A decade ago, Massachusetts legislators included an experimental measure in the Education Reform Act, charter schools. Today their success is ambiguous, with some terrific achievements and some horrific failures. But now there’s legislation pending on Beacon Hill to halt any new charter schools. Their critics say in this economic climate, it’s simply fiscally irresponsible to funnel any more money into charters.
For the last year Yutaka Tamura’s quest and dream has been to open the Excel Academy, a charter school slated for East Boston. Tamura’s dream will be realized this fall when the Academy is scheduled to open. “We’re providing a program that’s distinct from others at the middle school level,” Tamura says. Excel Academy will feature longer school days, a longer school year and a focus on literacy and mathematics.
Unfortunately for Tamara, his charter school and several others that have been given the go-ahead by the Department of Education may not open after all. In new legislation filed by State Senator Marc Pacheco, a three-year moratorium would be imposed on all new charter schools. Pacheco says charters are simply not cost effective. “The system actually sends more money than it was costing to educate the child in the charter school, thereby leaving a deficit at the sending district,” Pacheco says.
While Sen. Pacheco expects the moratorium will save the state some $30 million, charter school supporters say the costs even out, without drawing money from traditional public schools. What’s more, they argue, charter schools provide parents an opportunity for choice. That choice may now ultimately end up in the hands of the state legislature.