Massachusetts education officials said Monday they had received proposals for six new charter schools and the expansion of 12 others, but added that current state caps on charters would prevent all of them from being approved.
Voters will consider a ballot question in November that would allow for annual increases in charter school enrollment outside of the existing caps.
In a statement, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said it would evaluate the applications before deciding which groups will be invited to submit more detailed proposals. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester will then submit a list of finalists to the state Board of Education for a vote in February.
Even if all of the applications were deemed worthy, some could not be approved because of the current caps, the department said.
"Massachusetts has some of the strongest charter schools in the nation, and I am pleased that groups continue to be interested in opening and expanding schools here," Chester said.
Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from local school committees. Backers, including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, contend the schools offer students high-quality educational alternatives to mainstream public schools.
Critics, including teachers unions, argue they siphon financial resources away from traditional schools and fail to adequately serve certain groups of students, including the disabled and English-language learners.
State law bars most school districts from allocating more than 9 percent of its net school spending to charter school tuition. The state's lowest-performing school districts can allocate up to 18 percent.
The ballot question would allow the board to add up to a dozen new or expanded charters each year outside of those existing caps.
Combined, the proposed new or expanded charters seek to add between 5,000 and 6,000 new slots for students. There are currently about 32,000 students on waiting lists to attend charter schools, according to state officials.
The applications include:
- Collegiate Charter School of Pioneer Valley, for kindergarten through grade 12 in Chicopee and Springfield.
- Equity Lab Charter School, for grades 5-12 in Lynn.
- MAP Academy Charter School, for high school students in Plymouth, Wareham and Carver.
- Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School, for grades K-8 in Sturbridge and surrounding towns.
- The Entrepreneurial Village, for grades K-5 in Brockton, Stoughton and Avon.
- Hampden Charter School of Science II - for grades 6-12 in Holyoke, Westfield and Agawam.
Six of the 12 existing schools seeking to expand proposed adding more than 100 seats.