Chris Hendricks, State Representative for the 11th Bristol District in Massachusetts, explains why he opposed a deal to open a second campus for a charter school in New Bedford. 

He writes:

THE PROPOSED charter school expansion plan crafted by New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, Alma del Mar charter school, and state education Commissioner Jeff Riley earlier this year was simply too risky for New Bedford. After reading the memorandum of understanding (MOU), which became public in March of 2019, I saw this as a bad deal.

This plan was a perceived as a compromise, which would have allowed Alma, which already operates a charter school in New Bedford, to open a second school with 450 seats, instead of its sought-after 1,188 seats. New Bedford, in turn, would have to provide Alma with a school building, free of charge. This new charter school, Alma II, would enroll children from the adjacent neighborhood only, as opposed to enrolling through the citywide lottery, which state law currently requires. If this proposal fell apart, the state education commissioner would grant Alma 594 seats through the traditional enrollment system and New Bedford would not be required to give a school building to Alma.

This is one of the strangest deals ever.

Under this agreement, a student living in the proposed neighborhood zone would, by default, be assigned to the charter school. That fact, alone, is jaw-dropping. But it gets worse. According to the MOU, no student would be guaranteed the option of going to a public school. Instead, all requests to attend a public school would require “the approval of the [New Bedford Public Schools] Superintendent.” In what world is it acceptable to tell a child they have to go to a privately-run charter school?

The MOU also mandates that the superintendent consider “Alma’s target enrollment and growth plan” when pondering a student’s request to attend a public school. Call me crazy, but I would prefer that the superintendent consider the interests of the child, not the interests of a privately-run charter school. Sadly, the MOU says nothing about what’s best for the child when considering requests to attend a public school. The superintendent can only consider what’s best for Alma II. Can you imagine the superintendent telling a child they have to go to a charter school because Alma II’s “plan” depends on it? Is this how we want New Bedford managing the education of our public school students?

No “waiting list” at Alma II. Just a promise that it takes the place of the public school.

Charter school giveaway alert!