Public School Districts
A public school district consists of one or more public schools operated under the supervision of an elected or appointed school committee and a superintendent. The majority of school districts serve a single city or town, and are considered a department of the municipal government. Two or more municipalities can also join together to form a regional school district, which is considered a separate and independent unit of local government. A regional school district can offer all grades (preK-12), just certain grades (for example, just elementary grades or just high school), or just certain types of instruction (for example, vocational and technical programs).
Charter Schools were established by the 1993 Education Reform Act as found in chapter 71 of the Massachusetts General Laws, section 89. These schools are public schools that operate under five-year charters granted by the Board of Education. Each charter school is an independent charter school governed by a board of trustees. Charter schools were established to encourage innovative educational practices, provide parents and students greater choice in public education, and to provide models for replication in other public schools.
Two main types of charter schools exist in Massachusetts. A Commonwealth charter school is a public school that operates independent of any school committee. For each student enrolled, a Commonwealth charter school receives a sum from the state equal to the average cost per student in the school district in which that student resides. The state then deducts the same amount from the sending district's state aid. School districts receive additional funds that fully or partially reimburse them for funds provided to Commonwealth charter schools.
The second type of charter schools, Horace Mann charter schools, are public schools or part of a public school that operate under a charter that must receive the approval of the local school committee and the local collective bargaining agent. Horace Mann charter schools are funded directly from the school district in which the school is located.
Communities that do not operate any schools are classified as non-operating school districts (non-op) in this directory. If the town is not a member of a regional school district at each grade level, it must enter into an agreement with another school district to educate the students at those grade levels at the town's expense.
The Bristol County and Norfolk County agricultural high schools operate under the auspices of their respective county governments, while the Essex agricultural high school is controlled by a board of trustees appointed by the Governor.