Monday, October 2nd – When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held oral argument on the appeal of Doe v. Peyser, a lawsuit that sought to declare Massachusetts’ cap on charter schools unconstitutional, it heard from public school students and civil rights and education justice organizations who successfully argued for the lawsuit’s dismissal last fall. The students, who are students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners attending traditional public schools, pointed to the harm that eliminating the cap would have on their educations.
“As English language learners and students with disabilities are under-enrolled in charters, and students of color are over-disciplined in them, our students would be twice harmed by the cap’s elimination,” said Melissa Allison, Partner at Anderson & Kreiger who will be arguing on behalf of the students. “Our constitution cannot support a claim that would leave less funding for our clients’ schools and fewer educational options for them in turn.”
“The cap provides a modicum of financial stability for all of our public schools,” said Matt Cregor, Education Project Director at the Lawyers’ Committee and co-lead counsel in the case. “Eliminating it cuts right through that safety net, harming students like our clients the most.
The Massachusetts Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit last fall, weeks before Question 2, a ballot initiative that similarly sought a way around the cap, failed in the last election and particularly in communities of color. Monday’s hearing comes amidst news that the state has levied a record campaign finance penalty upon the group behind Question 2 for concealing the identity of its donors.
“The people have spoken: improving education for all children cannot be done by taking money from underfunded schools,” said Juan Cofield, President of the New England Regional Conference of the NAACP. “It is my hope that the Supreme Judicial Court’s review yields the same result as both the court of public opinion and the court below.”