charter schools, citing high demand.
On Monday, the state approved a new charter school in Dorchester and gave a Roxbury charter school the go-ahead to open two new schools, in Boston and New Bedford.
Erica Brown, executive director of City on a Hill Charter Public School, said the school was thrilled to expand. “Excited doesn’t quite describe it,” she said.
Brown said that while school officials are proud of the work that went into the successful applications, they know “the hardest work is ahead of us.”