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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 3, no. 13 (July 12, 1995).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c July 12, 1995
Charter school 1995 : a survey and analysis of the laws and practices of the states, including state-by-state summaries, cross-state comparison, descriptions of existing and proposed schools, and lessons learned / Thomas Mauhs-Pugh.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
1 of 3 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 3 Number 13July 12, 1995ISSN 1068-2341A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Editor: Gene V Glass, Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Edu cation, Arizona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 1995, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold.Charter Schools 1995: A Survey and Analysis of the Laws and Practices of the StatesIncluding State-By-State Summaries, Cross-State Com parisons, Descriptions of Existing and Proposed Schools, And Lessons Learned Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Department of Education Dartmouth College Hanover, NH 03755 email@example.com Researchers and Contributing Authors: Valerie Wrenholt Susan Vernal Lisa Studness Phaedon Sinis Lori Shyavitz Kelly Roda Elly Jo Rael Allison Padavan Tiayana Marks Jennifer Hill Sarah Godshall Lester Eggleston Jr. Neal Dickert Jr. Candace Crawford
2 of 3 This report is the result of a group project undert aken by Tom Mauhs-Pugh's class in Policy and Politics in American Education at Dartmouth College during March-May of 1995. Specific attribution of authorship will be given in the text for relevant sections. Table of Contents: Charter Schools 1995 A Related Article on Ethnic Segregation in Arizona Charter Schools Copyright 1995 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesEPAA can be accessed either by visiting one of its seve ral archived forms or by subscribing to the LISTSERV known as EPAA at LISTSERV@asu.edu. (To sub scribe, send an email letter to LISTSERV@asu.edu whose sole contents are SUB EPAA y our-name.) As articles are published by the Archives they are sent immediately to the EPAA subscribers and simultaneously archived in three forms. Articles are archived on EPAA as individual files under the name of the author a nd the Volume and article number. For example, the article by Stephen Kemmis in Volume 1, Number 1 of the Archives can be retrieved by sending an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@a su.edu and making the single line in the letter rea d GET KEMMIS V1N1 F=MAIL. For a table of contents of the entire ARCHIVES, send the following e-mail message to LISTSERV@asu.edu: INDEX EPAA F=MAIL, tha t is, send an e-mail letter and make its single line read INDEX EPAA F=MAIL.The World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is http://olam.ed.asu.edu/epaa Education Policy Analysis Archives are "gophered" at olam.ed.asu.edu To receive a publication guide for submitting artic les, see the EPAA World Wide Web site or send an e-mail letter to LISTSERV@asu.edu and include the single l ine GET EPAA PUBGUIDE F=MAIL. It will be sent to you by return e-mail. General questions about ap propriateness of topics or particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, Glass@asu.ed u or reach him at College of Education, Arizona Sta te University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-2692)Editorial Board John Covaleskiejcovales@nmu.edu Andrew Coulson firstname.lastname@example.org Alan Davis email@example.com Mark E. Fetlermfetler@ctc.ca.gov Thomas F. Greentfgreen@mailbox.syr.edu Alison I. Griffithagriffith@edu.yorku.ca Arlen Gullickson firstname.lastname@example.org Ernest R. Houseernie.email@example.com Aimee Howleyess016@marshall.wvnet.edu Craig B. Howley firstname.lastname@example.org William Hunterhunter@acs.ucalgary.ca Richard M. Jaeger email@example.com Benjamin Levinlevin@ccu.umanitoba.ca Thomas Mauhs-Pughthomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
3 of 3Dewayne Matthewsdm@wiche.edu Mary P. McKeowniadmpm@asuvm.inre.asu.edu Les McLeanlmclean@oise.on.ca Susan Bobbitt Nolensunolen@u.washington.edu Anne L. Pembertonapembert@pen.k12.va.us Hugh G. Petrieprohugh@ubvms.cc.buffalo.edu Richard C. Richardsonrichard.email@example.com Anthony G. Rud Jr.firstname.lastname@example.org Dennis Sayersdmsayers@ucdavis.edu Jay Scribnerjayscrib@tenet.edu Robert Stonehillrstonehi@inet.ed.gov Robert T. Stoutstout@asu.edu
1 of 2IntroductionThomas Mauhs-Pugh In 1991 Minnesota enacted the first state legislat ion authorizing school districts to sponsor charter schools. Since then, at least ten a dditional states have enacted legislation enabling the creation of charter schools. At least seventeen others are considering such legislation at the time of this writing. Support fo r charter school legislation is high. As a school reform movement it has momentum. Momentum, h owever, does not imply clarity. The term charter school is used to denote legislat ion and practice that vary widely. "In its 'purest' form, a charter school is an autonomous entity which operates on the basis of a charter or contract between the indi vidual or group (e.g. teachers, parents, others) which organizes the school and its sponsor (e.g., local school board, county or state board). The charter or contract specifies suc h items as the educational plan for the school, specific educational outcomes and how they will be measured, the management plan for the school, and how the school will comply with other stated requirements." (Bierlein and Mulholland, Feb. 1994, p.1) In general, a charter school is different than a t raditional public school in its degree of autonomy. Charter schools are free from m any district, state, and union regulations or requirements; including those govern ing curriculum, teaching methods, contracting for services and facilities, and the hi ring of personnel. In exchange, charter schools are held accountable for student performanc e. Charter school legislation varies on a number of c ounts, including: whether teaching personnel must be certified, how the charter school is funded, the amount of funding, whether existing private and/or public schools may convert to charter schools, whether the charter school may be, must, or cannot be legally independent of a traditional district, avenues for approval and appeal, and the means by which the school is held accountable f or student performance, and the criteria used to determine that performance. The variety in state law makes it difficult to ana lyze charter schools as a single reform. Ironically, such differences mirror one of the arguments in favor of charter schools: that by diversifying how schools are organ ized and what they do, we can better learn about the effects of diverse types of schooli ng. Diverse legislation provides an opportunity for analyzing the effect of specific pe rmissive or constraining regulations. For example, preserving the public nature of school ing, and what that means, is an often voiced concern in response to many educational refo rms now being considered, such as vouchers. Will private schools absorb desperately n eeded public funds, take only the best students, and result in a further stratificati on and segregation of society? Will they refuse to accept public money in fear of the regula tion that accompanies it? Will they provide competition with traditional public schools that will result in the improvement of the education of all children? What are the benf its or pitfalls of various forms of relationship between the public and private sectors ? The charter school laws of Arizona,
2 of 2Michigan, and Minnesota, which allow the conversion of existing private schools into charter schools, may provide a laboratory for answe ring questions such as these. This report cannot provide definitive answers to m any of those questions. Charter school legislation is too recent, and there are too few charter schools which have been in operation long enough to draw hard conclusions abou t their effects. However, we do have sufficient evidence to respond to many of the claims made by both proponents and opponents of such legislation. In particular, we pr ovide legislators, concerned educators and citizens, and policy researchers with evidence from the field to clarify what questions are being asked, what predictions are bei ng made, and what answers are suggested by current practice. Return to Contents
1 of 4A Summary of Arguments For and Against Charter SchoolsElly Jo Rael Arguments in favor of and opposed to charter schoo ls reveal a wide variety of educator, parental, and constituent concerns. The f ollowing is a summary of the most prevalent or frequently raised arguments on charter schools, chartering laws and pending legislation. It is important to note that these arg uments will be further examined in the State by State summaries, as well as throughout the information presented in this report on charter schools. Charter schools initiate competition between schoo ls which will improve education. If state legislation is relatively non-r estrictive, permitting substantial autonomy, and does not limit the number of charter schools, then schools will have sufficient authority to create a variety of program s and methods, and a large number of charter schools will open. These schools will compe te with current public schools for students, and hence funding. The competition will r equire all schools to attend to the needs of students and the desires of parents. The r esult will be improved education for all students, whether they remain in the traditiona l public school or attend a charter school. Charter schools do not create school competition. The instability of reform laws, lack of adequate funding, the lack of a profit moti ve, and many remaining restrictions on who can establish a charter school and how it can b e run will restrict their creation, as will the lack of technical assistance, start-up cap ital, and facilities. The application process (e.g. through a local school board) and acc ountability procedures (e.g. annual standardized tests) will both restrict the number o f charter schools and reduce the variation between them. Most state laws also restri ct the number of charter schools allowed. If competition arises, education will not be impro ved. Too heavy an emphasis on reducing financial expenditure will lead to cut cor ners and inferior safety for children, reduced breadth and depth of academic program, and a reduction in non-academic programs. The result will be reduced quality of edu cation for all students. Removing regulations frees charter schools to inno vate. Charter schools are likely to create learning environments which ensure that a ll students attain minimum levels of academic competency. This may be through the use an d promotion of radical models of pedagogy or by allowing innovation through individu alized curriculum planning and exercises. Such increase in innovation may have sev eral effects: (1) Charter schools may be educationally superior; (2) they may serve as la boratories for programs that could be imported into public schools; (3) and, they could p ressure public schools into changing and improving. We cannot know, necessarily, beforeh and what the effect will be of removing certain regulations. Charter schools provi de us with a laboratory to find out. Public school regulations will be recreated or dup licated. Many current regulations exist in order to prohibit practices wh ich we have determined to be illegal, morally wrong, unethical, financially or pedagogica lly incompetent, evidence of educational malpractice, or otherwise socially unac ceptable. Other regulations correspond to system criteria for means of exchange articulation between units and levels, and accountability. All of these factors st ill exist and will be brought to bear on
2 of 4charter schools. In effect, the system will merely replicate itself and charter schools as innovation will be irrelevant. Moreover, if certain regulations or practices inhibit quality education or produce unacceptable inefficiencies; a nd are no longer pertinent, or have effects contrary to their intent, then why not remo ve these regulations from all schools? Charter schools educate students of diverse backgr ounds and multiple needs. Current charter school laws and constitutional prov isions prohibit the discrimination of individuals on the basis of disability, race, creed color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. I n most states, enrollment must be open and tuition free to any child who resides within th e school district or is from other districts. Empirically, many charter schools serve low-income, and/or at-risk and students with special education needs. Charter schools are elitist. To the extent that ch arter schools can expel students and refuse to accept them, then regular public scho ols will become a dumping ground for the difficult or expensive to educate students, including those with antisocial behaviors and/or learning disabilities or physical handicaps. To the extent that they are allowed autonomy in selection of students, curricul um, pedagogy, and measurement of outcomes, charter schools may also lead to an incre ased stratification and fragmentation of society along lines of class, race, gender, lang uage, mental and physical abilities, and social, religious, and political beliefs. Not only will such stratification be educationally harmful for some, but it will increase divisiveness in an already too fractured society. Rather than fragmentation, we need to revitalize a spirit of commonalty through the public school system. Charter schools add financial pressure to break up inertia. Putting financial pressure on the public schools is the only way to f orce them to change. As mentioned before, parent and student choice pressures schools to be accountable, and to accommodate their interests. If public schools fail to address concerns and interests, then they will ultimately lose students in their respect ive districts and a given percentage of per pupil expenditures. Charter schools add financial burdens on all publi c schools. Charter schools are provided no capital or start-up costs and receive o nly a fraction of the per pupil expenditure of the public schools. So, they too mus t operate with inadequate funding. If successful, then charter schools, whether for-profi t or not, create pressures for reductions in overall education spending while also creating p ressure for freeing all schools from regulations that ensure educational corners will no t be cut. Charter schools are better focused on goals and pu rpose of programs. A school run by a group of faculty committed to a particular educational vision and operating with the support of sending parents, has a high chance f or some version of success. Charter schools promote the development of such schools by switching the emphasis in the definition of an educational community from that of geography to that of commonalty of interest. Charter schools create instability and harm studen ts education. The existence of charter schools are only quick fixes to the current problems faced in public education. Considering charter schools may be viewed as labora tories for non-traditional practices and pedagogy, their existence will vary. Charter sc hools create increased instability and may harm children's ability to integrate or adapt t o the current public education system. Thus, we should put all our efforts into improve ex isting schools, and not sidetrack promising public school reforms now underway. Charter schools promote teacher autonomy and empow erment. Due to decreased regulation teachers can maintain a greater sense of freedom to develop their own unique styles of pedagogy, and are able to adopt new metho ds without fear of administrative
