Last Friday, students from Excel AcademyHigh School took part in a Model United Nations simulation at the State House. Governor Charlie Baker took the opportunity at the event to address the students, praise Excel Academy’s successes and tout the charter school legislation that he plans to file this fall.
Excel, one of the top rated schools in the state, runs both an elementary and middle school at two sites in East Boston and is currently building a new high school facility on Bremen Street that will open next year.
“I drive by Excel Academy every day on my way into the office and on my way home,” said Baker. “So I’ve watched that school get constructed and I’m now watching the high school get constructed. Everything I’ve ever heard about Excel Academy has been enormously positive.”
He added that, “If we do what we need to do as public leaders we will find a way, in a democracy where we don’t get our way all the time, to create more opportunities for kids to go to great schools and get great educations here in the Commonwealth no matter where they live,” Baker said in an address to a group of students from the Excel Academy Charter High School. That is going to be one of our goals over the course of the next four years.”
The speech to students comes on the heels of Baker’s push for a ballot initiative to expand access to charter schools in the state. This would allow up to 12 new public charter schools in the state each year. The initiative would remove the district level caps that prohibit charter school seat growth. Under current Massachusetts law, charter school seat growth cannot exceed one percent of statewide enrollment each year.
Baker said he plans to file his own legislation that would mirror the initiative trying to find its way on a state ballot. Similar legislation died on Beacon Hill last year.
“It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of charter schools. I have been since the beginning,” Baker told the Eastie charter school students. “And the history and the experience of the performance of students like you in charter schools has more than borne out the hopes and dreams and aspirations we all had for the charter school movement when we first put it in place back in the 1990s.”
After his address Baker told reporters, “I think the evidence at this point is pretty overwhelming. We’ve had a whole series of independent studies done, some by organizations that are here and some by organizations that are in other parts of the country, that charter schools in Massachusetts have delivered a very strong and high-quality product to kids here in the Commonwealth. Some of the highest performing schools in Massachusetts are charter schools located in under-performing school districts and in the end here, what I’m really interested in is just making sure every kid gets a great education, but I don’t really care about which model it is.”
Owen Sterns, CEO of Excel Academy, said that he and the students were elated over the Governor’s recognition of Excel and admitting that he was a big fan of the school.
“We were very grateful that the Governor spoke with our students as they were conducting a Model UN simulation on Friday,” said Sterns. “This was the first week of our new high school, and the Governor’s message resonated. It was particularly powerful when he spoke about our founding class’s responsibility to their home communities of East Boston and Chelsea, as well as to the younger students who will follow in their footsteps resonated. We are also grateful that the Governor consistently references Excel Academy as an example of high-quality public education, and we share his sense of passion and urgency to provide that level of education to all students.”
Representatives Adrian Madaro and Dan Ryan of Charlestown also spoke with Excel students, and their personal stories really connected with the students, said Sterns.
“Specifically, Representative Madaro’s experience doing Model UN in high school and the impact it had on his life, and Representative Ryan’s long and persistent journey to a college education, which he finally reached at age 41,” he said.