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ProBono Spotlight: Quality Education for All

Melissa Allison will be arguing before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on October 2, 2017 on behalf of amici curiae to uphold the Commonwealth’s cap on funding for charter schools.  The amici are seven public school students, including minority students, students with disabilities and English language learners; the New England Area Conference and the Boston Branch of the NAACP; and the Boston Education Justice Alliance.

A&K’s clients oppose removing the funding cap for charter schools because of its inevitable, adverse impact on students who remain in traditional public schools.  Charter schools enroll far fewer students with significant disabilities and English language learners than traditional public schools, and they subject students of color to harsher discipline.  Because charter schools fail to recruit and retain these groups in a proportionate manner, eliminating the cap would diminish, rather than expand, the number of quality educational offerings from which minority students, students with disabilities and English language learners can choose. This would serve to exacerbate educational disparities in Boston and other larger districts, where budget shortfalls are already causing cuts to particular services for students with disabilities, English language learners, and other under-served groups.

Last year, the Superior Court agreed and granted the Attorney General’s motion to dismiss. A November ballot referendum seeking to lift the cap was also rejected by voters.  However, the five students who entered the public charter school lottery and lost persuaded the SJC to hear the case.  Those students argue that they were forced to either enroll in inadequate traditional public schools or incur significant costs to attend schools other than the ones to which the Commonwealth had assigned them.

The decision will be in the hands of the SJC after October 2nd to determine if the cap on charter schools is constitutional and helps all students achieve equal access to education.

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