There are many reasons to be suspicious of The Boston Compact’s Unified Enrollment plan, not least of which is that a body that “Chief Collaboration Officer” Rachel Weinstein asserts is “not a public organization” (direct quote from last Thursday’s meeting at First Church in JP) is making public policy.
But in lieu of preaching to the choir, I’d like to assert that this plan is terrible for everyone, especially parents interested in charter schools.
Under the current system, parents interested in enrolling their children in a charter school can put their names in as many lotteries as they want, and if they’re awarded spots in the schools, parents get to choose which charter school they want their child to attend.
Under unified enrollment, parents would be sent a list of possible schools, including a charter school or 2, and they will be able to list preferences. After which, they will be assigned to a school.
In other words, under this plan, parents who want their children to attend a charter school will no longer be able to choose among a number of options. Their options will be limited, and the choice will be made by algorithm, or elves, or whoever controls the assignment process.
So charters that sign on to this program are willing to throw parent choice, the ostensible raison d’etre of charter schools, away.
One wonders, at this point, what charter schools stand for.
Initially they were supposed to be about innovative educational programming: MATCH once stood for “Media and Technology Charter High School.” City on a Hill was about citizenship and, inexplicably, swimming. Academy of the Pacific Rim was about bringing Asian education methods to the USA. All that stuff fell away.
But Charter Schools were laboratories of innovation! They were about using the “freedom to innovate without union constraints” to use the Globe’s shopworn phrase. But then the staff of both for-profit and non-profit charters were required to sign nondisclosure agreements pledging to keep charter curricula secret.
Okay, okay, so charter schools weren’t actually about sharing best practices or about rethinking education. But they were still about parent choice! This is actually the most compelling argument in favor of charter schools–parents in neighborhoods where they faced a lot of crappy options would have some more schools to choose from. (as long as their kids didn’t have IEPs. And weren’t English language learners. And didn’t ever need to start school except at the beginning of certain grade levels.)
And now charters that sign on to the unified enrollment proposal are throwing parent choice out the window too.
So what do these schools stand for? Union busting? Promoting TFA grads beyond their competence? Providing jobs for people who resign in disgrace from New York City Public Schools?
Nobody knows what charter schools stand for anymore. They’ve shown that they’re all too eager to cast aside any of the ostensible reasons for their existence. But still, they serve a vanishingly small segment of the population well. If you’re part of that segment–i.e., the parent of a girl who is a native English speaker and doesn’t have a learning disability–well, The Boston Compact is working against you too.