A few more thoughts on Unified Enrollment

My son giving a tour of the school.

It’s been a heady couple of days! In an article in the Boston Globe, the parent opposition to the unified enrollment proposal was loud and clear.

Unfortunately, in the rhetoric against the corporate charter movement, and against the agenda of large foundations that aren’t from Boston, the main point was lost.  I think that these players have too much to say about our district system of education, but I am far more concerned that availability of free, high quality public education in the city is likely to suffer as a result of this enrollment plan.

Why spend the resources on a plan that could undermine that availability when we need to do so much more to improve?

And resources are the issue.  From the 10 year master plan that the Mayor’s office has developed for the Boston Public Schools, in which local schools are expected to ‘merge,’ to the off-the-record conversations parents have had with municipal officials that hint at large numbers of school closures, to the Mayor’s own testimony that more charter schools should be phased in to the system, one thing that parents know for sure that our neighborhood district schools are under threat of closure.

More district school closures will inevitably lead to charter schools opened their place.  Publicly funded charter schools in theory are supposed to lead to better outcomes for our kids.  And plenty of parents with their kids enrolled in charter schools in the city like their experiences.   But in practice, charter school outcomes have so far been lackluster, compared to the hype. Charter school disciplinary tactics are questionable .   And charter schools simply don’t take the neediest kids:  the children with special needs, and English language learners .

So, kids who can be educated in the neighborhood will be forced into a newly opened charter school that is likely not delivering on its promise.  And the neighbor’s kids who have special needs?   They’ll be bused outside of the community to a district school further away.

The situation is further worsened by the pernicious budget reality that district schools are not funded at the same level as charter schools.  For now, there is a cap on the number of charter schools that can be established (the cap applies to charters that are independent from the local school district, versus those that must be approved by the host school district), but there is also a move to lift the cap via a ballot question next year.

Right now, the city pouring resources into unifying BPS and charter school enrollment procedures is a tricky political maneuver that does nothing to solve these problems.

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