Boston charter school leaders appeared before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently to push for the state to lift a temporary moratorium on new charter public schools in Boston. After one year of rapid expansion, in which seven new Commonwealth charters were approved, the state decided to put a freeze on new applications until more room opened under the new cap.
Boston Charter Alliance Chairman Kevin Andrews, former Board Chairman Jim Peyser and Boston City Councilor John Connolly told the Board that demand in Boston is growing faster than charters can expand and operators of high performing Boston charters are anxious to open new schools.
"Many high performing schools are ready to propose additional schools for Boston, but they must remain on the sidelines until seats are opened up," Andrews said. "Many children and families are waiting as well. Boston charters have answered the call to attract, enroll, and retain students with a wide range of educational needs. In doing so, we have effectively increased the numbers of families who know about the high performing charter schools in the city, and, as a direct result of our outreach efforts, we have increased our wait lists enormously. In many cases, wait lists in individual Boston charters have doubled and tripled in the last two years. More than 20,000 students are now on wait lists in Boston."
Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has not said whether he will allow new applications this year.
The 2010 education reform law allows charters in low performing districts to double the number of seats they offer, but the increase is gradual. To make sure the cap is not exceeded, the Department decided to create a cushion between the number of new seats granted and the number allowed under the new law. Charter advocates are asking for a smaller cushion, which would open about 1,000 new seats in the upcoming application cycle.
Other cities, including Lowell, Lawrence, and Holyoke, could face similar moratoria.