New Charter Bill Chokes Creativity. Skips Risk?

The original 1-page Senate Bill 8 to eliminate the cap on charter has morphed through about 11 revisions into a 20+ page substitute bill submitted to the house finance committee on 4/6/2011.  It  is a disaster for aspiring applicants, caring communities, and  prayful parents.

  • First, the cap is not eliminated.  It is merely raised to 50 each year.
  • If more than 50 qualify, there is no specified priority criteria with which to rank the applicants. Another lottery? Pin the tail on the donkey? Spin the bottle?
  • The bill forces an eventual termination or non-renewal for any charter whose performance composite is under 60% in any three years (even start-up) regardless of approved academic goals in the original application. (Intercity schools may be in the 25-35% range, so a 50% goal would be to double the local performance. But less than 60% gets a charter shut down. Facility lessors and lenders…take heed.) So who is going to risk opening a charter in an at-risk area?
  • The new “Commission” – quasi-independent of the SBE under ten prior versions –  is now ultimately powerless. In this new bill it can only RECOMMEND to the SBE, which must approve everything it does. What caliber of individual wants to just carry the SBE’s water and volunteer to catch their spears? 
  • It does not equal out the local funding to charters – it makes charter kids second-class students.
  • SBE can grant charters directly to LEA “Restart” schools without going through the Commission and yet these count against the new cap of 50/year.
  • It forces new charters to provide meals and transportation to all kids from families with annual income less than 185% of the federal poverty level ($41,000 for family of 4; about the median income at that age bracket) with no funds to do so.

So a new charter will face the reduced funding, the 60% closure rule, and the mandated but unfunded food/transportation for kids in families under the median income.

Guess where most new charter schools will be going! In middle- and upper-class, wealthy neighborhods with high-achieving kids.  Non-secular private schools will try and figure out a way to convert to charter schools so their parents can avoid tuition.

Guess how much creativity and innovation will be risked when the applicant is staring at the 60% closure rule!

Way to go, House.  March right off the cliff. Congratulations.

New Cap

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