Despite strong opposition, BESE authorizes two new charter schools

Despite strong testimony from charter school opponents, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted On Feb. 23 to authorize two new charter schools, one in Brockton and the other in Springfield, and to expand several existing schools in Everett and Boston.

Ed Doherty, the labor representative on the board, argued against new charter seats, saying, “We have gone way, way off base on the charter school movement, to the point where we're now on the verge of creating a separate track of public education, a separate track which is separate and unequal.”

“We're now on the verge of creating a separate track of public education, a separate track which is separate and unequal.”
— BESE member Ed Doherty

Parent representative Mary Ann Stewart agreed, saying that “we’re at a tipping point” in approving too many charter schools at the expense of public education for all.

Michael O’Neill, chair of the Boston School Committee, described the funding system as “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” with Peter being district schools that serve all students, regardless of ability or needs.

In the end, Stewart and Doherty voted against both charters and BESE member Margaret McKenna joined them in opposing the New Heights Charter School in Brockton, which will also draw a small number of students from Randolph and Taunton.

Three state representatives and the state senator from Brockton all joined the Brockton superintendent in arguing against approval of the New Heights school, reminding the board of Brockton’s high rate of success with a diverse and largely low-income student body.

State Representative Claire Cronin, D-Easton, said she had heard from many constituents about the issue, and she said that their response to the question of whether Brockton residents support a charter school “was a resounding ‘no.’”

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BESE board members said the test of whether there was a demand for a charter school is whether parents apply to send their children to it, not whether a majority of the residents in a community support the school.

MTA President Barbara Madeloni stressed the importance of considering the needs of all students and was sharply critical of Governor Charlie Baker and Education Secretary Jim Peyser in her testimony.

Madeloni concluded, "It is nothing less than shameful that the Baker administration is seeking to starve public education while promoting an expansion of charters. Members of this board can strike a blow for quality public schools for all by refusing to approve these two charter schools and by taking a strong position against lifting the cap in the future.”

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