Lynn City Council lines up against charter expansion

LYNN As KIPP Academy prepares to build a high school, with a second independent charter school planned for next year, the City Council voted against charter school expansion.

More than 100 members of the Lynn Teachers Union packed the council chambers to support a nonbinding resolution to oppose more charter school seats in the city.

In a passionate plea to the council, Lynn Teachers Union president Sheila O’Neil said the city’s schools are amazing and fine work is being done by educators on a slim budget with as many as 30 students per classroom.

“We are telling you by our presence today, we need to stop the expansion,” she said. “We would love to have the money that flows to the charter school back in our budget to take care of our students that we are serving above and beyond.”

The union argued that KIPP takes $17 million from the Lynn School Department budget annually and that number will soar to $34 million if KIPP follows through on its plan to build a new high school in the downtown.

Under state law, when a student attends a charter school, the annual per pupil cost, in the thousands, follows that child to the charter school.

“The move for more charter schools is a move to destroy public confidence in public education,” said Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham. “We do a much better job than the charter schools and this movement would make people believe charter schools are better; they are not. We need to improve everyone’s opinion of public education.”

Earlier this year, KIPP purchased the JB Blood Building on Wheeler St., from the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. for an undisclosed price. KIPP plans to renovate the building for 450 students in grades 9 through 12. Today, KIPP houses more than 1,200, including 365 in grades K-2 at the Blood Building and the rest in grades 5-12 at its campus in the Highlands.  

In addition, The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering the Equity Lab Charter School’s application for a proposed Lynn charter school.

Equity hopes to open a grade 5 through 12 school with a 640-student enrollment next fall. The state will decide in February.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said if KIPP grows, it will signal the death of traditional public schools.

“To the tune of $34 million, you may as well put a foreclosure sign on Lynn’s traditional public school system because we will lose teachers, classrooms, and students,” he said. “It will be decimating to our schools.”  

LaPierre urged union members to attend a public hearing on Dec. 7 at the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development and let the state Department of Education know they oppose charter expansion.

But not everyone at the hearing was opposed to charter schools.

Natasha Megie-Maddrey, who failed in her bid for a School Committee seat, said she has two children at KIPP’s middle school and one in the high school.

“I’m here to fight for the 1,000 kids who are on KIPP’s waiting list and it’s completely unfair to have a resolution to deny those kids a seat,” she said. “Lynn’s Public Schools have no space for these 1,000 kids and they are busting at the seams. We want to make sure all kids have a good education.”
Golden Graham said her son is a senior at KIPP and another who graduated from the school attends Suffolk University.

“It’s worked for us and all children deserve an opportunity for a quality education,” she said.

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