State approves expanded charter schools in Boston
State officials approved Tuesday the expansion of four charter schools in Boston and one in Everett, and the creation of charter schools in Brockton and Springfield.
The vote by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education came amid a fierce public debate over charter schools — taxpayer-funded schools that often operate outside the control of school districts — as supporters push to raise the state’s limit on charter seats through three separate efforts: a ballot measure, a lawsuit, and legislation.
Governor Charlie Baker, a longtime charter school advocate, filed legislation in October that would permit 12 new or expanded charter schools a year for districts with standardized test scores in the bottom 25 percent.
Some parents and teachers fervently oppose charter school expansion, saying that those schools drain much-needed dollars from district coffers and that, compared to district schools, charter schools accept far fewer English-language learners and students with special needs.
But Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said Tuesday the vote would provide high-quality educational opportunities for students in the affected communities.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is these new seats may be the last in Boston unless the Legislature or the voters lift current enrollment caps,” Kenen said in a statement. “Although more than 12,000 children are stranded on charter school waiting lists in Boston, and 34,000 statewide, these caps continue to deny families the right to choose the best public educational options for their children.”
In Boston, the Brooke Charter Schools in East Boston, Mattapan, and Roslindale serve 1,530 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Tuesday’s vote will allow the three schools to consolidate into a single regional school and add a high school, growing by 691 students, according to the state.
“Our mission is to ensure that our kids are prepared to succeed in college . . . so this allows us to take them up to the doorstep of college,” said Jon Clark, codirector of Brooke Charter Schools. “It’s something that our parents and our staff have hoped for and worked for, for many years now.”
Another Boston school, Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, can expand from K-8 to high school, adding 428 seats to its current 400.
Two proposed schools with grades 6 through 12 received charters Tuesday: Libertas Academy Charter School in Springfield, with 630 seats; and New Heights Charter School in Brockton, with 735 seats.
Officials voted in January to allow South Shore Charter Public School to expand from 610 to 1,075 students.
Mitchell D. Chester, the state’s commissioner of elementary and secondary education, said he recommended the expansions and the new charter schools in Brockton and Springfield following “a thorough review.”
“I am confident that today’s votes will mean more high-quality options for students,” Chester said in a statement.