The House and Senate have agreed to an immediate boost in funding for payments to school districts to make up for kids who leave for charter schools. Now the pols who have thwarted the expansion of charter schools — and the self-serving ideologues who pull their strings — have one fewer excuse for doing so.
Buying off local school districts is a pretty cynical way to expand educational opportunities for families in struggling school districts but it may just be what it takes to lift the state’s arbitrary cap on the number of available charter school seats.
Under state law, school districts are entitled to payments for charter school students, for a period of five years after the student leaves. In recent years Beacon Hill has not fully funded those reimbursements, a source of frustration for school superintendents and a convenient gripe for those who simply oppose charter schools.
The House and Senate last week approved $27.6 million in additional funds for charter school reimbursements, which represents full funding but only for the current fiscal year. Rep. Russell Holmes (D-Boston) told the State House News Service he would like a guarantee that full funding would come through every year but seemed willing to seek compromise.
So attention turns to the Senate, where Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz has blocked the progress of a bill that would lift the current cap on charter school seats — the cap that is depriving children who live in her district of a way out of failing schools. Chang-Diaz has previously conditioned her support of a (limited) cap lift on full funding for reimbursements. She now has a chance to put her clout in the Senate where her mouth is.
A deal on reimbursements could also buy some cover for Senate President Therese Murray, who at a recent gathering of business leaders in Boston lamented that charters — which enroll students by lottery — “cherry-pick” top students and are “taking” an “inordinate” amount of money from district schools. The Massachusetts Teachers Association might as well have drafted those remarks.
There is an opportunity to reach a meaningful compromise here. It would be a betrayal of Massachusetts families to let that opportunity pass.