3 of 4sanctions. Thus, the best teachers in the education al system will be attracted by higher levels of autonomy. Furthermore, by empowering teac hers, charter schools will increase teacher motivation and innovation making the profes sion attractive. Charter schools create teacher impoverishment and teacher union dissension. The best teachers, attracted by some autonomy and being able to teach only those students they want to, will leave the public schools to teac h in charter schools. Furthermore, charter school teacher salaries and benefits are no t bound by previous collective bargaining agreements. Teacher unions caution polic y-makers to resist efforts to make charter schools reduce teacher pay to save money. G iven the relative inequity which currently exists between teacher pay and that of ot her professions, cutting corners can only have negative long-term educational consequenc es. Charter schools increase local control. Through th e emphasis on commonalty of interests and the possible variations among charter schools, parents, students and community members can establish group cohesion by f ocusing on goals and purposes of charter schools. Maintaining levels of cohesion and understanding will most likely lead to a decrease in divisiveness and interest group po litics. Charter schools decrease local control. If charter schools are directly responsible only to a state board, then local voter control ove r the funding and operation of those schools will be eliminated. Charter schools will increase abuses of the public trust. Interest groups have a stake in creating charter schools for their own pur poses. The purposes and aims of the charter schools will become politicized and eventua lly charter schools will operate on the basis of political interests. Increased local c ontrol will result in an exclusionary and segregated school system. Parents know what is best for their children and t heir education. Parents can make the right choice on where to send their children to school. Limited information and/or misinformation can lead to bad-decision making. Not all parents take an active interest in their childr en's education. Some maintain minimal contact with teachers and school administration. Al so, various definitions and aims of charter schools may not be clearly stated, misconst rued, or simply unavailable. In effect, how can we ensure that parents are informed, receiv e appropriate information, and know how to use it, in order to make wise decisions abou t where to send their child to school? Charter schools cost less. Charter schools can ope rate effectively with less revenue than the public schools because they are fr ee from the inefficiencies of public schools, namely inappropriate regulation, certified and unionized teachers on fixed pay scales, bloated administrative costs, and the failu re to contract out services. Also, the fact that charter schools are chosen by parents and held accountable by the state with regard to safety issues and minimum levels of acade mic success ensures that relevant corners will not be cut. If they were, then parents would withdraw their children, or the state would withdraw its charter, and the school wo uld close. Charter schools impoverish already financially str apped schools and districts. Charter schools receive a percentage of per pupil e xpenditures which drains directly from the proposed annual budgets in many public sch ools. This will further deplete the amount of funding allotted among public schools pos sibly requiring the termination of teachers, programs, events, etc., lowering the over all academic standards among all public schools. Charter schools provide school choice without thre atening private institutions. Charter school legislation does not import intrusiv e federal or state legislation into the operating arena of existing private schools. Charter schools are reconstructing existing school s and programs. Innovative
4 of 4programs offered by charter schools are no differen t from programs that are currently being offered in certain regular public schools. Ch arters are not necessary in order to create innovative educational programs. Return to Contents
1 of 3 ARIZONALisa Studness & Valerie WrenholtBackground Information Educational reform was a central issue in A rizona's elections last November. By providing resounding v ictories for pro-school choice Governor Fife Symington and Superintendent Lisa Graham, the voters sent a stron g message. The education status quo is no longer acceptable, a nd the need for fundamental reform is urgent. Though Ariz ona has many good public schools, overall it is not doing n early as well as it should. Arizona ranks 35th nationally o n student reading scores, and 44th in graduation rates. The need for reform is greatest in low income communities. Good schools offer the surest escape from poverty, but most lowincome children are consigned to the worst schools. Choic e gives parents a chance to get their children out of bad s chools and into good ones. (The Arizona Republic 2/15/95) In general, there has been strong support f or charter schools in Arizona. Charter school proponents argu e that the laws and regulations of public schools make school s homogeneous and fail to provide the best education possible for each individual student. Each child learns ver y differently, and so may require different teaching styles, curriculum, etc. Many see charter schools as labor atories for innovation. Supporters also argue that charter schools provide new professional opportunities for teachers Charter schools give teachers more say and provide a way to bring new teaching methods to classrooms. Proponents see cha rter schools as a means of bringing competition to the f ield of education, contending that schools that do a good j ob will have plenty of students and those that do a poor jo b will be forced to shut their doors. Opponents believe that there is a flip side to less regulation and governmental interference. Allowing districts the options of dropping courses such as environment al studies or Spanish might be making education less relevant to what is happening in our world (The Phoenix Gazette, 4/10/9 5). Others argue that charter schools help only a very small percentage of the population, and therefore are not a worthy cause. There has also been concern that charter sc hools would drain the best students and talent from schoo l districts. Legislation The Arizona School Improvement Act, passed in 1994, provided for the creation of charter schools as alt ernatives to traditional public schools. The law established a new State Board for Charter Schools as a granting body for charters and appropriated $1 million to assist char ter schools with start-up costs. An unlimited number o f charter schools are allowed by local board sponsorship, whi le the state Board of Education and state Board of Charter Schools can approve 25 charter schools a year each. The le ngth of the charter is five years, and any public body, pri vate person, or private organization can organize a char ter school. Arizona gives charter schools a great deal of autonomy from state and district rules. Charter schools are legally independent, and so they are not subject to distric t rules. Although Arizona charter schools are exempt from ma ny state laws and regulations, such as teacher certification compliance reviews and mandated classes, they are s ubject to federal, state and local laws dealing with health, safety,
2 of 3civil rights, insurance and special education. In addition, charter schools cannot deny admission to students b ased on academic or physical abilities. Charter schools can be sponsored by a schoo l district, the state Board of Education or the state Board of Charter Schools. The law also allows public schools to iss ue charters, but so far, only one has done so. In add ition, a bill has been approved by the Senate that would all ow universities, community colleges, and county school superintendents to issue charters. Rejected applic ations may be resubmitted to the same body. Arizona charter schools are eligible to rec eive grants up to $100,000 for each of two years. In state-spo nsored charter schools, state and federal funds flow from the state to the school. If a district sponsors the charter s chool, federal, state, and local funds flow through the di strict to the school. The amount of funds available to the s chool must be the minimum per pupil expenditure in the distric t. Under the charter-school law, schools are r equired to maintain high levels of student academic achievemen t or risk losing their charters. The application process for a proposed charter school requires information about how schools plan to measure student improvement. Chart er schools must design a method to measure student progress to ward the outcomes adopted by the state board of education an d must report annually on such testing.Results of Law Since September, when the law took effect, the state Board of Education and state Board for Charter Scho ols have given preliminary approval to about 30 charter-scho ol applications and about 50 more are now under consid eration. However, before actually receiving the charters, th e applicants must undergo background checks and detai led scrutiny as to how the schools will be run. The sc hools, many of which would be started from scratch, have t o find their own facilities, hire a teaching staff, and de velop a curriculum. They receive no money for building or maintaining schools but can apply for $100,000 from a state stimulus fund in their first year of operation. I f all the proposed charter schools actually opened next fall, it is estimated they would have 8000 students, slightly l ess than 1 percent of the total public school population in Ar izona. Based on this projection, the Legislature is expect ed to approve $16 million in charter-school funding in ne xt year's state budget. (The Arizona Republic 1/95-4/95; Congressional Quarterly Magazine, 2/95) Four charter schools are ready to open in S eptember 1995. For example, Foothills Academy, a private sc hool, will go public as a charter school, focusing on college prep academics, leadership skills and the environment. Parents now pay $4400 per year in tuition and fees for thei r children to attend the two-room schoolhouse. The public sta tus, which means the school will get between $4300 and $4400 p er pupil from the state instead of charging tuition, is expe cted to draw between 20 and 50 more students to the 23-pupi l academy, which serves students in grades 6 through 12. It a lso means students from varied socioeconomic levels can atten d the school since the absence of tuition will draw pupi ls from many areas. Although it will be a public instituti on and will need to serve a greater number of students, th e school plans to keep its high standards. Strict behavior codes include automatic expulsion for drug use and an ard uous application process that includes a six-page applic ation and multiple interviews. The school's goal is to provid e an alternative to gifted students who may need a diffe rent kind of an environment. Many of the students came from schools where they had been frustrated by the slower pace. Most parents were thrilled that the academy received cha rter
3 of 3 status because a much wider range of students will have access to the its wonderful resources. There are many charter schools under consid eration. The creators of EduPreneurship, which uses economics to teach core subjects like writing and math to fourth-throu gh sixthgraders, wants to lease two buildings for a 99 stud ent school. There is apprehension that the School boar d won't approve the $30,000 lease, given the denial of a si milar lease to the New School for Performing Arts last mo nth. The New School's proponents had sought to lease 10 clas srooms for a year-round high school offering intense performin g and visual arts training coupled with academic classes. The three board members who rejected that lease cited t he surrounding community's opposition to the new schoo l and a fear that it would siphon talent and state funding from district schools. However, proponents argued that this economics school would not drain students from the district because the school would be a commuter school, draw ing children from many areas. In one district, Deer Valley, taxpayers wer e glad that the school board voted against the proposed charter school. The Deer Valley group wanted to open a school for kindergarten through 10th grade that, emphasizes a back-tobasics curriculum, foreign languages, phonics-based reading instruction and parental involvement. "The specia l interest proposal certainly does not benefit or include the majority of students in our district. The public school sys tem should not and cannot cater to each individual request". (2/13/95 Arizona Republic) Concerns presented by parents in cluded: Who would be liable when a child is injured or a pa rent sues, who will make sure the charter school does what it' s supposed to, and can the district withdraw its sponsorship i f the school doesn't do what it's supposed to? The schoo l board president said he doesn't like having the district held accountable for what the school might or might not accomplish. The charter school law is unclear as t o what the sponsoring agent (the school district, in this case ) would be responsible for. Conclusion Fresh from enacting its path-breaking chart er-school program last year, Arizona stands poised to set the standard for education reform in 1995 by passing the nation' s most comprehensive school-choice program. Four charter schools are set to open this fall, and there are over 50 sc hools awaiting approval. The charter school idea has ca ught on quickly and successfully in Arizona. Charter schoo ls are granted a great deal of autonomy in Arizona which holds promise for success. There is a lot of enthusiasm, but at the same time some school districts have already re jected charter school proposals. Funding and talent drain from school districts do pose relevant concerns. The a mbiguity, in the charter school law, on the sponsoring agent 's responsibility also needs to be addressed. It is t oo early to measure results, but Arizona's high level of cha rter school activity is very promising.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Arizona, click Here
1 of 3 CALIFORNIAPhaedon Sinis & Kelly RodaLegislative History California has a relatively long history of educational reform. The most significant of the reform efforts before 1992 was the Hughes-Hart Educational Reform Act of 1983, which raised standards for schools, lengthened the school day and year, changed the curriculum, attracted better teachers, changed the textbooks, and instituted various other reforms. (Possibly as a result, test scores rose, drop-out r ates fell, and diversity in higher-level courses rose.) More recently, voucher programs have been proposed, and one reason charter school legislation was supported by some incumbent educational interests was to neutralize the voucher movement. This may have worked; in 1994, California's state -wide referendum on vouchers was defeated by an unconvent ional coalition that included teacher unions (such as the National Education Association) and organizations like the L udwig von Mises Institute, a market-oriented think tank in Al abama. It was in this political environment that c harter school legislation passed in 1992, although some incumbent interests such as the NEA were also opposed to this less swee ping reform. Most opponents of the charter school bill are described by a Southwestern Regional Laboratory (SR L) report as incumbents of the educational system with an int erest in maintaining the status quo. In general, local teac hers' unions were opposed to charter schools. These unio ns viewed the absence of licensing requirements in charter sc hools as a threat to the high salaries of the licensed, unioni zed teachers in public schools. Another reason for opp osition to charter school legislation was the fear of a "cream ing effect," in which the charter schools attract and r ecruit the best students and teachers from public schools, lea ving the public schools with difficult-to-educate students a nd mediocre teachers. Other arguments against charter schools cited the outflow of dollars from public schools to charter schools, theoretically weakening public schools, an d skeptics dismissed charter schools as unnecessary, alleging that they would not result in the needed reforms. The American Federation of Teachers, an inf luential union, initially supported charter schools in theor y but opposed specific charter school legislation in Cali fornia because it granted an exemption from regulations on teacher licensing to charter schools and thus ran against t he interests of the union. The proponents of charter schools, led by s tate senator Gary Hart, the sponsor of the bill, cited numerous reasons for their support. The proponents argued that char ter schools would introduce competition and incentives for reform in the educational system; that they would introduc e choice, variety, and innovation in public schools; that the y would result in more individual, specialized education fo r more students; that they would liberate publicly-funded schools from state and local educational regulations; and t hat the innovations of charter schools could serve as model s for existing public schools, thereby improving them.Contents of the Bill California's Charter School Act of 1992, pa ssed and signed in September 1992, allows the establishment of 100 charter schools throughout the state with no more t han ten in any district. Any individual may develop a charter but must have the support of 10% of the teachers in one scho ol
2 of 3district or 50% of the teachers in one school to su bmit the charter for approval. Within thirty days of receiving a petition for a charter school, the school board must hold a public hearing on the provisions of the proposed charter. A public hear ing helps indicate how much popular support there is for the charter school in question. Within sixty days of receiving the petition, the school board must approve or reject t he charter. If the charter is rejected, the petitione r can appeal to the county superintendent. The county superintendent must then create a review panel that consists of three teachers from other school districts in th e county. The review board determines if the charter was fair ly considered and if not, the charter is returned to t he governing board for reconsideration. If the charte r is rejected again, another public hearing may be held at the request of the petitioners, and the charter is cons idered one last time by the county board of education. Charter proposals are required to address a variety of operational procedures, including admission require ments, accountability, and financial audit procedures. T here are no regulations requiring charter schools to hire li censed teachers, but the charter must describe the qualifi cations used to hire employees. Charter proposals also men tion the goals of the school and how they are to be met. Ch arters are granted for 5 years and subsequent renewals are awa rded at 5 year intervals. Once the school has been established, it re ceives 100% of the average per-pupil spending in that school di strict for each regularly attending student. A charter may be revoked by the person or group that approved the charter if the charter school violates a law or fails to meet its own criteria for operating procedures, conditions, or e ducational standards.Results of the Law The fears of opponents have not been substa ntiated; in fact, many of the predictions of supporters such as those mentioned above have become a reality. According t o the SRL report, approximately one-third of the districts wi th charter schools have encouraged public schools to follow th e examples set by charter schools in educational practices. O ne fourth of the districts plan to restructure their systems as a direct result of the existence of charter schools. This evidence shows that charter schools are indeed infl uencing public education in a positive manner in California Despite these successes, the SRL report des cribes teacher unions who still oppose the establishment o f charter schools in their districts. The unions are the pri mary force that stands in the way of increasing competition th rough the expansion of the number of charter schools. They c ite the same reasons for their opposition as they did prior to the passing of the legislation. Some people predicted that by limiting the number of schools to 100, the ability of charter schools to i ntroduce competition into the public school system would als o be limited. Nevertheless, this limit has had no impac t because by April 1995, only 83 charters had been approved. According to the SRL report, some reasons for the slow growth in charter schooling are that starting a school is tim econsuming and burdensome; that developing and meeti ng standards for accountability is difficult; that the re is no funding for starting charter schools; that the degr ee of autonomy desired will not exist; that teacher union s are unsupportive of charter schools, thus making hiring of teachers more difficult; and that there are other, more convenient alternatives available for parents. The creaming effect predicted by opponents has not occurred. The Description of Charter Schools..., a
