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Poll finds hunger for more charter schools

Survey is latest salvo in battle to lift state cap

Charter school advocates, in a last-minute push to raise the state limit on the number of seats in such schools, are releasing a poll Tuesday that they say shows widespread appetite among Boston families for more of them.

The poll, sponsored by the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, found that 62 percent of adult respondents from households with children support raising the state cap on the number of students that can enroll in charter schools.

By contrast, only 27 percent of adult respondents wanted to keep the current limit. The poll was conducted June 16 to 25 by MassINC Polling Group and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.


Marc Kenen, executive director of the charter school association, says the 2-to-1 ratio of support clearly shows that only a “small number of parents” oppose opening more charter schools.

“We’re very hopeful that the Senate will do the right thing and lift the cap,” Kenen said.

The state Senate is considering a bill that would enable the creation of 11,700 additional charter school seats in the state’s lowest-performing school districts, including more than 3,100 in Boston.

The House passed the bill a few weeks ago. It remains unclear if the Senate will vote on the measure before the legislative session winds down at the end of July.

It is a high-stakes decision for Boston, which is near its state limit on the number of students who can enroll in charter schools, which in most cases operate independently of local school systems and rarely employ unionized teachers. More than 8,600 students in Boston will attend charter schools this fall.

While some Boston parents clamor for more charter schools, other parents worry that opening more could be a financial disaster for the city’s school system. Children who enroll in a charter school take with them thousands of dollars in per-student state aid from the Boston system.


The debate has been highlighted by both sides lobbing conflicting data, including poll numbers, that seek to undermine their opponents.

For instance, last summer the Boston Teachers Union in conjunction with its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, released a poll that found little support for more charter schools in Boston. That poll found that only 29 percent of respondents favored electing a mayor who would push aggressively for more charter schools.

Richard Stutman, the Boston Teachers Union president, said Monday that the charter school association’s poll appears to run contrary to the union’s poll numbers.

“I think the truth is somewhere in the middle,” Stutman said of the two polls, while stressing that he believes most parents have faith in the city’s school system.

Demand for charter schools in Boston is high, with about 20,000 students on waiting lists.

Natasha Brown from Mattapan has tried for the last few years to get her three children into charter schools but keeps getting wait-listed.

“I’m going to keep plugging away at it,” Brown said. “ I think charter schools would be a better education for my kids.”

Karen Kast-McBride, a Roslindale mother who favors the current cap, said she found the polling numbers too extreme to believe, saying she knows many parents who are concerned about whether the city can financially support more charter schools without compromising the quality of education in the public school system.


“I do think there is a disconnect between what their push poll numbers show and reality,” she said.

James Vaznis can be reached at