The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights jumped into the battle in Massachusetts over whether to lift the charter school cap.

 

 

The Republican governor Charlie Baker wants more charters, as does state education board chairman Jim Peyser, a long-time charter advocate.

 

 

“The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice Education Lawyers’ Committee Moves to Intervene in Charter Cap Case on Behalf of Students of Color, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners

 

Boston, MA – Students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners, together with the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, moved today to intervene in the pending litigation over the cap on charter schools, arguing that the cap is necessary to preserve educational opportunities for students in traditional public schools. The would-be intervenors cite evidence that charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, yet serve proportionately far fewer students with disabilities and English language learners and impose harsher discipline on students of color.

 

“It is critical that the voices of students in traditional public schools be heard in this lawsuit,” said Matthew Cregor, Education Project Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and one of the lead attorneys for the student intervenors.

 

“Traditional public school students – particularly those who are underserved by charter schools – suffer immense harm as more and more funds are diverted to charter schools.” He noted that earlier this year, Boston Public Schools announced that it expects to cut $50 million from its 2016-17 school year budget, citing shifts in enrollment as one of the key reasons for the shortfall.

 

“This diversion of funds is doubly harmful to the students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners we represent,” stated Scott P. Lewis, partner at Anderson & Krieger LLP, which is representing the proposed intervenors pro bono. “These are the students who are disproportionately excluded from charter schools. Moreover, when funds are diverted from traditional public schools to charter schools, these same students experience devastating cuts to services they desperately need.” He cited the case of B.H., one of the would-be intervenors, an 8th grader with significant developmental disabilities, who attends Boston Public Schools but, because of inadequate funding, is being denied needed services.

 

“The NAACP is firmly committed to high quality, free, public schools for all,” said Juan Cofield, President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP. “All available dollars for education should be used to improve public schools and close the education gap. Public policy which siphons funds from traditional public schools and expands a dual education system is not a constructive solution, and it will lead to the erosion of traditional public schools.” He noted that many charter schools are not welcoming environments for students of color, citing evidence of charter schools that suspend Black students at far higher rates than traditional public schools.

 

“Charter schools do not serve all students equally, and do a particularly poor job of enrolling and educating English language learners,” stated Roger Rice of Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, another of the students’ counsel. “In 2014, charter schools enrolled English language learners (ELLs) at approximately half the rate of traditional public schools, and the number of ELLs with the lowest levels of English language proficiency is a small fraction of the few ELLs enrolled by charter schools. Charter schools drain funds from traditional public schools, but then fail to educate all our youth on an equal basis.”