Two agenda items of the “Education Reform” crowd are showing up as issues in Boston’s mayoral race. I’d like to look at the first one: raising the cap on charter schools in Boston.
And I can see why this is at the top of the agenda. After all, charter schools in Boston have consistently proven that refusing to educate special education and ELL students leads to marginally higher test scores and a lower graduation rate than Boston Public Schools! Let’s throw money at them!
But seriously, folks. Someone has decided that this is an issue that all mayoral candidates should address. Given the fact that the Globe, Boston’s business community, and the Board of Education are all in the tank for charter schools, the cap is probably going to be raised.
The goal here is, I assume, ensuring that those many children on charter school waiting lists can be saved by the brave entrepreneurs of the charter school movement and not have to fall prey to those self-serving public employees who staff and administer regular public schools.
But surely it’s an inefficient use of the public’s money (and all that Gates and Walton money as well) to open new buildings and hire new administrative teams. Why not just admit these students to existing charters whenever they find the space? Say, when the originally admitted students start leaving! Like, in the case of high schools, in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. This would serve the goal of getting more students into the benevolent embrace of charter schools without occasioning a bunch of new overhead costs associated with starting a new school.
I am sure charter schools will welcome this change, for it would allow them at last to compete with regular public schools on a relatively even playing field. Real public education means educating whoever shows up, including the kid who just moved from Brockton or Baltimore or Bani last week.
Indeed, the only way for Boston charters to rationalize their embarrassing attrition rates is to believe that any student who spends any amount of time with them is better off for having done so. Even if they don’t wind up graduating. If this is true, then why couldn’t that year be 10th grade? 11th grade? Or 12th grade?
Sure, those students might wind up dragging the test scores down, but that’s a small price to pay for giving them a taste of charter school excellence.
I mean, surely this is all about the children, right? If a charter school education is such a boon, how can charters justify their refusal to backfill seats lost due to attrition?
I await the charter schools’ enthusiastic embrace of this proposal and hope Boston’s mayoral candidates will offer this as the smart way to raise the charter cap in Boston.