SJC will hear appeal on charter school cap
The Supreme Judicial Court will take up an appeal next week of a lawsuit filed on behalf of five Boston Public Schools students who sought to lift the cap on charter schools after they argued they were being denied an adequate public education.
The court will hear an appeal Monday of a lawsuit dismissed by the trial court last November that sought to declare the Bay State’s cap on charter schools unconstitutional weeks before a ballot referendum seeking to lift the cap was shot down by voters. But the legal team at the conservative Pioneer Institute is asking the state’s highest court to allow the case to go to trial so they can argue why a cap limiting the number of charter school seats is unfair to students.
Five students filed the suit in 2015 after they didn’t win lotteries for admission to Hub charter schools, arguing that they were denied equal protection and the right to an adequate public education under the state constitution.
“There are a lot of public schools simply not performing,” PioneerLegal’s John Sivolella told the Herald. “The state isn’t meeting expectations. There is this arbitrary cap on seats based on funds. There are great charters here in Boston right under our nose, but you have to be lucky to enter into a lottery and get selected to exit the school system that is not performing. Children in Boston don’t have access to a great school system.”
But minority students, students with disabilities and English language learners will join the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, the Boston Branch of the NAACP, and the Boston Education Justice Alliance to argue the opposite: that charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools every year, serve fewer students with disabilities and English language learners, and impose harsher discipline on students of color.
“As English language learners and students with disabilities are under-enrolled in charters, and students of color are overdisciplined in them, our students would be twice harmed by the cap’s elimination,” said Melissa Allison, a partner at the Boston-based law firm Anderson & Kreiger. “Our constitution cannot support a claim that would leave less funding for our clients’ schools and fewer educational options for them in turn.”
In a statement, Matt Cregor, education project director at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and co-lead counsel of the case, said the cap “provides a modicum of financial stability for all of our public schools. Eliminating it cuts right through that safety net, harming students like our clients the most.”