SJC will hear ap­peal on char­ter school cap

Boston Herald - - NEWS - By KATH­LEEN McKIERNAN ­—­kath­leen.mckiernan@boston­her­

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.”


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