3 of 3 government publication, lists and describes the fir st 39 charter schools in California. Of these, none are targeted towards gifted children; in fact, five specifically cater to at-risk students and two focus on special education The majority of charter schools focus on new, innovativ e, or "alternative" teaching techniques for mainstream st udents. One such school is the Open School: Center for Individualization in Los Angeles. It existed as a magnet elementary school and converted into an experimenta l learning center. The unique characteristics are th at children are not grouped by ages or grades, and the re is team teaching. It appears very similar to the Mont essori style of education. Another charter school, set up in Victorville, is called Options for Youth Charter Sc hool. This school targets students who are dropouts or po tential dropouts, and its goal is to show such students the relevance of education. It also helps them attain a high sc hool diploma and possibly go on to college, and focuses on potential career options. A third charter school i n Oakland is called the Lazear Middle School Charter and it c aters to students between 6th and 8th grade who are presentl y learning English as a second language. It hopes to allow st udents to gain competence in English while continuing to deve lop their Spanish. It focuses on communication skills and he lping students assimilate into American society. Althoug h many unique charter schools exist in California, these t hree are representative of the diversity in education offere d by charter schools. The effects of charter schools are not yet definitive, because they have not existed for very long. Howev er, the evidence thus far indicates that charter schools ha ve been a fairly successful venture.Conclusions & Future Prospects Charter school supporters predict that in the long term, they will improve learning by encouraging dif ferent methods of teaching; by enabling entrepreneurs to b ring innovative techniques to education; and by providin g an incentive for existing public schools to improve. Charter schools have not existed long enough to yield subst antial conclusions, but these predictions by supporters ar e becoming a reality.Here is a Gopher Server containing a good deal of information about charter schools in California. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in California click Here
1 of 5Colorado Tiayana Marks & Elly Jo Rael Background Information As early as 1987 Colorado began their edu cational reform initiatives. Colorado educators recognized the div ersity of its youth and the need to establish an educational system which fostered the notion that "different pupils le arn differently." Realizing the importance of creating "more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system," the General Assembly sought "to cre ate an atmosphere in Colorado's public schools where resea rch and development in developing different learning opport unities is actively pursued." As a result, in 1993 the state authorized the creation and maintenance of Charter Schools as a means of expanding choice and providing innovation in Colora do public schools (Colorado Senate Bill 93: Section 22-30.5102). According to Mary Anne Raywid, prior to c harter school enactment and legislation, major educational develo pments had been occurring in Jefferson County (Jeffco), "the l argest school district in Colorado." Regarded as "a refor m-minded and innovative district," Jeffco first restructured its education system through the creation of three alte rnative schools. These schools thrived and become very pop ular. However, upon recommendations made by the district' s own School Improvement Council, no such schools were ad ded in the district over the ensuing seven year period. "It seems it was one thing to set up two or three such alternati ves to the standard program, but it was quite another to move to accommodate more than 1.5% of the student populatio n into this form of arrangement (Raywid p. 555)." Then in 1990, two important developments occurred which influenced the events in Jefferson County and impac ted education in the state. First, opposition to schoo l choice appeared in the form of a newly appointed administr ator from Minnesota, Lew Finch. This, in turn, created vario us levels of factionalization among faculty/teaching staff, o ther administrators, parental groups, and community memb ers. As a result, administrative opposition to proposed initi atives like school choice became central to the debate oneducational reform in the state. The second development, which was in dire ct conflict with the first, was the growing interest and pursui t in promoting charter schools. This charter process cr eated an avenue for educators, parents and community members to design schools which would allow certain degrees of autono my, creativity and innovation. Legislation The first Charter School bill was introdu ced in 1992. "It sought to encourage educational innovation and make schools more receptive to the parents" and students issues and concerns through diminishing the degree of state re gulations placed upon public school systems. The bill, intro duced by Rep. John Irwin, generated substantial opposition d ue to its proposed elements. "It called for the establishmen t of a single school district" which would be recognized e xclusively for innovative public schools. Additionally, "it s tated that any school in the state could choose to leave its l ocal district to become part of the statewide innovative district instead." (Raywid, p. 556) Then, in June 1993 the Charter School law passed. The intent of charter schools in Colorado is to make in dividual schools "autonomous entities, free from the laws an d
2 of 5regulations that constrain public schools." Howeve r, under Senate Bill 93, a charter school is not a separate legal entity independent of the school district, but rath er is a public school defined uniquely by a charter and par tially autonomous while remaining within the school distri ct (Section 22-30.5-104). Colorado has authorized up to 50 Charter Schools to be created prior to July 1997. Under Colorado law, ch arter schools which target students at risk of school fai lure receive preference for approval by local school boa rds. However, rejected applicants may appeal to Colorado Board of Education, which can overturn local board decisions Upon reaching the 50 charter school limit, individuals o r groups may also enter an appeals process through the Color ado Board of Education (Beirlein & Mulholland, Feb. 1994). Enrollment in a charter school is open an d tuition free to any child who resides within the school district granting the charter, and is open to students from other dis tricts. Under Colorado law, any school must accept students from other districts. However, priority is given to ind istrict students if and when there are staff and space limi tations. Colorado law further maintains certain pr ovisions regarding accountability. Approved and operating c harter schools are held accountable to their primary const ituents (i.e. parents, teachers, and students). Similarly to other public schools, charter schools are held accountabl e to the state of Colorado with regard to performance evalua tions and outcomes. Colorado charter schools are subject to the Colorado's Standards Based Education Act, which sta tes that content standards and assessments must be developed locally. They must also meet or exceed state model standards and participate in the Colorado Student Assessment Prog ram beginning in 1996. Furthermore, a plan for evaluat ing student performance must be included in proposals a nd reports seeking renewal of charter contracts. According to finance guidelines, state an d federal funding flows from the state to the county to the d istrict and then to the charter school. Additionally, loca l funding flows from the district to the charter school. At least 80 percent of the per pupil operating revenue of the d istrict, including state and local funds, follows the studen t to the charter school. And, the actual amount of funding is subject to negotiation with the district (Colorado Senate B ill 93: Section 22-30.5-112). Arguments The arguments presented in favor of chart er schools are many. To begin, proponents of charter schools beli eve that a combination of state laws and regulations, coupled with local requirements and varied constraints, have made the public schools too homogeneous and have consistently inter fered with the intended diversity of the educational process; thus, innovative schools are necessary. Secondly, it is argued that schools should be controlled and responsible t o those immediate members of the district. Thus, with the creation of charter schools, parental, teacher, and student choices would expand and also facilitate an overall profess ional growth of teachers. Finally, this new innovation i n Colorado public schooling would be held accountable to the o utcomes specified in the respective charter contracts. Thi s, it is proposed, would greatly increase levels of academicperformance and overall emphasis on intended purpos es of specific schools in the educational system. In contrast, opponents (i.e. legislators political groups, educational organizations, residents and pa rental groups) believe that local needs are being met and their local districts are indeed innovative. They argue that charter schools violate the concept of neighborhood schools and threaten equity. In her article on two charter schools
3 of 5in Colorado, Raywid explains that "Charter Schoolsrepresented efforts to take away `our tax dollars' in order to form schools that would enjoy private status." In addition, both the Colorado Association of School B oards and the Colorado Education Association assert that they were not in opposition of the idea of charter schools, but s upported it in an acceptable format. Raywid further quotes, "CASB has tried to fashion...[a bill]...compatible with local district responsibilities and operations (557)." In effect, opponents have either staunchly opposed the creation and impl ementation of charter schools, or have been willing to evaluat e the new charter process as long as it resembles the prescri bed local district responsibilities. Charter School Results While there have been several charter sch ool proposals submitted in Colorado, recently six out of eight ha ve been turned down. According to local boards of educatio n, programs outlined have allegedly either been insuff iciently innovative; duplicate existing programs (failing to expand choice); the proposers failed to demonstrate a leve l of acceptance or demand for the program they proposed; and/or failed to include the a detailed budget outline (Ro cky Mountain News: Feb 12, 1995). Unfortunately, at this time there is no e vidence regarding the current performance and assessment of students in existing Colorado charter schools. According to Mary Anne Raywid's article, "It is to soon to tell whether ch arter schools are 'redefining the future of public educat ion,' as has been suggested, or whether they will actually b e used as 'the tool for reinventing public education,' whichColorado's Gov. Roy Romer has said they can be.(Ray wid, p. 560)" However, she also maintains an optimistic outlook l ike many other educators, parents, and educational reform groups. Charter Schools Approved and Operating In October 1994, the Colorado Department of Education established the Charter Schools Technical Assistanc e Strategy and field team which gathered a listing of Colorado Charter Schools. The fourteen currently operating are list ed along with a brief description of enrollments, grades ser ved, and program. Of the fourteen, six reflect programs for the gifted and talented. However, the remainder establ ish programs which vary in many respects from tradition al content and curriculum offering students opportunities to l earn in outside the classroom, develop their own educationa l plan, and foster their own curiosities. The following is a complete listing and s ummary of the fourteen Colorado Charter Schools: The Connect School, Pueblo County School District 70, is a grade 6-8 middle school. Its focus is on the stu dents experiences outside the traditional classroom. Henc e, it utilizes multiple community resources for learning, such as museums, parks, libraries, computer labs, and moun tain experiences. Academy Charter School, Douglas County Sc hool District, is a K-7 school with 350 students. It emphasizes h igh academic standards based on the Core Knowledge curr iculum. The school is also operated by a unique governance structure consisting of elected parents. Pueblo School for the Arts and Sciences, Pueblo 60 School District, is under the operation of the Univ ersity of Southern Colorado. It serves approximately 300 stu dents in grades K-9. It is based on the Paideia model for a cademic excellence. The EXCEL School, Durango 9-R School Dist rict, opened in
4 of 5the fall of 1994. It currently serves 120 students from grades 6-9, planning eventually to expand to grades 6-12. Under the guidance of Fort Lewis College, the schoo l emphasizes high standards, individual success in ac ademics, and learning contracts. The school also plans toserve as a professional development center in the r egion. Community of Learners, Durango 9-R School District, opened in the fall of 1994. It began with 60 stude nts in grades 6-8, but eventually hopes to expand to grade s 6-12. Its emphasis is on student-centered and self-direct ed learning, individual learning plans, and learning i n the community. Clayton Charter School, Denver Public Sc hools, is a preschool through 2nd grade program serving 88 stud ents initially, hoping to expand its service to 125 stud ents from at-risk families. The program is based on High/Sco pe curriculum, and emphasizes parent involvement and f amily social services. Community Involved Charter School, Jeffer son County, is a college preparatory K-12 school for 500 students in south Jefferson County. It supports open education, acti ve and experimental learning, self-direction and personali zed learning, and basic academics. Sci-Tech Academy, Jefferson County, is a college preparatory school in south Jefferson County. It o pened initially with 100 students in grades 6-11, but pla ns to expand to 500 students in grades K-12. The program includes a liberal arts curriculum, with a focus on science, math, and technology. Core Knowledge Charter School, Douglas Co unty School District, is an academically focused school which opened with 165 students in grades K-6. Its curriculum is based on Core Knowledge principles and a second language. I t is also sharing varied resources with the Academy Charter S chool. Academy of Charter Schools, Adams 12 Fiv e Star District, is a school which plans to offer classes from K-12 to 300 students located on various campuses. *The Core Knowledge (E.D. Hirsch) model is used for K-6 grade s. Jefferson Academy, Jefferson County R-1, is located in north Jefferson County. It serves approximately 19 0 students in grades K-6. Its program emphasizes fundamental academic education using the Core Knowledge curriculum. Eagle County Charter Academy, Eagle Count y School District, serves 64 students in grades 5-7. Its pr ogram is based on a trimester, block scheduling system, with small class ratios (16:1). It emphasizes academic standa rds and assessment while fostering self-confidence, indepen dence, critical thinking, independent study and active, ex periential learning. Stargate School, Adams 12 Five Star Schoo l District, began with approximately 125 students in grades 1-5 eventually hoping to expand service to students fro m ages 318. It is based on the notion that gifted students are frequently at-risk from under-service in their conv entional setting. Thus, the school offers multi-age classes and programs that are interdisciplinary, flexible,individualized, competency-based and incorporate of f-campus opportunities. Also, each student has their own pe rsonalized learning experience and plan.
