There are 23 Commonwealth Charter schools housed in Boston. Each is funded on the average per pupil cost for each student enrolled. All told, the money sent from the BPS to charters is closing in on estimated $80 to $100 million (*) per year for charter students. The money lost to charters would otherwise be allotted to BPS students, at approximately $ 1500+ per year per student in the BPS. The ‘lost’ $1500 would provide a great many useful services and resources to our students.
Charters get public funds but exhibit private school-like—and often discriminatory—practices. Charters see these as advantages. We do not. Public dollars should not be spent on these practices.
Although open to all by lottery, charters enroll a population not at all typical of the BPS or any other major urban school system. Charters are supposed to have a blind admission policy, yet since inception, charters have enrolled
· Few special education students, and virtually no expensive-to-teach students with complex special needs.
· Even fewer ELL students. Some Boston charters have virtually no Limited English Proficient students. This year MATCH and Codman Academy have 2.1% and 2.0 % respectively; The BPS has 30.7%, and state average is 7.7%.
Once enrolled in charter schools, students suffer an extraordinarily-high attrition (or eviction rate) just prior to graduation. Students who may not appear to be college bound, and might therefore ‘hurt the percentages’ are most at risk. These are the students who should be most protected.
· Three typical Boston charters—just to give a few examples—Pacific Rim, Codman Academy, and Collegiate Charter have 11th grade eviction rates of 16.1%, 25%, and 19% respectively this year . The state average is 2.4%. The BPS rate is 5.8%. (All data here and subsequent is from DOE webpage.)
· Given the high eviction rates, the charters have many vacancies, esp. in upper grades. Do they fill those vacancies with students on their waiting lists? No—they don’t have to ‘backfill’ their vacant seats in the last half of any year or in grades 10, 11, and 12. They can if they so desire. But they don’t. So the seats at these schools lie vacant. By senior year, Codman Academy drops from 46 students in the 9th grade to 24 students, leaving 22 vacant seats; City on a Hill Charter goes from 108 students to 47, leaving 61 empty seats. Why not back fill these seats, given the ‘astronomical’ waiting lists charters claim to have? The reason: adding students sight unseen at this late date might hurt their percentages.
To increase their MCAS scores, many charters show a higher-than-expected eviction rate at the end of the 9th grade for those students deemed unlikely to do well on the 10th grade MCAS.
· Three Boston charters—just as examples—Pacific Rim, Collegiate, and MATCH have 9th grade eviction rates of 8.1%, 10%, and 11.8%. The state average is 2.7%. The BPS rate is 6.5%
Through targeted ‘counseling out’ practices, some charters do very well on the MCAS, which is a test that can be fairly easily taught with results that are often predictable. Students who don’t appear to be receptive to MCAS coaching are counseled out. It’s not quite so easy to do well on the SAT, which is seen as harder to coach. Hence there’s a familiar pattern found in charters: great on MCAS, not-so-great on the SAT.
· Here’s a telling example: MATCH came in tied for first in Massachusetts in the 10th grade MCAS in both Math and English, yet came in 265th place—below the BPS—on the SAT in 2012. How did that happen? A similar pattern has emerged at Boston Collegiate and Boston Preparatory charter schools.
· Charters also suspend students at an unusually high rate. Students, once suspended, are more at risk for dropping out. Boston Prep has an out of school suspension are of 35.1%, Pacific Rim, 12.4%, and Codman Academy 23.5%. Boston has a 4% rate.
None of the above is good practice. Certainly, nothing to be proud of. We in the BPS are proud that we welcome and educate all students. We’d have it no other way. We don’t counsel out students who might hurt our statistics. We don’t evict students who are rising seniors because they need help and may not help our college acceptance rate. And we do not think public dollars ought to go to schools that exhibit these practices. That’s why we need your support to keep the cap on charters.
(*) The dollar loss as stated is bad enough, but the theory behind its calculation, the city’s financial obligation to the charters, is terribly flawed, artificially inflating the dollars that leave the BPS. A few points:
· Here’s the theory behind the formula: The money should follow the student. So, if a charter enrolls a student from the BPS, it should naturally follow that the students remaining in the BPS ought to cost less for the BPS to educate, i.e., fewer students ought to cost proportionately less. This ought to be true in theory—but it isn’t. It doesn’t cost any less to heat a classroom when one student leaves; similarly, the sending school district does not save on staff salaries, electricity—or a host of other similar expenses—when one or two students exit a particular classroom.
· An estimated one-half of all students entering charters do not arrive from the public schools. They enter directly from parochial or private schools seeking essentially the same type of education they were getting—but in a tuition-free setting. Why should these tuition dollars flow from the BPS as a result when the child entering the charter was not a BPS student originally?
· Charters get reimbursed for the average cost of educating a BPS student even though they teach students by and large who are not ‘average’; the truth is, many of the students found in charters are easier to educate and the overwhelming majority cost less to educate than the average BPS student, a calculation that includes severe special education students as well as LEP or ELL students, neither of whom is found in great numbers in charters. Why, therefore, should the BPS pay out average dollars for students who cost less than average to educate?
Mark L. Bail says
I believe that cuts are proposed for reimbursements for charter school costs to public schools.
Are these the two articles you are referencing? “Editorial: State’s financial backing of charter schools continues to erode” and “School districts face drop in charter reimbursements from state.” Here is the state link to the FY14 Charter School Tuition and Enrollment Projections in case anyone missed it.
