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Recently there has been a lot of coverage about Charter Schools in Massachusetts.  So I dug little deeper…

What are charter schools?

  • An innovative approach towards school and education management
  • They are public schools, funded by government money
  • They can be under district management or state management
  • Another interesting aspect is that, when a student moves from a regular school to a charter school, the school gets money from the public school district

There are about 4600 charter schools in the United States.  States have to pass laws to support charter schools, currently about 40 states support them.

How they are different and why people support charter schools

  • Unlike public schools where school choice is dependent on where you live, for charters schools parents have a choice to pick a school aligned with their child”s needs
  • Schools are accountable for student results. Charter School have to meet the goals and standards they set, or they are closed
  • They have relatively less red tape
  • They have independence to define their program structure
  • Most importantly – there are no unions (this is one of the reasons traditional teacher unions do not support charter schools)

Why people dislike charter schools

  • With every student move to a charter school the slice of money (about $9,000 to $15,000 / student) is taken away from the regular public school budget. There are questions about the complex formula by which the amount is calculated. Public schools believe they lose more money relative to the number of students, and hence the general student body and community suffers.
  • There are no unions

What will happens if the law passes in Massachusetts?
There are limits on the number of charter schools in a state and at a district level. Currently there are 62 charter schools in Massachusetts. Under the current law available in Massachusetts. In the proposed law, for certain districts the limits will double from 9% to 18% of school spending, thereby allowing 27,000 new charter slots in 33 districts. Boston will get another 6,000 slots.

So, by adding more capacity under the law (which is creating all the fuss) Massachusetts potentially will be able to access federal stimulus money. Interestingly, Massachusetts has not utilized the full capacity currently available under the current laws. It will be interesting to see if this law change is just a way to get the federal stimulus money or to really bring change?

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