The top officials in Massachusetts are gaga for charter schools and eager to see Question 2 passed in November. Question 2 would allow 12 new charters to open every year forever. Dark money is pouring in from hedge fund managers to push the spurious idea that expanding charters will help public schools, when we know from experience across the nation that more money for charters means less money for public schools.

Andrea Gabor has been following the drama of the Brockton Charter School, which was passed by state officials despite the strong opposition of people who live in Brockton. The charter was supposed to open this fall but has encountered delay after delay. Now it has been authorized to open 22 miles away. As Gabor explains, that is only one of many problems.

After multiple construction snafus that kept a controversial charter school from opening in Brockton, MA, the commissioner of Massachusetts public schools granted conditional approval yesterday for the school to temporarily move to a site in Norwood, 22 miles away from Brockton.

The decision to allow New Heights Charter School its last-minute move to Norwood is “political,” wrote Sue Szachowicz, the recently retired long-time principal of Brockton High, in an email. It shows how badly the Massachusetts department of education “wants to be sure that this school gets its opportunity.”

Adds Szachowicz:

“This will be interesting to see what happens. Norwood is a pretty affluent town, and not particularly easy to get to. Parents who thought they would be sending their kids to school in downtown Brockton will get their kids to school over twenty miles away in Norwood??? I do not understand this one! Politics, politics…”

Mitchell Chester along with Jim Peyser, the Massachusetts Secretary of Education and Gov. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, are all major proponents of an upcoming ballot initiative, known as Question 2, which would raise the Bay State’s cap on charter schools.

Chester did impose a number of conditions on New Heights, according to The Enterprise, the local newspaper: The school must offer two days of childcare to make up for pushing back the start of school. It must also establish occupancy in Brockton by January 3 or face charter probation or revocation. The school also must issue daily reports on student attendance on each of the first seven days of school, followed by weekly updates on enrollment counts, staffing and monthly financial statements.

“While it is not unusual for a new school to have challenges with a single site, it is rare to have it happen at two places,”said Jacqueline Reis, a spokesperson for Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Nonetheless, this is not the first charter school to open temporarily outside its region. … While a temporary site is not ideal, families appear willing to try to make it work.”

The Enterprise writes:

There will not be any additional taxpayer cost from the move, Reis said. Based on the maximum first-year enrollment of 315 students from the sixth to eighth grade, New Heights is receiving $3.96 million in combined state and local funds for its first year, which it supplements with grants and privately raised money.

Here is more background on Brockton-now-Norwood charter fiasco from an earlier post:

Amid an escalating battle over a statewide ballot initiative, this November, that would lift the cap on charter schools in Massachussetts, the Brockton charter mess highlights the greatest fears of charter skeptics, including:

–A sloppy approval process, and this in a state that prides itself on having the most rigorous charter approval process in the nation.

–A political establishment that ran rough-shod over the wishes of the local community.

–As families give up on the charter, which has enrolled about 200 students so far, well below its expected first-year enrollment of 315 students, for grades six through eight, they have already begun to return back to the public school system, wreaking havoc with enrollments.

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