MTA President Barbara Madeloni applauded today’s ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirming an earlier decision by a Superior Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to lift the cap on Commonwealth charter schools.
“This is the third leg of the charter expansionists’ strategy to be rejected,” Madeloni said. “They filed charter expansion bills, which have been rejected by the Legislature. They spent tens of millions of dollars backing Question 2, which was soundly rejected by the voters. And they filed this lawsuit, which has such weak claims that the SJC won’t even allow it to go to trial.”
"This is the third leg of the charter expansionists’ strategy to be rejected."MTA President Barbara Madeloni
The court cited the Question 2 vote, stating that “a majority of voters, including those in the plaintiffs’ own school district, recently rejected a ballot measure that would have provided similar relief.” Question 2 was rejected 62 to 38 percent in 2016, even though supporters outspent opponents by nearly two to one.
The court decision also supports claims by opponents of charter expansion that the way Commonwealth charter schools are funded hurts students who attend traditional public schools. The court noted, “Because of the statutory funding mechanism that mandates payment of charter school tuition from resources that would otherwise go to traditional public schools, the expansion of charter schools has detrimental effects on traditional public schools and the students who rely on those schools and their services.”
The lawsuit, Jane Doe v. Secretary of Education, was filed in March 2015 by partners at three top law firms on behalf of five students in the Boston Public Schools who had submitted applications to one or more Commonwealth charter schools but had not secured a seat through the charter lottery system. The students had all subsequently enrolled in Boston schools that were designated Level 3 or Level 4, indicating that student performance in those schools was in the bottom fifth of all schools based on test scores.
The plaintiffs claimed that their constitutional right to an “adequate” education had been violated by their school assignments. The only remedy they proposed was to increase the number of Commonwealth charter schools.
The court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, finding that they had “failed to state a claim for relief” under either the equal protection clause or the education clause of the state Constitution.
The court found, “As there is no constitutional entitlement to attend charter schools, and the plaintiffs’ complaint does not suggest that charter schools are the Commonwealth’s only plan for ensuring that the education provided in the plaintiffs’ schools will be adequate, the Superior Court judge did not err in dismissing the plaintiffs' education clause claim.”
"The cap is an effort to allocate education funding among all the Commonwealth's students attending these two types of publicly funded schools."SJC decision dismissing charter expansion lawsuit
The court determined that the Legislature’s decision to limit the number of charter schools has a rational basis, noting, “The cap is an effort to allocate education funding among all the Commonwealth's students attending these two types of publicly funded schools.”
Further, the court found, “There are other legitimate public purposes that would provide a rational basis for the statute as well. For example, limits on charter schools may be based on a policy concern regarding the departure from local democratic control over public schools by local school committees because charter schools are instead governed by private boards of trustees.”