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Massachusetts high court to hear case challenging state's cap on charter schools

March 17, 2017
Charter advocates argue that the cap deprives children in the poorest districts from receiving an adequate education.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is set to hear a direct appeal from five Boston public school students who are challenging the validity of the state’s charter cap.

The Boston Herald reports that the students contend that the cap “arbitrarily and unfairly deprives” children in the poorest districts from receiving an “adequate education.” Legislation has capped the number of charters in the state at 120; a ballot question that voters rejected in November that would have allowed an additional 12 charter schools every year.

Massachusetts has 74 true charter schools in the state — 25 of them are in Boston, according to the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association. This month, the association says, 35,000 applications were filed in the city for 2,100 open charter school seats.

“The burden of the charter enrollment cap — an arbitrary limit that furthers no legitimate educational goal — falls squarely and disproportionately on children in less affluent districts like Boston,” the appeal states.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Heidi Brieger dismissed the suit last year. She ruled that the lawsuit's assertions did not show an “egregious, statewide abandonment of the constitutional duty” required to show a violation of Education Clause of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Opponents of charter school expansion have argued that the issue was settled when more than 60 percent of those voting in Massachusetts in November said no to allowing more charters.

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