Frequently Asked Questions
A.1. What is the Metco program?
The Metco program is a state-funded grant program that promotes diversity and educational opportunity for more than 3,300 Boston and Springfield school students, as well as thousands of students in the Metco receiving school districts. The Metco program was started in the 1960s to provide enhanced educational opportunities for participating students, to reduce the racial isolation of suburban school districts, and to reduce segregation in city schools.
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) oversees the Metco grant program. The Department's main role is to ensure that the Metco grant is administered correctly and that school districts receive Metco funding. The Department also provides general oversight in terms of policy issues. Some of these policy issues involve intake and placement, termination, special education, academic and disciplinary expectations, etc. The Department serves as the primary conduit of information regarding the program to the Board of Education, the Legislature, the media, and the public. The Department, through the Commissioner of Education, has ultimate responsibility and authority related to the grant program and the service provider contract. The Department works with the Metco Advisory Committee on policy; the committee consists of representatives from the Metco community, including directors, superintendents, METCO Inc. and its own Board of Directors, and a parent representative.
A.2. What is the legislative enabling language for Metco?
Chapter 76, Section 12A of Massachusetts General Laws states that "the school committee of any city or town or any regional school district may adopt a plan for attendance at its schools by any child who resides in another city, town, or regional school district in which racial imbalance exists." This plan "shall tend to eliminate racial imbalance in the sending district" and, as the law states, "to help alleviate racial isolation in the receiving district." The definitions of 'racial imbalance' and `racial isolation' are found in Chapter 71, Section 37D (also referred to as Chapter 636, section 37D). In summary, 'racial imbalance' is the condition of a public school in which more than fifty percent of the pupils attending such school are non-white. 'Racial isolation' is the condition of a public school in which not more than thirty percent of the pupils attending such school are non-white.
B. Funding and Participating School Districts
B.1. How is the Metco program funded?
The state funds the Metco program on an annual basis. The proposed FY14 State Budget language for the Metco program reads as follows:
Line item 7010-0012
"For grants to cities, towns and regional school districts for payments of certain costs and related expenses for the program to eliminate racial imbalance in attendance, established under section 12A of chapter 76 of the General Laws; provided, that funds shall be made available for payment for services rendered by Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), Inc. and Springfield public schools; provided further, that all grant applications submitted to and approved by the department of elementary and secondary education shall include a detailed line item budget specifying how the funds shall be allocated and expended; provided further, that the secretary of education shall report not later than July 1, 2014 to the house and senate committees on ways and means on student achievement growth by METCO students relative to their peers in both sending and receiving districts and on the academic success of former METCO students who attended 2 and 4 year public colleges and universities in the commonwealth relative to their peers from both sending and receiving districts at said public institutions of higher education, including enrollment in remedial coursework, grade point averages and college graduation rates; provided further, that the subject of the report shall be the graduating class of 2013 and other grade levels for which data are available; and provided further, that METCO, Inc., shall make available to the secretary of education information necessary to complete said report …… $18,642,582"
B.2. How do receiving districts and the service provider get funded for their participation in the program?
Each year, the participating school districts respond to the Metco RFP (Request for Proposal) prepared by the Department. By submitting a response districts reaffirm their desire to continue participation in the program. After the proposal is submitted to the Department the budget is reviewed and the grant then goes through the Grants Management system. Funding is distributed monthly to receiving school districts.
B.3. What is the role of the service provider?
METCO Inc.'s primary functions are to conduct registration and placement of students into the program and to act as a link between the Metco community and receiving school districts. Additionally, METCO Inc. provides after school tutoring, parent information meetings, and counseling. METCO Inc. also works with the Department in carrying out policy recommendations, such as having Metco placements that reflect the diversity of Boston Public Schools and that Metco students are placed in districts based upon their application date.
METCO Inc. has a process in place that is intended to ensure fairness and objectivity in placement and maintenance of students in the program.
B.4. What school districts participate in the Metco program?
In FY14 Boston and Springfield sent pupils to 37 school districts. A list of participating school districts may be found at Metco Districts and Grant Allocations page.
B.5. What is the difference between School Choice funding and Metco funding?
Metco is funded via state appropriation as a grant. The grant is based upon prior year enrollment. In FY14, the amount awarded to Metco school districts will be around $5,259 per pupil. This amount is comprised of an instructional allotment of $3,447 per pupil and an average transportation allotment of $1,812 per pupil.
Under the Massachusetts School Choice Program, the residential district of the student or the regional school district pays for the tuition for the student. Tuition is based on the prior year's costs. Regular Day, Bilingual, and Occupational Education are 75% of the actual per pupil cost and are capped at $5,000. There is no limit set for Special Education; costs depend on the services called for in the student's IEP. Transportation may be provided for School Choice students at the option of the receiving districts; the state does not provide any assistance for this cost.
Students in the Metco program are included in their receiving district's October 1 counts for state Chapter 70 and federal special education funding and may be claimed by the receiving Metco district under the special education circuit breaker program, if applicable.
Students participating in the School Choice program are included in their sending district's counts for Chapter 70 foundation enrollment, federal special education funding, and claiming for the special education circuit breaker program, as applicable. Most other funding programs count the School Choice pupils in the receiving district's enrollment.
B.6. May a school district join or withdraw from the Metco Program?
A school district's participation in the Metco Program is voluntary. A school district could join the Metco Program at any time by getting initial approval from its school committee and by contacting the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. However, given the low reimbursement and the present level funding of the program, it is unclear exactly how a school district could join without additional overall funding to the program itself. Although a school district can 'withdraw' from the Metco Program, the decision would only be made after careful discussion and consideration. A school district should meet with representatives of METCO Inc. and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education before making such intentions public.