(Spoiler Alert, in the second article, Dominic Slowey, of Slowey/McManus Communications, a “strategic public relations firm,” who’s clients include the Academy of the Pacific Rim, Boston Renaissance Charter, Associated Early Care & Education, Community Group, and Hampden Charter School of Science, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association (Slowey runs MCPSA’s Facebook, and by looking at the “likes” I hope Slowey’s medical insurance covers carpal tunnel finger for employees! ☺) and Phoenix Charter Academy and Pioneer Charter School of Science.
As the rational, when Pioneer brought in and hired 16 people with temporary H1B visas from Turkey, Slowey pointed out that, because Pioneer Charter was non-union, “they can hire and fire who they want.” Pioneer used public education funds to pay the $84,215 on legal and immigration-related fees! Just outrageous, I wonder how much, and out of what funds, all these charter schools and associations are paying Slowey!)
The state can’t afford to reimburse public schools, but the MADOE just approved 3 new charter schools and 8 charter expansion requests in Boston anyway? What is the MADOE thinking? We can’t afford that, and when you can’t afford something, you don’t buy it!
The whole “competition is good” argument for charter schools is a colossal cover for a carefully rigged educational carnival game. This isn’t competition – this is an education policy that rewards one part of the education sector with special policies and allowances that create a false impression about its fairness and efficacy. The lotteries have to be a sham – there are just way too many politically-wired families in these schools to be truly random, and these families make sure they’re on the board and their kids get taken care of. Special ed and troubled kids are routine “counseled out” – or elbowed, pushed, bullied or forced out. Ed plans appear to be optional and good luck trying to enforce them- from school board members who don’t return calls to a superintendent who labels such families “trouble-makers” and “malcontents.” I honestly thought charter schools would be a panacea….what I found was the aforementioned carefully rigged carnival game. Education is too important to put it in the hands of the charter school carnival hucksters and snake oil salesmen. The state needs to level the playing field by preventing the charters from offloading their expensive and challenging students onto city schools, who have no choice in the matter, and force them to honor ed plans. Only then should we talk about raising the cap.
It’s worth looking at the boards of trustees for each of Boston’s charter schools. The info is publicly available on their websites and via the state department of education. Wealthy movers and shakers predominate, particularly from financial services and commercial real estate companies… What’s really striking is how little the boards resemble either the communities that they’re in, or the demographics of the students being served by the charters. The big question for after we raise the cap: will there be enough directors from Bain Capital to serve on all of the new boards???
Malden’s School Superintendent DeRuosi and the Malden School Committee are voicing their concerns about charter school costs. This is especially important since the Mass Charter Public School Association (MCPSA) is trying to get the legislature to remove the charter school cap statewide (MCPSA real interest is in 39% New Market Tax Credit windfall for charter school investors, it’s not about “the children”) Malden can’t afford it and, considering the influx of ELL and Special ED students in Malden, that would raise the “average funding” in tuition paid to charter schools for students.
I went and checked the Malden data on the MADOE site. When I looked to see what Malden was paying to Out-of-District Schools (charters schools are considered “Out-of-District” schools) It states that Malden is paying $12,771,769.00 to charter schools, not $8,657,000. and the tuition for Malden Students to attend a charter school is $16,531! WOW! I guess Malden did have a big influx of ELL and Special Ed! Malden is paying as much for a charter seat as the Boston Public Schools!
A regular ed student in Malden schools costs $12,358. A regular ed charter student from Malden cost $16,531, that’s $4,173. more a year per student! What could a Malden Public School teacher do, in a class of 30 students, with an extra $125,190.00!
Of course this doesn’t include the yearly 5% increase budgeted for charter schools or the State, Federal, and Foundation, “non-tuition” revenue that Malden loses to charters. At the very least, if a charter school returns a student, “who is not the right fit,” back to a traditional public school, ALL THE FUNDS that followed the student needs to return with them also. This includes, but is not limited to tuition, state and federal nutrition funding, transportation reimbursements, and that $893. State “Facilities Fee.” Also any “non-tuition” funds: Federal Revenues includes entitlements and grants for such as Title I, Title 1, Part A/305, Title II Part A/140, Title II-B, Title III, (ELA for LEP students/180), Federal Special Education Entitlement/240, Title V and IDEA, FY13 CCLC Supporting Additional Learning Time.
After 12 years a charter school student is getting $50,076. More in services than a kid in a regular Malden Public School student. That’s a lot of bake sales! If I were a Malden parent, of a kid in a traditional Malden Public School, I would be going postal right now. A child’s education shouldn’t be a lottery of losers and winners of $50,076!
Here is the MADOE link, click little triangle beside “TOTAL EXPENDATURES” and scroll down to Payments to OUT-OF DISTRICT SCHOOLS. See what your community is paying for a charter seat and chime back in.
All I read here are posts pulling back the proverbial wool to shine light on the excessive fallibilities of charter schools. All posts show charters for what they really are, and the deleterious effects lifting the cap will cause. When charter proponents pontificate and demonize, many voices speak truth to the well financed propaganda. Where are the voices of charters to deny these posts’ merit? I’ll tell you where – they are at their laptops screens penning another “editorial” concocted for pay or self interest – not the interests of the children of the city of Boston. How much did Jason Williams get paid to enact the last round of legislation?