“This afternoon, Governor Baker helped launch “Fact Check: Public Charter Schools in Massachusetts,” a public information campaign intended to provide information about charter schools to inform policymakers. However, the campaign itself needs to check its facts. It has come to my attention that this campaign is misstating the findings in an my office conducted in 2014 of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) oversight of charter schools.
Specifically, the campaign uses my office’s audit to demonstrate that there are currently over 37,000 students on the wait list. Our audit specifically states: “We estimated that unduplicated counts taken at the end of the lottery process in March 2013 should have been no more than 38,034 students (with 14,800 from Boston), as opposed to the 40,376 unduplicated count reported by DESE. However, even that adjusted count was significantly overstated to an extent that could not be quantified because, as DESE managers subsequently told us, a majority of charter schools roll forward waitlist entries from prior years that may no longer be applicable. They noted that students could remain on a school’s waitlist for several years, but stated that they could not estimate the number of students involved.”
In addition, DESE’s count included at least 2,342 probable duplicate entries that DESE had not identified as duplications. Because DESE’s waitlist compilation process did not use a software application designed to provide uniform data, avoid duplication, and facilitate comparison of entries across multiple charter school waitlists, DESE has a limited ability to detect students who are listed on the wait list multiple times at multiple schools.
It had been my hope that this audit would serve as a tool to provide meaningful, unbiased, and complete data so that when this debate next took place, policymakers and the public would have access to more facts. I have long believed in, and as State Auditor am committed to, the notion that better information makes for better public policy. However, the lack of complete data when conducting this audit made it impossible to provide the tool my office sought to develop. When incomplete information is presented as fact, as is the case by this campaign, policymakers are not afforded the ability to make unbiased decisions and the public is misled. The education of our children is too important to base these important decisions on misleading information.”