C. Student Enrollment and Program Placement
C.1. How do students get into the Metco program? Who is eligible to participate?
To enroll a child in the Metco program in Boston, application must be made in person at the Metco, Inc. office. Springfield pupils should contact the Springfield school department.
To sign up for the program a parent must provide proof of residency and a birth certificate. Proof of residency can be a mortgage or utility bill. Students successfully signed up are placed on a waiting list until he or she is selected for placement. METCO Inc. works with the family to prepare an enrollment folder. Once the intake process is completed and the school records are received in full, METCO Inc. forwards the applicants' enrollment folder to school districts with openings for the particular grade level needed. Ultimately, placement decisions are based upon:
- completion of the Metco application packet;
- submission of all school records;
- date of registration;
- district grade and seat availability;
- presence of siblings on the waiting list;
- special education status (students with existing special education placement determinations that call for out-of-district placement are generally not participants in Metco since the purpose of the program is participation in the district schools); and
- race (in the past ten years, increased efforts have been made to have the Metco program reflect better the diversity of Boston Public Schools).
The Department, through its service provider METCO Inc., prohibits the screening out of students for anything other than an applicant's unwillingness to fulfill basic registration procedures or as described under the special education question below. No special consideration is to be given to any applicant for entrance into the program, such as one's political affiliation, one's athletic or other recognized talent, or one's relationship to a Metco staff member.
C.2. Are students with special education needs allowed to enroll in the Metco Program?
Yes. Metco districts are required to provide a full range of in-district special education services to eligible students. However, if a student has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that calls for an out-of-district placement, then the Metco district is not obligated to accept that student. In all other cases, however, whether for initial intake into the program or for continuation in the program, school districts must provide in-district special education services and must adhere to special education regulations.
It is worth noting that if a student is already participating in the Metco program and develops special education needs that suggest the possibility of needing an out-of-district placement, the receiving Metco district may still be required to provide services in-district. The student may only be placed in an out-of-district placement if both the Metco district and the sending district are in agreement that the student needs such a placement. Otherwise, the Metco district must continue to serve the student in-district (see 603 CMR 28.10(6)). Special education law requires that students be served in the least restrictive setting possible and the Metco district cannot make a unilateral out-of-district placement for a student who has been accepted to Metco with an IEP that requires in-district services. If both districts agree to an out-of-district setting, then the responsibility for the student reverts to the sending district (i.e. Boston or Springfield).
C.3. Are limited English proficient (LEP) students allowed to enroll in the Metco program?
Yes. There is no stipulation that a student speaks English in order to register or get placed in Metco. To deny a placement based on language proficiency would be a civil rights violation. If an LEP student enrolls in a Metco program and has low English proficiency, it is the receiving school district's responsibility to ensure that initial language assessment and adequate language support are provided.
C.4. Do Metco students receive services in addition to those provided to resident students?
In most Metco districts, a Metco director coordinates the program and provides support to Metco students either directly or indirectly. This support may include the hiring of staff that serve Metco students or through grant-related initiatives that are earmarked for Metco students. For example, some towns hire academic counselors who are responsible for monitoring the progress of Metco students. Other towns have Metco tutoring initiatives in which Metco students are strongly encouraged to attend and where they get special academic support. In other programs, there are host family/family friends' initiatives or motivational speaker events for Metco students.
C.5. Can a Metco student be 'involuntary withdrawn' or 'terminated' from the Metco program?
Metco students and resident students are to be held to the same academic and behavioral expectations as local students. In all cases of potential termination (involuntary removal), there must be clear communication and due process followed. For example, if a Metco student is failing multiple subjects and missing an inordinate number of school days, a meeting should be held to address the situation. In all cases, everything must be done to ensure that the student's and family's wishes and interests are respected. Prior to any return to the sending district, all parties involved must agree that it is in the student's best interest to return to the Boston or Springfield Public Schools. The Department has stated that only in 'rare' cases should Metco students be terminated from a program and after every effort has been made to rectify an academic, behavioral, or other issue.
D. Metco Program Demographics
D.1. How many students participate in the program?
As of October 1, 2013, 3,317 students were enrolled in the Metco program. Of this number, 3,183 originate from the city of Boston; the remaining 134 come from Springfield
D.2. What is the racial breakdown of the program?
In the 2013-2014 school year the racial breakdown of Metco pupils is as follows:
D.3. What is the racial breakdown of Metco 'receiving' communities?
Most Metco receiving districts are predominantly white. Nearly a quarter of the districts are greater than 90% white, with only five less than 70% white. Boston, the sending district for the vast majority of Metco students, is 35% African-American, 40% Hispanic, 14% White, and 9% Asian.
F. Program Contact Information
F.1. Who can be contacted regarding the Metco program?
Persons interested in enrolling a child in the program can contact METCO Inc. at 617-427-1545, located at 40 Dimock Street in Roxbury. The Executive Director of METCO Inc. is Jean McGuire and the Associate Director is John Shandorf. METCO Inc. will respond to policy questions and concerns.
Also, the Massachusetts Department of Education, the state agency that oversees the program, may be contacted. The Metco State Grant Coordinator is School Finance (781-338-6527).
F.2. Is information on the Metco program posted on a website?
Metco grant information is posted on the DESE grants website page. Here is METCO Inc.'s Website.