By Steve Brown
BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh appeared separately before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education on Tuesday to offer testimony regarding proposals to raise the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in Massachusetts.
Both are in favor of raising the cap, but they have differing views on how to do it.
Baker told the legislators that Massachusetts charter schools are the envy of the nation. He said they deliver amazing results to more than 40,000 students in the state, most of them from disadvantaged communities and underperforming school districts. But, the governor says, too many kids remain on charter school waiting lists, and the performance gap remains too high.
“Nothing makes this point clearer than a charter school lottery,” he said. “Held before the start of each school year, parents and children gather, their numbers in hand, to find out if this time, their number comes up. Everybody cries over charter school lotteries, everybody. They cry because it’s totally binary. You either win, or you lose. There is no in between.”
The governor has filed a bill that would allow the state to add 12 new or expanded charter schools every year, above the existing state cap.
They would be placed in the lowest performing school districts. Walsh says while he favors allowing more charter schools, he called the governor’s plan dangerous.
“It sets up schools for failure,” Walsh said. “It can set up charter schools for failure as well, if they don’t have the proper boards and facilities and things like that, and the approach that I’m asking for is a little bit longer approach.”
The mayor says he is open to expanding charter schools at a slower rate.
Both Walsh and Baker said they would be open to reexamining the state’s funding formula for public and charter schools. Charter school opponents say public funds go to charter schools, at the expense of public schools, however the governor disagrees.
“The one thing we should all remember is that whether you’re in a regular school, a traditional school, a public charter school, you’re a kid from the same neighborhood who’s being paid for by some combination of state and federal money and both institutions are pretty much getting the same amount of money, depending on what community you’re in,” Baker said.
While the Legislature considers proposals to raise the number of charter schools in Massachusetts, it may ultimately be out of their hands. A referendum to raise the cap on charter schools is expected to be put before voters in November 2016.