An Act Relative to Improving Student Achievement
SUMMARY PROVIDED BY THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION

Level 3 “Challenge” Schools

• The bill authorizes the commissioner to designate a subset of Level 3 schools as “challenge schools,” which include schools that score in the lowest performing 20% statewide that are most likely to be designated as underperforming (Level 4).

• “Challenge schools” are required to develop 2-year turnaround plans, similar to the turnaround plans required for underperforming (Level 4) and chronically underperforming (Level 5) schools.

Charter Schools

• Maintains the statewide cap on the total number of charter schools that can operate at any given time (72 commonwealth and 48 Horace Mann charter schools). Also maintains that not more than 14 of the 48 Horace Manns shall be “Horace Mann III” charter schools, 4 of which are reserved for municipalities with more than 500,000 residents. [MTA note: As stated above, there are exceptions to the cap in the lowest-performing 10 percent of districts.]

• Lifts the current spending cap on charter school tuition in the lowest performing 10% districts from 18% to 23% of net school spending (NSS), provided that in such districts, that the board shall only approve an application for the establishment or expansion of a charter school above the 18% NSS limit if the proposed charter school meets one or more of the following criteria:

(1)          The school uses an “opt-out” lottery process to enroll students

- Under the “opt-out” lottery process, all students who would be eligible to attend the charter school under the district’s assignment policy if it were a district school shall be deemed eligible for enrollment in the charter school without any required application process for the school, and shall be automatically included in the lottery. Parents of students selected for admission through the opt-out lottery process may choose not to accept the admission offer.

-OR-

(2)         The school is specifically designed to serve at-risk students and/or dropouts
- In such schools, not less than 75% of students enrolled at the school shall qualify as at-risk students or students who have dropped out of school.
- Such schools may offer enrollment preferences or limit admissions to at-risk students or students who have dropped out of school.

  • Allows the net school spending cap to be lifted in the lowest performing 10% districts through a phased-in process, increasing to 19% in fiscal year 2018 and increasing 1% each year thereafter until reaching 23% in 2022.
  • Allows the board to give preference to expansion applications submitted by existing charter schools that have an average 3-year attrition rate that is equal to or less than the average 3-year attrition rate of the schools within the sending districts. Expansion applications submitted by existing charter schools that have an average 3-year attrition rate that is greater than the average 3-year attrition rate of the schools within the sending district shall include a plan to reduce the attrition rates in said charter schools.
  • Allows charter schools to offer geographic enrollment preferences to students, provided that within such geographic preference area, the percentage of students who qualify for the free or reduced price lunch is equal to or higher than the district’s overall percentage.
  • Allows charter schools located within the same municipality to voluntarily establish a common lottery process, which may provide student applicants with a single offer for admission (subject to approval by the commissioner).
  • Provides that school districts with surplus building space must offer to sell or lease the space at fair market value to a commonwealth charter school before it can be leased to any other entity.
  • Requires the department of elementary and secondary education to annually collect and publish attrition data from charter schools, including information on the number of students leaving each charter school and the reasons for leaving the school.
  • Directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a charter school transportation working group in order to study the financial impacts of charter school student transportation patterns on district finances and to identify opportunities to improve efficiency.

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