Massachusetts is facing a lawsuit that will likely lead to lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, further depriving traditional public schools of funding by allowing a potentially unlimited number of charter schools to develop. To combat this plan, education advocates are trying to demonstrate how lifting the cap will hurt students. The Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA) is asking supporters to testify against the plan at a public hearing on Feb. 10th, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice intends to intervene on behalf of the students who would be most affected by this loss of funding: students learning English, students with disabilities, and students of color. These students are those charter schools typically “push out,” leaving traditional schools to unfairly teach the vast majority of students who require the most resources.
While those filing the lawsuit claim charter schools offer a higher quality of education that should be available to all students, they do so at the expense of pushing out students who require more resources and are funded by requiring school districts to pay per-pupil costs. However, as these costs cannot be taken out of large expenses like infrastructure upkeep and maintaining a required number of teachers, they can significantly reduce funding available to traditional schools. When these funding cuts are combined with a disproportionate number of high-needs students, the result is an inequitable educational model that sacrifices some students for others. As MEJA says:
The kids who do poorly are the ones who take more money to educate, and these groups of students get suspended and expelled from charter schools for this exact reason. In this way, charter schools can educate only the kids who already have the resources to do well, while leaving the kids who need education the most in a public school system that is underfunded because the money is going to charters.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association demonstrates the disproportionate number of high-needs students in a chart that shows how in the vast majority of Massachusetts districts, traditional schools retain higher percentages of these students. For instance, only one district’s charter schools have a higher percentage of students with disabilities. You can find the complete chart here. They also created a spreadsheet that shows just how much funding these districts lose to charters, which you can download here.
These organizations are all working against these funding cuts, especially when they hurt students of color, lower-income students, and students with disabilities the most. You can find more information about the fight against lifting the charter cap by visiting the links above, or by following these groups online. You can also read more about the intervention being brought to the lawsuit here.