Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Melrose School Committee Votes to Keep Charter School Cap

This past Tuesday, the Committee voted unanimously (with one absent) to send the following letter advocating keeping the charter school cap: 

Dear Senator Lewis, Representative Brodeur, Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Peisch, and all Members of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Education:

In keeping with the recent NAACP and Mass. Lawyers’ Committee charter cap lawsuit, the Melrose School Committee urges you to maintain the current cap on charter schools in Massachusetts.  According to a recent Boston Globe article, reporter Allison Pohle states: "charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, but serve far fewer students with disabilities and who are English language learners, as well as impose harsher discipline on students of color." The inequity in the funding formula and the inequity in addressing the educational needs of students with disabilities and those who are English language learners need to be resolved fairly before any lifting of the cap.

While charter schools provide a valid educational alternative to families seeking a quality education for their children, they do so at the expense of funding for traditional public schools and in the absence of equal accountability and access for students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Until charter schools are required to be as publicly accountable as traditional public schools, until they are required to meet the needs of all students, and until an equitable funding formula is created, there should be no lifting of the charter school cap. Only when these inequities are resolved will charter school education be free of the devastating polarization it has caused communities.

In support of this plea, we attach the recent article by reporter Allison Pohl of the Boston Globe, and the 2012 NAACP Resolution on Charter Schools.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.


Margaret Driscoll, Chairman
Melrose School Committee

cc:       Melrose School Committee
            Superintendent Cyndy Taymore
            Melrose Board of Aldermen


The NAACP Resolution on Charter Schools: Segregation is Not Innovation

In a process established by the NAACP Constitution, this resolution was adopted by the delegates to the 101st Annual Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, during the legislative session in July, 2010. It was subsequently ratified by the NAACP National Board of Directors at its meeting on October 15, 2010. This resolution is now the policy of the Association, and is “binding on the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, the Officers, and all units.”

WHEREAS, charter schools are public schools which were originally designed to explore new approaches to educate students; and

WHEREAS, in some cases, charter schools have become a school model that is used to segregate students; and

WHEREAS, charter schools have too seldom informed the education community regarding innovative instructional strategies that accelerate academic achievement in the general population of students; and

WHEREAS, the Center for Research in Educational Outcomes (CREDO) which examined charter school data in fifteen (15) states and the District of Columbia confirmed that only 17% of the charter school students in the study outperformed their peers, while 46% performed no better and 37% performed worse; and

WHEREAS, charter schools operate more autonomously than traditional public schools in the use of funds, adherence to state laws and school policies, selection and removal of students, and the selection and removal of staff, thus creating separate and unequal conditions for success; and

WHEREAS, charter schools draw funding away from already underfunded traditional public schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes that at best, quality charter schools serve only a small percentage of children of color and disadvantaged students for whom the NAACP advocates relative to said population left behind in failing schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP recognizes the urgent need to provide quality education for all children, not only those fortunate enough to win lotteries to attend existing quality charter schools; and

WHEREAS, the NAACP is committed to finding broad based, effective solutions for immediate implementation to improve the quality of public education for all children.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will strongly advocate for immediate, overarching improvements to the existing public education system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP rejects the emphasis on charter schools as the vanguard approach for the education of children, instead of focusing attention, funding, and policy advocacy on improving existing, low performing public schools and will work through local, state and federal legislative processes to ensure that all public schools are provided the necessary funding, support and autonomy necessary to educate all students; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will urge all of its Units to work to support public schools throughout the nation to educate all children to their highest potential.

Roslyn M. Brock                               Leon Russell                                   Benjamin Todd Jealous
Chairman                                           Chairman                                        President & CEO
National Board of Directors           Committee on Resolutions

Boston.com Staff | 01.28.16 | 3:21 PM

The New England Area Conference of the NAACP and the Massachusetts Lawyers’ Committee, as well as seven Boston Public School students, announced Thursday that they have moved to intervene with a pending lawsuit that looks to lift the state cap on the number of charter schools.

A motion to intervene is filed by a party other than the plaintiffs or defendants who has a vested interest in the subject matter of the case. In this scenario, the groups are getting involved because they say charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, but serve far fewer students with disabilities and who are English language learners, as well as impose harsher discipline on students of color.

“We’re not anti-charter school at the Lawyers’ Committee,” said Matthew Cregor, education project director of the lawyers’ committee for civil rights and economic justice. “But we have to wonder what would happen to students of color, english language learners, and students with disabilities who are not being served by schools if the cap was lifted. We need to hear from students who attend traditional public schools in this case.”

The plaintiffs in the case, which was filed in Suffolk Superior Court September 15, 2015, are five anonymous students who did not secure charter school seats during the school lottery. Instead, they were assigned to traditional Boston public schools that the state classified as “underperforming.” They are suing the state to lift the cap.

The lawyers in the case, William Lee, Michael Keating and Paul Ware, said in a statement that they filed the suit to lift the cap to ensure greater access to public charter schools, which have a proven record of providing quality education to students across Massachusetts, including students of color.

“This lawsuit has never suggested that lifting the charter cap will solve every problem facing the public education system,” they said. “Efforts to address other systemic issues, however, should not come at the expense of thousands of students who are being denied access to charter schools because of the state’s arbitrary cap. We should be promoting charter schools, not trying to limit them.”

Juan Cofield, president of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, said the organization wants to see students provided with the greatest education that our resources will allow.

“We firmly believe that setting up a separate system is destructive to the notion of providing the best education for all students,” he said.

Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation in October that would lift the current cap of 120 charter schools statewide. The bill would allow 12 new or expanded charter schools each year in districts that score in the bottom 25 percent on standardized tests, including Boston.

“The thing is, the plaintiffs’ goals are really not that different than the goals of the state’s Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, or other defendants,” Cregor said. “That’s why we think the court needs to hear from public school students who are affected by funds that are diverted away from public schools.”

When a student enrolls in a charter school, state law requires that the public school district in which they reside pay the student’s tuition costs. The state is then supposed to reimburse that cost.

But that doesn’t always happen. The lack of charter school reimbursements are a main cause of the $50 million Boston Public Schools budget gap for this coming school year, according to school officials. This year’s reimbursements covered less than half the cost of students who left the district, leaving a deficit of $18.6 million.

Baker proposed a new plan to reimburse districts for funding lost to charter schools, which would double the amount districts receive in the second year from 25 percent to 50 percent of the lost tuition.

“But that doesn’t cover the cost of lost tuition,” Cofield said. “Even if one hadn’t seen the numbers on discipline, the governor’s plan is evidence that this will continue to be a problem, and more charter schools would only make it worse.”

Last fall, Attorney General Maura Healy moved to dismiss the lawsuit to lift the charter cap. That motion is currently pending. If it fails, Cregor expects the next hearing will happen in the spring.