5 of 5 Battle Rock Charter School, Montezuma-Co rtez School District, is a very small school serving 32 student s at the elementary level. It was established to create andmaintain innovation in a very small, isolated commu nity. Conclusion From alternative programs to charter scho ols, Colorado has proven itself as a very reform-minded and inno vative state. With the implementation of charter school l egislation to the actual operation of fourteen charter schools there has become a rippling effect throughout the state. Many educators, parents and educational groups remain en thusiastic and optimistic with ColoradoUs efforts to innovate, despite several currently rejected charter school proposals Issues of funding still pose problems and concerns for all those involved in the evolving process. Though it is to early to examine the results, charter schools seem to have f ound legitimacy and permanence in Colorado. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Colorado, click Here
1 of 2 CONNECTICUTPhaedon Sinis & Kelly RodaLegislative History Connecticut's bill proposing charter school s is currently under consideration in the state Senate. Two previous charter school bills, introduced in 1992 a nd 1993, were defeated in the legislature because of high op position to school choice. This year, SB 209 brought up vou chers as a possibility for educational reform. There appears to be a lot of opposition to this bill and perhaps SB 309 o n charter schools is a response to this opposition. Educatio nal reform has been a focus in the past few years in Connectic ut. The two major concerns lately have been the racial imba lance in school districts and disproportionate funding. Charter schools have spurred an on-going de bate in Connecticut. A main concern of the unions is tha t under the charter bill teachers may be "exploited" becau se there will be no standard pay and no union requirements. A more widespread concern is that home schools could be se t up with public funding under the guise of "charter schools. A third concern is that it is difficult to accurately assess charter schools. Rebuttals to these concerns revol ve around the fact that such schools are voluntary and that c harter schools will have to attract their students to cont inue operating. One state representative believes the "crea ming effect," which pulls the best and brightest students and tea chers from traditional public schools, should be a considerati on. He worries that money and high-achieving students will be pulled out of public schools, and that reforms should take place within the existing system. According to proponen ts, this has yet to happen in other states, and most likely will not occur in Connecticut. Proponents of the bill have many reasons to support it. One state senator argues that it will offer childre n, parents, and teachers more choice. The chairman o f the State Board of Education believes that charter scho ols will foster creativity and more efficient allocation of funds. Another reason mentioned in favor of charter school s is that they will help break up the public school monopoly, make all schools more efficient, and empower parents. Respo nding to concerns surrounding accountability, supporters of the bill have suggested a variety of possible techniques for assessing education. Supporters maintain that the charter scho ol bill, rather than exploiting teachers, gives schools the freedom to allow teachers to set their own salaries, giving th em a greater degree of professional authority while brin ging them into cooperation with the school management instead of in conflict, as teachers often are under union agreeme nts. Contents of the Bill The proposed Connecticut bill will allow an y person, association, non-profit organization, for-profit co rporation, public or independent institution of higher educati on, local or regional board of education, or regional educati onal service center to apply to the commissioner of educ ation to create a charter school. All schools established u nder this legislation must be public. Two charter schools ar e allowed in each district with up to 20 charter schools in t he entire state for the next two years. Applicants must prov ide a variety of information in their application such as their mission, purpose, procedures for governing the scho ol, the
2 of 2financial package, admissions criteria and so on. Within sixty days of submitting an application to the comm issioner, a copy of the application will be filed with the lo cal or regional board of education of the school district. Within thirty days of receiving the application from the commissioner, the local or regional board of educat ion will make a recommendation to approve or reject the char ter. If approval is recommended, a public hearing takes pla ce. If it is not rejected by over two-thirds of the state boa rd of education after the hearing, the charter school is approved. If the local or regional board of education recomme nds rejecting the charter, after the hearing has taken place, two-thirds of the state board of education must sup port the charter for it to be approved. Each charter school is granted a 5-year con tract that may be renewed by reapplying. The governing counci l of each school must submit a report each year on how the sc hool is meeting the standards enumerated in the original ch arter. Charter schools will receive 80% of the per-pupil c ost of education in each district for each student who enr olls. Teachers in charter schools are not required to be certified. The districts in which the charter schools reside a re responsible for providing transportation services t o the schools.Conclusions & Future Prospects While other Connecticut bills proposing cha rter schools have failed, this bill appears likely to pass. The re is currently strong support for charter schools among Connecticut's voters. But for the bill to pass, so me adjustments will probably have to be made in order to satisfy less radical reformers, such as requiring teacher certification. Other states have already set up ch arter schools that have been fairly successful and Connec ticut will probably follow suit. Whether or not these charter schools will fulfill all of the expectations placed upon th em by proponents of the bill remains to be seen.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Connecticut click Here
1 of 2 FLORIDAAllison PadavanLegislative HistoryIn the Florida legislature some common fears were e choed in a two day debate over the issue of school choice. Th e hope of proponents was a quality education for the children of the state. Critics feared a variety of consequences: on e concern was that minority students from families uninformed about such choices may be left out, coupled with the so c alled "creaming effect." Individual members of both houses expressed concern s about returning to segregation and their displeasure with the possibilities that school vouchers might follow the establishment of charter schools. Several black le gislators charged that charter schools would not only lead to segregation but "set up a system for the affluent ( The Miami Herald, 4/21/94)."The Governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles, supports th e legislation and, working very closely with his Educ ation Commissioner Frank Brogan, countered the opposition 's claims by stating that charter schools would benefit minor ities in poorer neighborhoods. They were able to form a coa lition of support including five black lawmakers in both hou ses. The original bill did not include money for transpo rtation, which would be detrimental to poor children since g etting to school would be more difficult for their parents to afford. This concern was resolved by a compromise that re quired that sixty percent of transportation costs must be provided by local school districts (The Miami Herald 4/21/94 ). Concerns relevant to the original legislation inclu ded: how charter school applications would be appealed to th e State Education Department if turned down by local school boards; how many charter schools a given school district co uld have; how the charter schools would be governed and the i ssue of religious affiliation.Salient points of the bill As of this point in time there appears to b e agreement that religious organizations will not be able to ru n charter schools. As of the recess on May 13 the houses rea ched an agreement on the number of charter schools per dist rict: districts with 50,000 or more are allowed five scho ols, those with fewer than 20,000 are allowed only two s chools. Agreement on the appeal process was also reached: if a local school district turns down an application for a cha rter school, the applicant may appeal to the State Board of Education. Further discussion of the bill and the final vote will resume in next year's session. POINTS FROM THE BILL: FORMATION Charter schools may be formed either: (a) By creating a new school. A proposal f or a new charter school may be made by an individual, teache rs, parents, a group of individuals, a for-profit corpo ration, or a non profit corporation. (b)By converting an existing school to char ter status. In the case of an existing public school, the propo sers shall be the principal, teachers, and/or parents at the s chool. SPONSORS a) The organizers of a charter school may a pply to, and
2 of 2the school may be sponsored by, any of the followin g: 1. The district school board 2. The State Board of Education 3. The Board of Regents b) The district school board shall have the first right of refusal. Within 60 days a decision to deny or a ccept the charter application shall be made. The entity appl ying for the charter may then apply sponsors If a distri ct school board denies a charter, the school board sh all provide a written description of the reasons for th e denial to the applicant. The applicant must include this document any following application made to alternate sponso rs. c) The sponsor shall accept the responsibil ity to monitor the flow of cash and disbursements to the charte r school NUMBER OF SCHOOLS d) Up to three charter schools in districts with 50,000 or more students No more than one school in districts with fewer than 50,000 studentsConclusions The legislation will pass a form of the cha rter school bill in the upcoming session. Encouragement from legislators, such as Governor Chiles, may have an i mpact on seeing that as many charter schools are formed as p ossible benefit poor students a choice, where previously no ne existed. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Florida click Here
1 of 3 GEORGIANeal Dickert Jr.Background Information Georgia enacted its first piece of charter school legislation in 1993. Governor Zel Miller (D) propo sed and rallied support for the bill, which eventually pass ed the state House of Representatives by a vote of 171-3. Apparently, the most vocal opposition to the bill c ame from freshman Republicans in the House of Representative s who, thinking that Miller's plan stopped short of adequa te reform, "wanted to expand parental involvement in school de cisions to seek waivers and develop new programs" (Cumming, At lanta Journal and Constitution, C4, 3/11/93). It would s eem that these opponents to the bill assumed that Miller's b ill was at least a step in the right direction, so they ended up voting for the bill. On March 14, 1995, the Miller-backed Amendment 19 passed through the House. This proposal amended the law so as to lessen the number of votes required from t wo-thirds to a majority in the areas of charter school nullif ication, charter renewal, and charter update (Amendment 19). Miller was also able to achieve his goal of granting $5,00 0 to charter schools in the planning process (Bierlein a nd Mulholland, April, 1995). Other current initiative s to reform Georgia's legislation include the plans of R ep. Kathy Ashe (R), Sen. Sallie Newbill (R), and Rep. Charlie Smith (R). These plans call for the elimination of the p ublic school requirement, and Ashe's bill calls for the a warding of $100,000 planning grants for charter applicants (Cumming, AJ&C, C4, 3/11/95 and Cumming, AJ&C, C3, 2/11/95). These primarily Republican reform efforts will most likel y be introduced during the next session. Opponents of t he suggested reforms include the Georgia Association o f Education, a group which fears that the plan may di vert money from the public schools and put it into elitist sch ools' hands. Another significant group typically opposin g charter schools in general is the religious right, who do not want the schools to have more freedom and thus possibly implement more religiously offensive programs. Legislation Georgia's law remains one of the most restr ictive of all states. Although it sets no limit to the number of charter schools allowed within either the state or the dist rict, it requires, most importantly, that only existing publ ic schools can convert to charter school status and does not a llow for open enrollment. Georgia grants up to five years a s the term of charters before they must be reviewed and renewe d. Quite significantly, however, the law contains "a mechanism for declaring the charter null and voi d if a majority of the faculty, and instructional staff of the school, and parents present at a meeting called for the purpose of deciding whether to declare the charter null and void request the state board to withdraw the charte r or if, at any time, in the opinion of the state board, the school enjoying charter school status fails to fulfill the terms of the charter" (GA Code Ann. ¤20-2-255, (f),1) It is important, though probably obvious, to note t hat Georgia charter schools are not legally autonomous. They are in fact highly subject to local board control, alth ough they must also be subject to the state board. The appli cation process for Georgia stipulates that a majority of t he faculty, staff, and parents be in favor of having i t. in order to submit a proposal to the local board. The n, with the local board as sponsor, the applicant presents its
