Creating Competition for Charter Schools
Massachusetts is opening more “innovation schools” this fall to keep kids from transferring to charter schools and taking education dollars with them.
Every time a student is accepted into a publicly funded but independently-run charter school, the traditional public school he or she leaves loses money. To stay competitive with charter schools, Massachusetts enacted a law last year to allow for the creation of "innovation schools," a hybrid between charter and public schools, reports the Boston Globe. Like charters, a committee at each innovation school has control over all curriculum, staffing and budget decisions, allowing for the needs of the individual students and school to be taken into account. Unlike charters, though, the hybrid-model schools have to negotiate their freedom with the superintendent and abide by all contract provisions from the unions, which support the new schools. About a dozen innovation schools are expected to open this fall, following another dozen next year. They can be created from scratch or converted from existing ones (if two-thirds of the teachers agree). This past year, three districts tested the idea by launching schools with unique focuses: one caters to the emotional and social well-being of students in poverty, another operates almost entirely in cyberspace, while another focuses on college prep. Similar schools have also been seen in Baltimore, Colorado and Cleveland.