Legislation that would allow for the expansion of charter and nontraditional public schools could help close the achievement gap among the state’s students, supporters say.
Members of the Race to the Top Coalition said the proposal would build on the success of a law enacted three years ago.
“This legislation has been so powerful, we wanted to do more,” said Mary Jo Meisner, a vice president of the Boston Foundation.
The coalition was organized by the foundation and includes civic, business and community leaders, she said.
The bill seeks to remove the cap on charter schools in school districts ranked in the lowest 20 percent for performance in the state, as measured by the results of the state’s MCAS tests and high school graduation rates.
“They are driving the kind of innovative approaches you want all districts to have,” Meisner said of charter and other nontraditional schools during a recent meeting with The Patriot Ledger Editorial Board. “They know creative course work works better.”
The bill also seeks to give administrators in those districts new authority to implement longer school days, change collectivebargaining agreements, and replace teachers and administrators. And it would extend the threeyear term of school systems under turnaround plans that have proven to be effective.
“What we’re seeking to do is take success and extend it,” Meisner said. “We close charter schools in this state that aren’t performing.”
The group estimates that the legislation would cover 55 schools in 12 districts around the state. Those schools have a total enrollment of nearly 33,000 students. Randolph is the only local school system in the group; most are in Boston and the state’s largest cities.
Keith Mahoney, the foundation's public affairs director, said the plan would move more decision making down to the school level.
“The central office is there for support, not command and control,” Mahoney said.
He said there is a long waiting list of students trying to get into charter schools.
The bill, which is pending before the state Legislature’s Education Committee, does not have the support of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.
Association President Paul Toner said the association is working on an alternative plan with the state school superintendent and school committee associations.
Toner said the group wants to “make sure the voice of the teachers in the classroom can be heard.”
He said the group supports changes such as a longer school day and “innovation schools,” which are run by school districts but have autonomy similar to that of charter schools.
Toner said the group, which represents 110,000 teachers and other education professionals, worked with the foundation on development of the 2010 legislation but ultimately did not support it.