2 of 3proposal to the state board, and then it proceeds t o the state board for final approval. The legislation do es include the opportunity to resubmit an application to the s tate board and give state aid to making the charter acceptable Finally, in terms of funding, the amount of funding that a school is to receive is a part of the charter agree ment. Results of Law To this date, Georgia has no active charter schools, although there are schools in the application proce ss. Addison Elementary, a average-size school in a midd leincome section of Cobb County became the first appl icant when over ninety percent of faculty, staff, and par ents voted to apply for charter school status (Wisniewski, AJ& C, B5, 6/27/94). The school is in the state board approva l process at the moment. If awarded, Addison's charter will allow for a more child-centered approach (Cumming, AJ&C, C1, 2/11/95) by lessening restrictions on when the school must a dminister assessment tests, on funding for children learning at a slower rate, and on staff development planning (Col eman, AJ&C, G1, 3/16/95). Currently, there are two other schools in the process of applying to their local boards for c harter status (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995).Conclusion The current Georgia legislation provides so me interesting insight into what sort of charter schoo l legislation is possible and what sort of legislatio n is effective. In short, it is important to note that Georgia's law ignores the common argument for charter schools for the purpose of establishing school choice and competiti on. Rather, like that of New Mexico, it seems that Geor gia's law exists to facilitate, within the system, the lessen ing of certain restrictions in order to promote the improv ement of the educational system as it is. It in no way prov ides for any sort of radical restructuring of the system, as it maintains, above all, the public school requirement and does not provide for open enrollment. However, bec ause the application process is so extensive, the law does n ot seem to be very user-friendly. The notion that the charter can be repealed at any time also would represent a very th reatening prospect to prospective applicants as well. As a r esult of these restrictions, very few schools have applied f or charter status. Thus, Georgia's legislation was never inte nded to be, and could never be without significant change, an impetus to inspire the typical vision of a charter school s ystem in which there are smaller, highly focused and innovat ive schools which encourage competition among schools f or students. However, it seems that the law contains too many restrictions even to accomplish its minimal purpose of lessening bureaucratic red tape in specific cases. There is one more important possible critic ism to Georgia's law that merits mention. Charter schools are frequently criticized for possibly facilitating a creaming" process of separating the elite students (often wea lthy) from the poor students (frequently ethnic minorities and lower socioeconomic groups) by making the public schools dumping grounds for the difficult to educate. The validity of this argument is questionable, but the notion that chart er schools may imply a sort of elitism is a frequent and impor tant objection to the idea of charter schools. However, while these criticisms normally apply to schools with muc h more autonomous laws than Georgia, there may still be th e possibility of elitism inherent in Georgia's law. It is in some ways an elitism that already exists due to sch ools' reliance on the local economy for funding. It could occur that only wealthier, already efficient schools will be able to take the initiative and garner the support (part icularly parental) necessary to achieve charter status. In this respect, it would seem that this law may allow for the "already good" to get better and ignore the "bad," less
3 of 3economically advantaged, schools which already seem to be the most problematic. This argument is supported by the fact that Addison Elementary, the sole applicant to date, ser ves a middle class constituency and was not a blatently i nefficient institution before the charter (assuming the charte r passes). It simply seems that, by keeping the "system" exact ly as it is and leaving all reform completely internal, Geor gia may ignore the schools that really need improvement. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Georgia click Here
1 of 1 HAWAIINeal Dickert Jr.Background Information The state legislature of Hawaii passed its current charter school law during 1994. In addition, info rmation has been sparse both as to which groups supported a nd opposed the legislation and as to any other schools that ha ve considered submitting applications to obtain charte rs. Legislation Hawaii's law represents one of the more res trictive examples of charter school legislation in the Unite d States. First, Hawaii will only grant charters to existing public schools. Second, Hawaii limits the possible number of charter schools to twenty-five (It is important to note, ho wever, that Hawaii has but one school district and that tw enty-five schools in Hawaii produces a relatively high ratio of charter schools to total schools.). One very interesting a spect of the Hawaiian legislation is its application process Once a proposal has gained the support of three-fifths of the faculty, staff, support employees, and parents, the charter receives automatic approval from the state board of education, except in cases where the state board se es conflicts between the proposed program and statewid e standards. Amendments to charter applications can be made by local school boards, and charters are essentially g uaranteed for four years given no violations of statewide req uirements. Finally, whether the schools will be legally autono mous entities is currently under review by the office of the attorney general.Results of Law As of April 1995, one proposal has been ent ered, and that school, Waialae Elementary, became a charter s chool within 30 days after the application was submitted. It is unclear from research what sort of changes or innov ations are part of Waialae's charter.Conclusions Hawaii often terms its charter schools 'st udentcentered institutions. Thus, it seems that the p urpose of the law is to lessen regulation within the public s chool system in order to promote more innovative techniqu es within the current educational framework, specifically wit hin individual schools, as opposed to inspiring systemwide competition. It is unclear if Hawaii allows for op en enrollment. If not, the competition and school cho ice motive would not be a factor at all in Hawaii's charter sc hools. Though it is speculation, as information has been u navailable as to what sort of school Waialae is, it would seem that the result of the Hawaiian legislation will not be any sort of radical restructuring of schools. Instead, the law seems to serve as an institutional measure to allow for the elimination of bureaucratic regulations in specific instances (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995 and GAO Repor t, 1995).For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Hawaii click Here
1 of 1 IDAHOLori Shyavitz & Lester Eggleston Jr.Background Information:Although the Idaho Charter School bill passed unani mously in the House Education Committee, it failed to gather a majority vote in the Senate Education Committee (Fadness, M ar. 21, 1995; Pg. A9). The bill proposed by Rep. Fred Til lman RBoise allowed for the establishment of charter scho ols by teachers, parents, or businesses. State aid would not be meted to either religiously affiliated or private s chools. Charter schools would accept their students through open enrollment. Charters are accepted by the local sch ool board and can be revoked by the state or local school boa rd. The drawback is the lack of start-up costs (Wickline, Feb. 1, 1995, p. 2C). The bill had bipartisan support and opposition. The Idaho PTA opposed the bill. The f ollowing are issues influencing the supporting and opposing groups. Legislation:Choice: Opponents fear the sponsors will profit off the schools. Nick Hallett, former Meridian superintendent, "If p eople make money and kids get an education and the customer is satisfied I don't see a problem with that. In the end, the c ustomer will make good choices." (Vogt, Nov. 12, 1993, p. 2 C). Charter schools empower the parent, the group who ( ideally) knows the most about their own child. Willie Sulli van, a candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994, questioned the necessity of charter schools if pare nts were empowered with the ability to choose within the pub lic school system. Charter schools are viewed as a means to i ncrease local control in education (Stuebner, Feb. 20, 199 5, p. A7). Elitism: Charter schools, by appealing to the most t alented students, will leave "less motivated students behin d. Yet, Tillman's counter argument cited existing charter s chools in Minnesota and New York where both ends of the spect rum were represented. Opponents of the bill believe that "T he state's duty is to provide a thorough education for all stu dents, not grant special privileges to some" (Jacobs, Dec. 15 1994, p.1C).Opponents: Senator Gary Schroeder-R, a member of the S enate Education Committee and a staunch opponent of Idaho 's charter bill, is fearful that charter schools will attract such extremists as Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations. He sees no safeguards in the charter school proposal which would prevent the formation of such white supremacist sch ools. He comments that "If we have a plan to make schools be tter, let's make them all better. I'm going to fight tak ing part of (state) money to make exclusive schools." (Jacob s, Dec. 15, 1994, p.1). Schroeder also claims that the inc rease in charter school support is pushed by advocates of ho me schooling. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Idaho click Here
1 of 2 Illinois Lori Shyavitz & Lester Eggleston Jr.Background InformationA charter school bill was passed in the Senate last year but did not pass in the Democratic controlled House of Representatives. Unions (specifically the Chicago Teachers Union) do not like the idea of schools being excuse d from standard regulations. The Illinois Federation of T eachers is a significant financial supporter of the Democratic Party in Illinois. Therefore, it was not unusual for the De mocratic Party to be in opposition to this bill. No further action has been taken regarding this bill in recent months Legislation: Public school is accountable to its spons or operated in a nonsectarian, non religious non-homebased manner subject to statutory and constitutional p rohibitions against discrimination. prohibited form charging tuition administered by a governing body in a man ner provided by the charter(U.S. Department of Education, Policy Briefs; Repor t 2, 1994.)Supporters: Republicans This party believes in the id ea of a "less intrusive government." However, school reform will be mandated once again by the state officials (St. Lou is PostDispatch. Jan. 30, 1995). Illinois PTA see charter schools as an opportunity for change within the present public school structu re. However, they are not viewed as realistic solutions to school problems dealing with the quality of education in I llinois or to school funding issues. In their statement, the PTA outlines their expectations of any charter schools that are created in Illinois (NCREL Mar. 3, 1995).Click Here for a copy of the PTA report. Illinois Education Association agreed to support the proposal for forty-five pilot charter schools afte r Republicans added certain concessions to the bill. These included protection of teachers' jobs and input int o how the schools would operate. (See opposed) (Chicago Tribu ne. Feb. 16, 1995). Governor Jim Edgarproposed charter schoo l legislation to create at least twelve charter schools in the st ate of Illinois (NCREL : Mar. 3, 1995).Click Here for a copy of Edgar's proposal. Republican-controlled Illinois Senate App roved legislation creating forty-five experimental charte r schools. They were to be divided equally throughout the stat e. "It's an opportunity to do something different, an altern ative to what we refer to as 'public education, "' said Sen. Patrick
2 of 2O'Malley, R-Palos Park sponsor of the legislation.(Gannett News Service: Apr. 21, 1994) Opponents: Chicago Teachers Union an affiliate of th e Illinois Federation of Teachers, remains opposed to the idea of charter schools being excused from state laws gover ning all public schools. There is a question as to how the Illinois Education Association and the House Republican lea ders reached an agreement and switched sides so quickly. (Chicago Tribune, Feb. 16, 1995). Democrats The main reason this party oppo sed the reforms for many years was because they received fi nancial and campaign support from the Illinois Federation o f Teachers. Democrat-controlled Illinois House Rep. J oel Brunsvold, D-Milan, opposed Hoeft's amendment, sayi ng there is no proven need for charter schools. Rep. Barbar a Flynn Currie, D-Chicago believes that charter schools "ha ve no proven track record." She suggests that the state should provide waivers of strictly enforced school laws to help individual schools deal with specific problems (The State Journal-Register(Springfield, IL). Apr. 28, 1994, p 3). Private Citizens Some citizens of Illinoi s fear that the new charter school bill would not serve in the best interest of the children as it is currently written Others believe that the law would open the way for private school vouchers and other attacks on the private school sy stem. There is a concern about granting charters to priva te-profit making corporations. There is also concern about a llowing charter schools to choose students selectively. Fi nally, it is feared that charter schools will be funded by th e same system that currently distributes educational fundi ng unequally throughout the state. (Chicago Tribune. J an. 23, 1995)For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Illinois click Here
1 of 1 Indiana Lori Shyavitz & Lester Eggleston Jr.Background Information:The Indiana Charter School bill failed to gain a ma jority vote in the General Assembly on April 29, 1995 (Lab alme, Apr. 30, 1995, p. B4). Charter schools were champi oned by conservatives. The bill was composed by Sen. Morri s Mills RIndianapolis. In the bill, charter schools could b e created by teachers, community leaders, or an independent g roup (such as a corporation) (Shankle, Indianapolis Business J ournal. 15:51, p. 5). Opponents to the bill were teachers unions, because it limited collective bargaining, and many Democrats (who received support from these strong unions). Some opponents to the bill, such as the Ind ianapolis Education Association, see it as a decrease in the quality of education due to the fact that "teachers [would be] replaced by less-qualified interns" (Shankle, Indianapolis Business Journal. 15:51 p. 5). Opponents also state that charter schools w ill become private schools that are publicly funded. There wa s no mechanism to fund their implementation. Although t eachers opposed the bill that failed in the General Assembl y, they are not opposed to the concept of charter schools. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Indiana click Here
1 of 1 KANSASCandace CrawfordLegislative HistoryKansas passed their charter school law in April of 1994. Summary of Legislation The law limits the number of schools to 15 statewide and each district can have no more than 2 charters oper ating. Any group may apply for a charter including educati onal contractors and parents. In order to apply, a grou p must submit a petition to the local school board of the district in which they want to locate their school. Once th e local board approves the charter, it is sent to the state board of education who reviews the charter for parts not in compliance with federal and state laws and regulations. If th e charter passes the review, the state board of education app roves the establishment of the charter school. The charter school may then apply for a waiver from local school distr ict regulations and state regulations. The waiver must first be approved by the local school board, then it may req uest on behalf of the charter school a waiver from state bo ard regulations. However, the school is still legally an entity of the local school district. Results of The Law No charter schools exist in the state of Ka nsas. One application had been approved by a local school boa rd but the state board declared it incomplete.Conclusion Kansas's charter school law is just over a year old. There has not been enough time to notice any effect of the law. There are a few things that could be added to the law to strengthen it and make it more conducive to the establishment of charter schools. First, the legis lators of the state could lift the cap on the amount of chart er schools that can exist. Second, the law could be amended t o provide an appeals process for charters rejected by the loc al school board. These amendments would greatly strengthen K ansas's law and encourage groups to apply for charters.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Kansas click Here
