Court to Hear Argument in Charter Cap Lawsuit

 

COURT TO HEAR ARGUMENT IN

CHARTER CAP LAWSUIT

 

 NAACP, Students of Color, Students with Disabilities, and English Language Learners Seek to Intervene

Boston, MA – On Friday, April 8th, traditional public school students and the New England Area Conference of the NAACP will argue for their right to intervene in pending litigation over the cap on charter schools.  The proposed intervenors, comprised of students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities, argue that the cap on charter schools is necessary to preserve educational opportunities for students like themselves in traditional public schools.

“The court should hear from the students most impacted by the case,” said Matthew Cregor, counsel for the proposed intervenors and Education Project Director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.  He noted that the lawsuit comes amidst a significant funding shortfall for Boston Public Schools, prompting some 3,500 students to walk out of their schools in protest last month.

“Education funding is a zero-sum game,” said Juan Cofield, President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP.  “If our goal is to eliminate the education gap, funding two separate school systems is no way to achieve that.  We cannot rob Peter to pay Paul.”

Samuel Ding, a senior at Boston Latin School and one of the proposed intervenors, stated that, “Lifting the charter cap harms public education overall.  Everyone should have access to strong public schools no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Savina Tapia, a senior at Boston Latin Academy who also seeks to intervene in the case, asked “Why would we direct away money from our public schools when, by and large, charters aren’t inclusive of all types of students?”

The lawsuit in which the students and NAACP seek to intervene was filed last September on behalf of five Boston students.  The suit names James Peyser — the state’s Secretary of Education and a staunch advocate for eliminating the cap on charters — as a defendant, along with members of the state’s board of education.

“Both the plaintiffs and the most prominent defendants seek to lift the cap, making our clients’ perspective absolutely critical to the case,” Cregor said.

In moving to intervene, the group cites evidence that charter schools divert millions of dollars from traditional public schools each year, yet serve proportionately far fewer students with disabilities and English language learners and impose harsher discipline on students of color.

“Boston-area charters continue to enroll English Language Learners at half the rate of Boston Public Schools, and fail to enroll those who most need help learning English,” said Roger Rice of META, Inc., another of the students’ counsel. Citing results of the state’s 2015 English proficiency exam, Rice noted that only 7% of English learners at Boston charters needed the most intensive supports, compared to 25% in Boston Public Schools.

“Not only do Boston’s traditional public schools serve significantly more students with disabilities than the charters serving BPS kids, but they serve students with the full range of disabilities —from mild to severe — not just those with less severe disabilities who are most able to be educated in the regular education classroom with limited supportive services,” stated Kathleen Boundy, Co-Director of the Center for Law and Education and another counsel for the proposed intervenors. Students with disabilities comprise 20% of Boston Public Schools’ enrollment, compared to 16% at Boston-area charters this school year — with the 5 lowest-serving charters enrolling less than 10% of students with disabilities.

The charter cap is again up for debate in the legislature and may be on state ballots this Fall.

“If we are to fundamentally alter our education laws as this lawsuit would seek to do, we must do so in ways that benefit all students,” said Alan Jay Rom of Rom Law, P.C., who also serves as counsel to the students.  “Lifting the cap simply does not.”

For further information on the lawsuit, the intervention motion, and a report on charter school discipline rates, visit the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights at: www.lawyerscom.org and www.lawyerscom.org/not-measuring-up/

This case was featured in the Bay State Banner.  The Bay State Banner also featured the oral argument.