SouthCoast Mayors: Proposed Charter School Would Cost Districts Millions
The mayors of New Bedford and Fall River have written Gov. Charlie Baker expressing opposition to a proposed regional charter school that they say would cost millions for already cash-strapped school districts.
In a Dec. 14 letter, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan state that the Innovators Charter School would ultimately impact Fall River to the tune of around $4 million, while New Bedford would see around $8 million in extra costs.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is holding a public hearing on the proposed school at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon in New Bedford's Kilburn Event Center.
Innovators Charter School Founding Group Chair Dr. Jack Sbrega told WBSM's Brian Thomas described the school's mission as "very simple."
"That is, to provide our graduates with the...abilities to persist through post-secondary education into higher education as well as the 21st century workforce," he said.
According to its website, ICS would aim to provide "early college STEM education for historically underrepresented students in grades 6-12".
It would give students from New Bedford and Fall River science- and math-focused college courses along with regular high school classes, with a goal of preparing them for college by allowing them to earn credits early.
But Mitchell and Coogan wrote that the new school has not proven its curriculum would provide anything different to what both districts are already doing in STEM, as well as in their early college programs.
Fall River's early college program already allows students in grades 10-12 to take Bristol Community College and Bridgewater State College classes in the afternoons, while New Bedford is currently expanding its own similar program, the mayors noted.
"I'm not sure how successful that has been," noted Sbrega. "We also do not have very good rates of successful high school graduates moving onto post-secondary education. In fact, we're in the bottom tenth of the entire state."
In their letter, Mitchell and Coogan touted New Bedford's improvements in elementary school performance as well as the district's rapidly increasing graduation rate, which they said grew from 58% to 88% in recent years.
The mayors also noted that with a recently approved expansion to the Alma Del Mar charter school in New Bedford, the city will see at least 1,100 new charter seats in the next few years, totaling more than $18 million in estimated costs.
These costs would reduce resources for students enrolled in district schools, they stated.
"We are unaware of a Massachusetts school district that has been hit so suddenly with charter expansion this large as a share of total district enrollment," Mitchell and Coogan wrote.
According to the mayors, ICS does not meet state requirements for a "proven provider" of education due to proposed Executive Director Dr. Meg Mayo-Brown's record.
During her tenure as Fall River superintendent, they wrote, the school district saw MCAS results far below the state average — whereas a "proven provider" must demonstrate academic success.
An ICS spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment on this and other specific issues.
Mitchell and Coogan hearkened back to the City on a Hill charter school in New Bedford, which they said was closed due to poor academic performance.
"When high-stakes decisions like this are made from afar, important details can be lost, and outcomes contrary to the public interest can follow," they wrote.