1 of 2 LOUISIANALisa Studness & Valerie WrenholtBackground Information In 1995, a charter school bill was presente d to the Louisiana legislature. Senate Bill 1305 allowed f or the establishment of "quasi-public schools that receive some public funds but are not bound by traditional publi c schools rules and regulations (Redman, The Advocate, Apr. 2 1, '95). The Council For A Better Louisiana encouraged the L egislature to pass the bill after a report by the group conclu ded that the current Louisiana public school system was "out dated and requires significant restructuring" (Meyers, Sunday Advocate, Apr. 16, '95). This sentiment was felt throughout Louisiana by proponents of the bill. Proponents of charter schools, including th e Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Associ ated Professional Educators of Louisiana, believe that t hrough the creation of charter schools competition will be bro ught into the educational arena. Students would benefit from this increased competition because poor quality schools could not survive in a competitive market. Also, because mor e choices would be available, charter schools would have to o ffer innovative curriculums which focus on student perfo rmance and achievement in order to attract interest from paren ts. These innovations might enhance Louisiana's traditional p ublic school system. Opponents of charter schools claim that cha rter schools are a step toward a voucher system in Louisiana. A voucher system is opposed by many because they perceive it as a way that public funds could be spent by parents to pay tuition at private schools. State Sen. Larry Bankston, a prop onent of charter school legislation countered this concern w hen he said, "This (charter school legislation) is not the first step to vouchers. This is the last defense against them" (Redman, The Advocate, Apr. 21, '95). Another concern of charter school opponents is that charter schools in Louisiana would "skim" the bette r students from the public schools leaving the public system w ith students more difficult to educate. This would the n make the charter schools look better. Louann Bierleirn, who prepared the Council For A Better Louisiana report, said, "' They (charter schools) can't pick and choose kids'" (Red man, The Advocate, Apr. 21, '95). Although this may be true nothing up to date has been included in the bill which will expressly promote charter schools set up to target students w ho are at risk of failing or dropping out. However, charter schools would be subject to all established state regulatio ns on desegregation, including enrolling low income stude nts in the same percentage as local public schools.Legislation A state Senate committee in Louisiana appro ved Senate Bill 1305, a charter school bill, on April 20, 1995 The bill must now go to the full Senate for considerati on. The current bill would allow for up to eight charter sc hools to begin operating in the state. The legislation allo ws for local control, but there will still be many state restrictions in place. Local boards would be able to approve five year charters. Groups seeking charters must i nclude at least three people holding Louisiana teaching certi ficates. These groups could include a group of three or more teachers, a group of ten or more citizens, a non-profit, publ ic service
2 of 2organization, a business, or a Louisiana college. Public schools could also transform into charter schools w ith the approval of two thirds of the faculty and two third s of the parents present at a public meeting. Charter schoo ls would be evaluated periodically in order to determine whe ther they are in fact providing quality education. After sat isfactory assessment these charter applications could then be renewed for five more years. Under the legislation charter schools would still be accountable under many state regulations. The char ter schools would have to periodically assess student p erformance through standardized tests and other statistical in formation. Statewide minimum graduation requirements would sti ll be required. General health and safety codes must be maintained. All laws for open meetings and open re cords would also be required. Per student funding would be equal to the average per pupil expenditure of the local d istrict. Charter schools could also solicit funds from other sources including grants and loans. At least seventy-five percent of the teachers in charter schools must be state certi fied. Conclusion The legislation in Louisiana was approved b y the Senate Education Committee and will likely be passed by th e full Senate. The bill is comprehensive and adequately a ddresses the concerns of many interest groups. The bill enc ourages innovation by charters schools, but a complete sepa ration from the Louisiana public school system is impossib le because of the restrictions that have not been lifted from the charter schools. If the eight charter schools init ially established work well, many more charter schools ma y be integrated into the Louisiana's public school syste m.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Louisiana click Here
1 of 10 MASSACHUSETTSLori Shyavitz & Lester Eggleston Jr.Background Information The 1993 Education Reform Act signed into l aw by Governor William Weld-R, provided sweeping changes to the Massachusetts educational system. For example, ten ure has been eliminated, teachers need to be recertified ev ery few years, and the formation of charter schools has bee n approved. The act was proposed by the Joint Commit tee on Educational Arts & Humanities as a result of public demand to do something about the decay of public schools. St eve Wilson was appointed by Governor Weld to help draft the ch arter schools legislation. (National Public Radio, Oct. 2 5, 1993, Transcript #1281-9). Since it's inception there ha ve been sixty-seven proposals for charter school submitted for approval. Seventeen are scheduled to open in Septe mber of 1995. (Palumbo, Mar. 15, 1994, p. 39).Funding: Senate President William Bulger is calling for the state to allocate funds to prevent the impoverishment of the remaining schools in the public school district. T he prevailing view is that since charter schools are u nder state control, the state should be responsible for their funding. Four options have been presented by legislators. T hree of them call for the direct state funding of charter s chools. The fourth uses the school choice funding formula. This plan reimburses communities who lose students to other d istricts seventy-five percent of the money lost in the first year, fifty percent in the second year, and twenty-five p ercent in the third year (Athans, Mar. 8, 1995, p. 23). As t he members of the Massachusetts legislative committee proposed shifting the responsibility of funding charter schools to th e state, House Ways and Means Chairman, Thomas Finneran stat ed that "no additional funds were available to charter scho ols" (Wong, Mar. 29, 1995). Recently, the House Ways and Means Committ ee recommended that $8 million dollars should be alloc ated to the communities containing charter schools to help defray their costs for the upcoming year. This would help allay the fears that charter schools would take money out of the public school system. Groups opposed to charter schools, such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association, have also r eacted positively to the committee's proposal. President Robert Murphy stated, "Clearly it is good in the sense it should reduce the harm to public schools. . It appears [the funding] is separate from the education reform mone y" (Wong, May 9, 1995, pp. 1, 26). Public school programs, s uch as new kindergarten classes, are still in danger of being cut due to the lack of complete funding for charter schools at the state level. Local districts must fund charter schools. The praise given to the House Ways and Mean s Committee's proposal to assist in providing funds to charter sc hools by their opponents (such as teachers unions) may be sh ort-lived. One day after the House publicized its plan, the Se nate Ways and Means Committee recommended that money original ly designated for statewide educational reform should be used to support charter schools. The Massachusetts teacher s unions (who are opposed to this concept) have argued that "the [funds created in the 1993 Education Reform Act] we re chiefly designed to boost public education statewide" (Wong May 10, 1995, p. 34) and that the loss of this money would result in
2 of 10cutbacks in existing programs. The gap between the quality of a traditiona l public school education and a charter school education may expand tremendously in impoverished communities. In Bosto n, for example, the per pupil expenditure is normally $585 1. Students enrolled in charter schools will receive $ 7013. Therefore, these students may be able to receive mo re educational benefits. "The losers will be students whose 'regular' schools have no libraries, guidance couns elors or algebra courses" (The Boston Globe, March 16, 1995, p. 35). Innovation: Proponents of charter schools view them as entities that encourage innovation in a public school system that does not allow for "big, substantive changes" (Aucoin and Wo ng, Mar. 26, 1995, p. 1). Charter schools are "laboratories of change" which may implement more challenging curric ula, smaller class size (and, therefore, individualize instruction), longer school days, greater parental involvement, and integrative learning (Aucoin and W ong, Mar. 26, 1995, p. 1). For example, families with elemen tary school-aged students enrolled in the Boston Renaiss ance Charter School will be given a home computer. Char ter schools can "encourage experimentation, strengthen accountability and weaken bureaucratic abuses and g ridlock associated with top heavy administrations and teach er unions" ( Providence Journal-Bulletin, April 18, 1995, p. 8 A). Such reform has been minimal in the current system due t o the volume and the extent that regulations rule public education in Massachusetts. State Education Secretary, Piedad Robertson claims charter schools will "energize public schools" (Auc oin and Wong, Mar. 26, 1995, p. 30). Due to the success of students (such as higher test scores) which is assumed to oc cur after the implementation of their innovative programs, ch arter schools will become the model for improvement throu ghout public schools. Segregation Effect: Opponents to charter schools fear that thei r introduction will benefit the most motivated studen ts and parents and students in the upper tracks. The "har d to educate" children will be left behind. However, sc hools have been formed to educate "at risk" kids such as high school dropouts or potential dropouts (the Lowell Middlese x Academy Charter School), and for homeless youths and wards of the state (Boston University Charter School at Fort Dev ens). Similarly, opponents claim that wealthy stu dents will be the group that is best served from their creation. However, students from affluent families are not able to cir cumvent the enrollment system in that according to Massachu setts's charter school law, lotteries must be held if the n umber of applicants exceeds the number of slots for a school (Taylor, Mar. 26, 1995, Northwest Weekly p. 1). This is see n in the Community Day Charter School in Lawrence, where the students in grades K-6 were chosen through a lottery with th ose children living in the charter school's community g etting priority. Also, ethnocentrism may become a problem fo r charter schools. For example, the Academy of the Pacific R im, which was supported by Boston's Asian community, will foc us on Asian languages and culture. In a city with a hist ory of fragile inter-ethnic relations, this may create fur ther rifts between the members of Boston's Asian population an d other ethnicities.Ignoring Reform in the Public School: Opponents to charter schools warn that they are not the cure-all to American public education. The Preside nt of the
3 of 10American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker sta ted in a gathering at Harvard University's Graduate School o f Education "more energy is going into creating those alternatives than into making fundamental improveme nts in existing public schools where a majority of school children are and will be enrolled" (Hart, Apr. 2, 1995, p. A33). Currently, the charter schools can only serve less than one percent of the state's school population (Gannett N ews Service, Apr. 4, 1995).Supporters: Governor William Weld-R. Steve Wilson Special Assistant to Governo r Weld. He helped to draft the charter schools legislation. Martin Kaplan (Democratic Chair of the Ed ucation Committee) Robert V. Antonucci Commissioner of Educa tion Representative Mark Roosevelt (D Beacon H ill) Chief sponsor in the House of Representat ives. Senator Thomas Birmingham (D Chelsea) Chief sponsor in the Senate. "When viewed in it's totali ty, I think that it is simply incontrovertible that this bil l represents an historic and giant step forward for educati on in this commonwealth." (National Public Radio, Oct. 25, 1993, Transcript #1281-9).Opponents: Massachusetts League of Women VotersDoes n't believe that one person (Secretary of Education), should ha ve sole power over which charter school applications are ac cepted. (National Public Radio, Oct. 25, 1993, Transcript # 1281-9). Massachusetts Municipal Association Finan cial ComponentsSenate President William Bulger, are ca lling for the state to allocate funds to prevent the impoveri shment of the remaining schools in the public school district The prevailing view is that since charter schools are u nder state control, the state should be responsible for their funding. Massachusetts Federation of Teachers Education Association of Worcester Massachusetts Association of School Committ ees Court Case: One example of the legal battles go ing on between opposing sides is the proposed suit to be filed by the law office of Carl D. Goodman. They are in pursuit of preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting t he use of tax dollars for the funding of charter schools. The y propose that General Legislation chapter 71, section 89 is invalid on the basis that: (1) the statute does not pr ovide for the establishment of public schools, but the establishm ent of private schools which are funded by public funds. This is in violation of the Anti-Aid Amendment to the Massachu setts Constitution. (Mass Const. amend. art. XVIII;) (2) The Charter School law does not provide for public accountability. This is in violation of Part 1, Art. V of the Massachusetts Constitution; and (3) that the delegation of authority to approve charter school applications to the Secretar y of Education was an improper delegation of legislative authority.A memorandum is scheduled to be filed within 2-3 we eks of May 17th, 1995.
