A new (Bos)tone on charters

Has Governor Deval Patrick done a 180 on charters in Massachusetts? If you were to believe the latest coming out of Boston, that's certainly how it sounds. Patrick has announced he's willing to lift the long-standing and long-lamentable Bay State charter cap, as long as new charters cater to the neediest students (English Language Learners, special education students, the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and those at risk of dropping out). Massachusetts limits the number of charters statewide and by individual school district; so while approximately 60 more charters can open in the state as a whole, many needy urban districts like Boston are near the local cap--9 percent of district spending. Patrick's proposal would increase that local cap to 12 percent from 9 percent in the 50 lowest performing districts. Sounds promising. But while we'd love to take Patrick at his word, there's reason to be skeptical. The governor has been under pressure from charter advocates since a recent study found charter schools massively outperform Boston's traditional and pilot schools. Could his change of heart be just a PR stunt? We hope not, since this could be a dynamite way to offer students more choices and save state dollars to boot.

"Charter schools score in budget," by James Vaznis, The Boston Globe, January 28, 2009