Charter school additions, expansion to be recommended

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2016/02/16/charter-school-additions-expansion-to-be-recommended/

BOSTON – The state education commissioner next week will ask the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to approve new charter schools in Springfield and Brockton and expansions at five existing charter schools, including four in Boston.

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester on Tuesday announced his recommendations in support of Libertas Academy Charter School, which would serve 630 students in grades 6-12 in Springfield, and the New Heights Charter School of Brockton, a regional school that would serve 735 students in grades 6-12.

Libertas hopes to open in 2017, serving 90 sixth-grade students initially, according to state education officials. New Heights hopes to open in 2016 and serve 315 students in grades 6-8 during its first year.

Education officials said two charter school finalists were not recommended. They are the International Academy of Montachusett Charter School, which would have served the Fitchburg area, and the Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School, which would have served the Sturbridge area.

Five charters recommended for expansion plan to add grades to become K-12 schools. They are the Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, the Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston, and BCS Roslindale, BCS Mattapan and BCS East Boston – three Brooke Charter Schools that have requested consolidation into a single regional charter school. Each of the three K-8 campuses would remain open, and Brooke would add a single high school.

Faced with an initiative petition aimed at opening the state up to more charter schools, lawmakers are weighing proposals with an eye towards opening up opportunities and narrowing the achievement gap while paying attention to the impacts of expansion on traditional public school districts. Gov. Charlie Baker has made expanding the number of charter schools a legislative priority.

“The fundamental issue is that these are all public schools. They ought to be operating in roughly a similar fashion and there ought to be a funding mechanism that doesn’t cannibalize one to support the other,” Senate President Stan Rosenberg said Tuesday on WCAP-FM.

There are 80 charter schools in Massachusetts and another 17 can be created under the existing cap, according to Rosenberg, who noted that additional charters can also be created outside the cap in low-performing school districts.

Written by Michael Norton