New Bedford Officials Celebrate as Charter School Proposal Withdrawn
NEW BEDFORD — Officials in New Bedford are hailing a "huge victory" for the city and the SouthCoast after a proposed charter school withdrew its application from the state's education department on Tuesday.
Barnstable Schools Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown wrote Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley that the founders of the proposed Innovators Charter School were withdrawing due to "political complexities on the ground."
A former superintendent of Fall River public schools, Mayo-Brown would have been the superintendent of the proposed charter school, which had planned to focus on STEM and early college education.
But the Innovators Charter School proposal drew widespread criticism from schools employees, officials and community members, who cited concerns that it would deplete resources from already-underfunded SouthCoast public school systems.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan co-authored a letter to the state in December noting that the new school would cost both districts around $12 million total.
Both also spoke out against the proposal at a public hearing on the matter later that month, alongside dozens of other officials, educators, students and parents.
Supporters of the proposal had pointed out the success of Alma Del Mar, Global Learning Charter, and other local charter schools and the benefits of having multiple options for community members.
"We wholeheartedly believe that every child in New Bedford and Fall River deserves access to a high quality public school that will meet their unique needs and enable them to reach their full potential, and that was what we intended to deliver at ICS," Mayo-Brown wrote in the letter.
She concluded, "We look forward to continuing to support New Bedford and Fall River families and students in the near future."
Mitchell said on Tuesday that he was "pleased" with the news that Innovators Charter School withdrew its application.
“We believed that the diversion of funds from our school district would have undermined the district’s progress," he said. "I wish to thank Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan, state and municipal leaders, educators, parents, and community members for making their voices heard in the process."
A local coalition of educators and community activists, called the New Bedford Coalition to Save Our Schools, hailed the news as "a huge victory for public education and our communities."
"New Bedford and Fall River public schools have been underfunded for decades and have been the victims of consistent privatization efforts," the coalition wrote in a statement Wednesday.
"Communities like ours remain in the crosshairs of those who would wrest democratic control of our schools away from its people," the statement continued. "We will continue to build power from within our community to advance public schools for the public good."