4 of 10 Click here to see a copy. Legislation The number of charter schools allowed in Ma ssachusetts is limited to 25. Charters are assigned for a peri od of five years and will not go into effect until September, 1995. Charter school students do not pay tuition. Only t hree quarters of one percent of the number of children a ttending public schools in Massachusetts can be enrolled in charter schools. Thus, 2964 is the maximum number of child ren who can attend the seventeen charter schools due to ope n in September, 1995. Finally, the formation of charter schools will not influence Proposition 2 1/2.1 These schools may be sponsored by a busines s or corporation, at least two certified teachers, or gr eater than or equal to ten parents. Although charter schools are viewed as a means to increase local control in education, school boards and parent groups are eliminated from the ch artering process in that a charter school application can on ly be approved in the Massachusetts's Executive Office of Education. The sponsors submit their application to the State Secretary of Education (Piedad Robertson) who has t he authority to approve or reject the charters. There is no appeals process. Even though charter schools are open to all students (on the basis of space availability), preference for at tendees is given to students who live in the district in which it is located. If the number of applicants exceed the nu mber of available slots, a lottery is held to select the re maining students. However, Massachusetts does give trustee s the right to set minimum academic standards for student eligibility in their charters. The students are ab le to return to their district's public school at any tim e during the school year if they are unhappy with their char ter school education. The manner in which charter schools are fun ded depends upon whether or not they are situated in communitie s containing a positive foundation gap or a not posit ive foundation gap. If there is a positive foundation gap, the district in which the student lives is required to pay the charter school the average cost per student. On th e other hand, if there is no positive foundation gap, the d istrict pays the lesser of the average cost per student in their district (if that is the location of the charter sc hool) or that of the charter school's. In Boston, the avera ge cost per student was determined by dividing the current school budget by the number of students enrolled. Funding for special needs students is the responsibility of the district in which the student lives. Although charter schools are public schools they are independent of outside control over their integral and daily operations. Thus, they do not have to comply with most state regulations (excluding those pertaining to health, safety, and anti discrimination). In addition, no private or parochial schools can submit a charter application. Similarly, locations for charter schools are restri cted to space in an existing public school, a public buildi ng, or space in a privately owned building (such as an off ice building or a mall). Thus, finding space to hold a charter school has been an obstacle of the sponsors. Teachers hired for charter schools do not m aintain their union ties (if they previously taught in a public s chool system). They are only covered as public employees in matters pertaining to collective bargaining and tor t liability. The teachers have the option of taking up to a four year leave of absence to teach in a charter sc hool. If at the end of four years they would like to continu e teaching in the charter school, they are required to resign from their
5 of 10teaching position in the traditional public school district. Teachers are not required to be certified, but each charter must specify their necessary qualifications. Charter schools are required to provide par ents or guardians of their students as well as prospective families with an annual progress report. "Students in Chart er Schools are required to meet the same performance standards testing and portfolio requirements set by the board of educ ation for students in other public schools" (Chapter 71, Sect ion 89 of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act). This report cites the schools' budget and solvency, the manner in which they have been meeting the goals stated in the char ter, and the schools' achievements. If the conditions of th e charters are not fulfilled, the school may be placed on prob ation and ultimately shut down. "If they can't deliver, we'l l shut them down." Piedad Robertson (Aucoin and Wong. The Boston Globe. Mar. 26, 1995, p. 30).Results of Law: Piedad Robertson, the Secretary of Educatio n, has approved twenty-one charter schools. (seventeen of which are scheduled to open in September, 1995). They are: 1) Boston: Academy of the Pacific Rim Chart er School 2) Boston: Boston Renaissance Charter Schoo l 3) Boston: City on the Hill Charter School 4) Boston (Dorchester): Neighborhood House Charter School 5) Boston: YouthBuild Charter School 6) Cambridge: Benjamin Banneker Charter Sch ool 7) Lower Cape Cod (Brewster): Cape Lighthou se Charter School 8) Chelmsford: Chelmsford Charter School 9) Fall River: Fall River Atlantis Charter School 10) Fort Devens (Ayer/Harvard): Boston Univ ersity Charter School 11) Fort Devens (Ayer/Harvard): Francis W. Parker Charter School 12) Franklin: Benjamin Franklin Classical C harter School 13) Hull: South Shore Charter School 14) Lawrence: Community Day Charter School 15) Lawrence: Lawrence Family Development C harter School 16) Lowell: Lowell Middlesex Academy Charte r School 17) Marblehead: Marblehead Community Charte r School 18) Martha's Vineyard: Martha's Vineyard C harter School 19) Springfield: North Star Academy Charter School 20) Springfield: Sabis International Charte r School 21) Williamsburg: Western Massachusetts Hil ltown Charter SchoolDescriptions of the first schools approved can be f ound Here Of these schools, five will specifically target "a t risk" children, and five schools will house elementary-a ge students.2 Three schools will educate various gra de levels, and two are specifically for middle schoolers.3 Fi nally, two Massachusetts schools will base their schools on s cience and the Asian culture respectively.4Conclusions: Although Massachusetts has passed charter s chool legislation giving the schools a great deal of auto nomy (charter schools are considered to be separate corp orate and political entities), questions regarding their fund ing and the limits on their creation still remain. In 1998 there will be a study and evaluation of the established c harter schools by the Department of Education. Depending upon their
6 of 10review by the general court, the laws governing the ir regulation will either become more restrictive or a llow for more independent control. Charter schools are view ed as the means to decrease state bureaucracy in education. However, charter school applications can only be approved by the State Secretary of Education. This seems to be a paradox to the supporters' attempts to decentralize the government As the first 17 schools are not scheduled to open until Se ptember, 1995, the effect of charter schools on Massachusett s's education system has yet to be determined.The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Educati on APPROVED 1994 CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICATIONSBelow is a summary of 12 charter school proposals t hat the Executive Office of Education has assessed as posse ssing the necessary criteria, in accordance with Chapter 71, 89 of the Education Reform Act of 1993, for becoming fully op erational charter schools. 1. Boston: City on a Hill Charter SchoolBasic Facts: The proposal for City on a Hill was submitted by two certified teachers, presently working in the Chelsea school system. This school intends to enroll 60-100 students, representing diverse ethnic, racial and socio-econo mic backgrounds. The school's grade levels will be 7-12 To date these two teachers have raised $59,000. A Working C abinet has been assembled to raise funds and promote the schoo l's model. Among those already committed to serving on this ca binet are: Christopher Lydon; Alden Raine (former Director, Ma ssPort); Sylvia Schoenbaum (immigration attorney); Tom Henne sey (Headmaster, Boston High School, and former New Eng land Patriot); and others.A National Advisory Board formed to promote the sch ool include: Michael Dukakis (former Governor of Massac husetts); Edwin Delattre (former President of St. John's Coll ege, current member of the National Endowment for the Hu manities, and Dean of Boston University's School of Education ); and John Stewart (Education Director of the John F. Ken nedy Library).School Focus: Civic Education emphasizing commitme nt to community service and/or work internships will be a basic component of every student's program; weekly "Town Meeting" where students and staff are encouraged to engage i n dialogue concerning school policies and direction.2. Boston: YouthBuild Charter SchoolBasic Facts YouthBuild, a non-profit Community Base d Organization located in Roxbury, provides former dr op-outs and disenfranchised youth with academic and vocatio nal skills. YouthBuild offers a full-time academic prog ram combined witha vocational construction component which includes, renovating abandoned buildings as housing for homel ess families. Students are also exposed to computer tec hnology, particularly business and construction software, ma king YouthBuild's job placement highly successful. In th e class of 1993, 80% of YouthBuild graduate qualified for job placement, and 100% of them were placed in jobs averaging $10/ hour. With a 70% retention rate and on-third of its graduates going on to higher education, YouthBuild has generated exten sive local and national attention.Grade Levels YouthBuild's students will not be plac ed in traditional grade levels, instead they will be in c ompetencybased groups. Individual Education Plans track the academic and vocational progress of each student.
