Thursday, July 26, 2012

Initiative concerns . . .

According to this Education Week post, the Charter School Initiative is officially on the ballot.  Needing about 241,000 signatures to place 1240 on the ballot proved easy for supporters as they gathered in excess of 350,000.  According to this information on my July 14 post at $6 per signature they spent about $650,000 more than was needed for these signatures.  Big money helps.

Also today I was notified in an e-mail from my organization, WASA, that the board has voted to oppose the initiative.  Were I on the board, I would have voted the same way.  The following flaws expressed in the e-mail I believe are important for any voter to consider and include issues I was not aware of until reading the e-mail.  The new information for me included the ability to go beyond 40 charters because conversions of existing public schools would not be included in the count.  Once again, a reason to go to the primary source document that can be found here to create a deeper understanding and to not rely on other's opinions.

Much of the e-mail is shared below.

Charter schools put power into the wrong hands. Existing public schools can be “converted” to a charter school by a majority vote (signed petition of teachers or parents) without proper professional assessment, analysis, or investigation. Under this initiative, schools are defenseless against those holding the unverified opinion that a particular public school is ineffective.
Other serious flaws of I-1240 include:
  •   A newly created charter school commission must have a diverse membership; however, each member must hold a “demonstrated commitment to charter schooling,” with only one member of the commission being a public school parent. In creating charters, the charter school commission or approved local school boards may delegate responsibilities to employees or contractors and are excused from legal liability.
  •    If a charter applicant is denied by the charter school commission or an approved local school board, it can “shop the proposal around” and be approved by another authorizer, which allows sub-par or poorly planned charter school applications to be accepted. No standard or universal contract exists between charters schools and their authorizer—each school contract establishes its own policy and standards. 
  •     Although proponents claim I-1240 is a “modest” proposal, with a limit of 40 charter schools over the next five years, any current school that converts to a charter school is not counted as part of the cap.
  •       Converted charter schools can remain in their existing facility, but cannot be charged rent by the school district. Further, the district is responsible for repairs and upgrades. A school district cannot stop a conversion, yet it must still pay facilities costs.
  •         A district must allocate public-approved levy moneys to converted charter schools, although charter school boards cannot request levy or bond moneys from the public.
These are serious concerns that make this a potentially flawed answer to the issues facing public schools in our state.  Continuing the education reform currently in process and funding the planned changes currently in legislation may prove to be a better vehicle for improving learning and teaching and would reach far more young people than this initiative.

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