Our Opinion: Charter school bill displeases competing groups

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Opponents and supporters of more charter schools in Massachusetts have found something they can agree upon — they don't like the new charter school bill offered by the state Senate.

The head of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association told The Boston Globe last eek that the legislation "imposes onerous new regulations" on charters. Save Our Public Schools countered in a statement that the state should not try to "move to expand" the reach of charters.The well-meaning legislative compromise effort would seem to be dead in its tracks, setting the stage for a referendum question in November to settle the issue of lifting the cap on charters.

Critics of charter schools, essentially non-traditional public schools that are not unionized and have more autonomy than their counterparts, maintain that they unfairly take money away from already financially strapped schools. The Senate bill would address this by providing roughly $1.4 billion in new spending over seven years for all public schools to get them working together, but it is not clear where that money would suddenly come from, and the new funding doesn't address other concerns of both groups.

Responding to claims by traditional schools that charters are too quick to suspend students, the bill would require new charters to maintain the same suspension rate as surrounding schools. Charter schools would be obligated to reserve slots on their boards for teachers. Charter school proponents believe these provisions undermine their independence. Charter opponents see a section of the bill providing incentives for school districts to create their own charter schools in an effort to limit the growth of charter schools run by outside groups as counterproductive.

Responding to the push for more charter schools, the Senate measure would allow but limit their growth, earning the opposition of charter advocate Governor Charlie Baker, who told The Globe the bill doesn't adequately address a waiting list of 34,000. Charter school foes challenge the waiting list number. It appears likely that a referendum question lacking the nuance of legislation will settle the charter cap issue on Election Day.


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