7 of 103. Boston: Boston Renaissance Charter SchoolBasic Facts In a partnership between the Horace Man n Foundation and the Edison Project, the Boston Renai ssance Charter School intends to implement its ambitious s chool design which is the result of 18 months of research and development grounded in original educational innova tions. The school will be located in Boston's South End, servi ng a racially, ethnically, and socio-economically divers e student population.Every student will have a computer in his or her ho me, allowing content interaction between teachers, stud ents, and parents. The school will be open for 12 hours per d ay, with a 7-8 hour academic day, for 210 days of instruction (30 days longer than the mandated minimum). Among the school 's objectives are: teaching all students a second lang uage; ensuring computer and technological literacy; encou raging heavy parental activity and involvement; strengthen ing character and values in all students.The school intends to open in August 1995 with an a nticipated first year enrollment of 700, growing to 1,100 over a period of 6 years. Beginning with grades K-6, the school w ill evolve into a full K-12 operation.4. Boston: Neighborhood House Charter SchoolBasic Facts: The applicant, Federated Dorchester Ne ighborhood Houses, Inc. (FDNH), intends to establish a K-8 sch ool with an enrollment of 135 at-risk students (drop-outs, c ourt or DYS involved students with histories of academic, e motional and behavioral problems). The FDNH's charter school The Neighborhood House Charter School, will operate for 227 school days. The school's teacher/student ratio wil l be limited to 1:10. The FDNH has a long and successful track record in addressing the needs of at-risk students. It presently operates two well-known middle schools, t he Log School and the Little House, both with sizable wait ing lists. The charter school proposal has generated extensive community support, such as: Georgette Watson of the Governor' s Alliance Against Drugs; Dr. Barry Zuckerman; Ralph Martin, S uffolk County District Attorney; Linda Carlisle, DSS Commi ssioner; and numerous other community based organizations.School Focus: One of the basic tenets of the schoo l is the belief that the neighborhood community and the scho ol are one. The charter school will integrate school-based services, by joining together classroom education, social ser vices and parental involvement. Each family enrolled at the s chool will be required to participate in the Family Cooperativ e, creating a social infrastructure among families, an d offering GED and ESL classes, as well as other support servi ces. In addition to an Individual Learning Plan for each st udent, families will be asked to commit to a Family Learni ng Plan. According to the school's proposal, standards set i n the Basic Skills will meet or exceed the academic stand ards set by the Board of Education.5. Lower Cape Cod (Brewster): Cape Cod Lighthouse C harter SchoolBasic Facts: The Lighthouse Charter School's foundi ng coalition includeparents, community and institutional leaders. Sever al local institutions have already agreed to join the school to form the "educational village", they are: the Cape Cod N ational Seashore; Center for Coastal Studies; the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History; the Academy for Performing Arts; a nd the Castle Hill Center for the Arts. The school's gover ning Board of Trustees will consist of parents, teachers, stud ents, and representatives of the above institutions. The scho ol will serve approximately 100-120 students in grades 6-8, with the possibility of expanding to include grades 9-12.School Focus : The Lighthouse Charter School holds as its
8 of 10central belief that "it takes an entire village to raise a child" (African proverb). The school will foster an appreciation for the environment and institutional resources around which science curriculum and thematic learni ng will be based. Mastery of basic skills will serve as the sc hool's central focus.6. Fort Devens (Ayer/Harvard): Boston University Ch arter SchoolBasic Facts: Boston University Charter School inte nds to establish a residential school, operating 24 hours a day, for students who are unsupported by a home or family st ructure, specifically homeless youth and wards of the state. The school will draw on the vast human and physical res ources made available as a result of military realignment (e.g. former military personnel with teaching and trainin g experience, accountants and engineers, in career tr ansition due to military contraction will be utilized). The school will initiate operations with 150 students in grade s 7-11 and will add grade 12 in the second year increasing the student population to 180 students. The Boston University C harter School is the outgrowth of a successful summer (199 3) program, First in Peace. Boston University's initia tive is being led by Rear Admiral W. Norman Johnson, USN (r et.), Vice President and Dean of Students. A career Naval offi cer, a native of Roxbury, and a decorated Vietnam combat v eteran, Admiral Johnson played a key role in the racial int egration of the Navy and in developing educational and techn ical training and support programs to promote equity and diversity in the armed forces.School Focus: The Boston University Charter School will prepare students to enter higher education or techn ical careers upon graduation. A close relationship betwe en BU's various schools/departments and area businesses wil l be developed allowing students to choose a path suitab le to their interests. Community service and volunteerism will be required for all students. The school will rely bot h on traditional academic instruction and vocational/tec hnical (hands-on) approaches.7. Fort Devens (Ayer/Harvard): Francis W. Parker Ch arter SchoolBasic Facts: The Francis W. Parker Charter School t akes its name from the New England native schoolmaster and U nion Army colonel who was referred to as the "father of progr essive education" by John Dewey. Initially the Parker Scho ol will enroll 100 students in grades 7-8. It anticipates g rowing to 350-400 students in 3 to 4 years, expanding one gra de level at a time to cover 7-12. The school will be located near the intersection of Route 495 and Route 2, thus drawing a diverse student population from such communities as Lawrenc e, Worcester, Gardner, and Concord; all within a 30 mi nute commute.School Focus: The Parker School's philosophy is bas ed on the nine principles of the Coalition of Essential Schoo ls. A strong emphasis is placed on such basic or core ski lls as reading, writing, and mathematics; rather than atte mpting to cover the content of many subjects, the school will instead focus on depth and mastery in a few essential areas "Less is More" describes the Coalition of Essential School's philosophy of the secondary school curriculum. Tota l Quality Management principles will be used. Students and pa rents will be asked to enter a compact prior to admission.8. Franklin: Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Sc hool Basic Facts: The Benjamin Franklin Classical Charte r School plans to locate in the Town of Franklin, "the faste st growing town in the Commonwealth." The school's Founding Co alition is made up of local parents. With a rapidly increasing
9 of 10elementary and secondary school children in the tow n, the charter school will off-set this surge by enrolling 270 students in grades K-8. The school will limit class room size to under 20 students at all times.School Focus: The Benjamin Franklin Classical Chart er School plans to provide its students with a classical educ ation based on the Core Knowledge Sequence. A strong emph asis is placed on Basic Skills acquisition. The school's go al for academic performance is for its students to attain levels at least 10% higher than those students in the same gr ades in traditional public schools.9. Hull: South Shore Charter SchoolBasic Facts: The South Shore Charter School will in itially enroll 60 students: 20 in a K-1 class, and 40 in gr ades 11 and 12. The school's Founding Coalition include tea chers, parents, members of the local business community, p ublic officials, and representative of higher education. The founders intend that the school become a Family Lea rning Resource Center for the South Shore area. Parental involvement in the child's learning process is cent ral to the school's philosophy. In addition, the school volunt eers will be recruited.School Focus: Significance is placed on interdiscip linary projects. Students will have the option to take cla sses at various colleges and universities (and earn college credit). Students will be exposed to environmental issues th rough participation in the Hull Environment and Service C orps -the first Youth Community Service and Conservation Corps in the US that is part of a Public High School.10. Lawrence: Community Day Charter SchoolBasic Facts: The Community Day Charter School is a neighborhood school developed and supported by pare nts. Support for this school's proposal include various public officials, a college president, State Representativ e Gary Coon, State Senator John O'Brien, members of the bu siness community, many other respected community members. The school plans to enroll 140 students in grades K-6, with a teacher/student ratio of 1.5 to 20.School Focus: The school's academic approach is ba sed on interdisciplinary learning, integrated themes and m ixed age grouping. The bilingual program proposed is a form of immersion -non-English speaking students and Engl ish speakers will learn together, with instruction in E nglish. Parents will also receive ESL and literacy training 11. Lowell: Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter SchoolBasic Facts: The Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter S chool proposal is the outgrowth an existing school sponso red and operated by Middlesex Community College (MCC). Esta blished in 1989, Lowell Middlesex Academy has served over 400 students, all of whom were drawn from the official dropout ro lls of Lowell High School. The Academy Charter School plan s to enroll 100 students in grades 9-12. Maximum class s ize will be 20 students. The school will follow the MCC acad emic calendar. Classes will be held between 11:00 AM and 8:00 PM. The school will continue to operate at its current location: the City Campus of Middlesex Community College, in downtown Lowell. Students will continue to have access to th e college's facilities, including the library, comput er labs, and cafeteria.School Focus: The Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School is based on the Middle College model developed by New York City's LaGuardia Community College; it will provide an academically challenging environment for at-risk yo uth (ages 16-22). The school intends to implement a new curri culum that departs from the traditional, lectureoriented app roach. Instead, interdisciplinary and hands-on activities, community
10 of 10service and job internships, will be combined in an integrative fashion. The school will increase its i nvolvement with the college's 2+2 Program (allowing high schoo l students who participate in college classes to receive both high school and college credit).12. Williamsburg: Western Massachusetts Hilltown Ch arter School Basic Facts: The Western Massachusetts Hilltown Ch arter School proposes establishing a regional school with an enrollment of 35 students (47 by 1999) in grades K4. The school intends to offer a rural educational alterna tive in the area. The school will be accessible to the seve n hilltowns in Hampshire County: Chesterfield, Curnrn ington, Goshen, Plainfied, Westhampton, Williamsburg, and Worthington. The Founding Coalitions consists of pa rents, teachers, and community members. School Focus: This charter school seeks to be a "co mmunity" school, using a childcentered educational approac h where children are encouraged to take initiative, make de cisions and follow through on tasks. The school will employ the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, based on the premise that the arts provide the ideal language for young children to creatively investigate and learn. The applicant cites five primary issues this school will address: 1) the nee d for a child-centered approach to education; 2) the need f or a collaborative approach to education; 3) the importa nce of a thematically unified curriculum fully integrating t he arts; 4) integrating family involvement in the educationa l process; and 5) the need to integrated the school experience into the rich fabric of the community and rural environment. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Massachusetts, click Here
1 of 5 MichiganSarah Godshall & Jennifer Hill Michigan is at the forefront of educational reform. Governor John Engler has supported drastic measures that call for a changed public education system in all areas, including funding and school choice.Background Information Michigan Public Act Number 362 of 1993 prov ided for the creation of charter schools which were not subject to state regulation, other than the minimum regulations impo sed by the Board of Education (Sanchez, A1) Teacher's unions and the ACLU brought forth a legal suit on the basis that charter schools are unconstitutio nal since they use state funds but are not regulated by the State Board of Education and therefore are essentially pr ivate schools. In the fall of 1994, Ingham County Circ uit Judge William Collette issued an order temporarily restra ining the creation of charter schools until the constitutiona lity of Act 362 was determined. On November 1, 1994, Colle tte ruled that the charter schools may not receive public fun ds. Governor Engler and the state legislature responded by drawing up new legislation with more stringent dire ct regulation by the state (Associated Press, Nov., 59 A; Leavitt, 3A.) Michigan Public Act Number 416 of 1994 was passed on December 14, 1994 by the Michigan Legislature. The Act "governs the establishment and operation of a Publi c School Academy", otherwise known as a charter school (Mich igan Public Schools Q & A, 1.) The following is a list of the arguments in favor of charter school legislation in Michigan. Among the proponents of charter school legislation and charter schools a re Governor Engler, Central Michigan University and Wa yne State University:Charter schools allow for smaller class sizes and more updated resources (Sanchez, A1.)Charter schools foster competition between schools (Sanchez, A1.)In practice, charter schools have provided suffici ent opportunities for under-privileged students (Sanche z, A1.) (See New Branches Public Academy, below.)Since the public education system is so large in M ichigan (serving over a million and a half students), chart er schools will not have widespread negative effects on existi ng public schools, as opponents fear (Sanchez, A1.)Charter schools will provide a forum for testing e fficiency and innovation of teaching styles and other educati onal tools that may or may not be used in existing public scho ols (Sanchez, A1.)The old system does not work. Changes are necessa ry. Existing public schools do not close despite many f ailures and shortcomings. Charter schools lose their chart er if they do not produce the results specified in the charter (Pyle, A1.)Charter schools give parents choice and alternativ es the system is lacking (Crockett, B11.)Parents are part of the children's education. Sin ce the chartering process (see below) requires educational goals and a mission statement, parents can assess the school and can provide grounds for improvement (Crockett, B11.) The following is a list of arguments agains t charter
2 of 5school legislation. Members of the opposition in Michigan include the Michigan Education Association (MEA) an d many local teachers' unions, the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other civic groups (Sanch ez, A11; Walsh, A14.):a)The State Board of Education has little control o ver charter schools, which are required only to meet the minimum requirements of the state (Sanchez, A1.)b)Charter schools are not considered "public school s" by many (Sanchez, A1.)c)Charter school legislation moves funds from needy public schools to "private" schools which advocate certain morals (Sanchez, A1.)d)Charter schools have been deemed unconstitutional by a district judge (Sanchez, A1.)e)Charter schools take the most gifted and talented from the public schools, creating a "creaming" effect (Crock ett, B11.) Summary of Legislation A public school academy is defined as a gov ernmental body, which includes any combination of grades K-12 An authorizing body is a "public educational instituti on that has been granted the power to issue contracts to th ose interested in establishing and operating a Public S chool Academy" (Michigan Public Q & A, 1.) These bodies may include one of Michigan's fifteen public state univ ersities, intermediate school districts, community colleges, and local school districts except those classified as fourth class or primary districts. Community colleges are limited to authorizing only one charter school; state public universities are limited to a combined total of sev enty-five schools (Michigan Center for Charter Schools, 2.) An individual is allowed to apply to establ ish and operate a Public School Academy. These individuals are granted a contract by authorizing body, that is sub ject to the constitutional powers of the State Board of Edu cation. Components of a contract include the following: "e ducational goals of the school and the methods by which they w ill be assessed", "the governance structure of the school" "age or grade range of the pupils attending the school", a nd "the articles of incorporation" (Michigan Public Q & A, 1.) The chartering (or contracting, which is th e term used in the Act) process in Michigan is as follows. An application is filed with the authorizing body (the Act currently has information it requires for the appli cation, but does not have a single or specific application) by a corporation. Profit or non-profit organizations m ay apply to an authorizing body, so long as the organization meets existing regulations regarding religion and the sch ools (Michigan Center for Charter School, 1.) The auth orizing body may or may not evaluate any applications, and the Act does not require that applications be evaluated und er a certain time frame. The body may or may not offer any contracts, and in the case of competing application s, the determination is made on resources, goals and propo sed students (McClellan, Point 5.) Rejected applicatio ns are appealed to the voters (McClellan, Point 6.) The major responsibilities of the authorizi ng body include reviewing and evaluating each proposed and existing school in the areas of educational goals, State reg ulatory codes, articles of incorporation, programs and prac tices of the school (Michigan Public School Academies Q & A, 2.) A Public Academy's admissions process can be restricted along the lines of ages, grades, and enrollment num bers, but
3 of 5cannot be selective. If there are more applicants than available spaces, a random selection process is use d among those students who are new applicants to the school s. The academy cannot discriminate on the basis of any abi lities, intellectual or athletic, and cannot use testing or other measures as a basis of admissions, even though the academy may have an intellectual focus (Michigan Public Q & A, 2.) The only acceptable preferential status is granted to siblings of enrolled students (Michigan Center for Charter Schools, 1.) Public Academies in Michigan may not charge tuition. Since the charter school is defined in the Act as a school district, it is able to receive state funds accordi ng to the State Constitution. Each academy receives funding on a perpupil basis. The funding is capped at the amount s pent in the local school district, and ranges from $4,200 t o $5,500 per student. Public Academies may receive addition al funding from categorical grants, other public sources and/ or private sources (Michigan Center for Charter Schools, 1, Mi chigan Public School Academies, 2.) Teachers in Public Academies must be certif ied, with the exception of those Public Academies which are run b y state universities or community colleges. Under Public Act 416, the charter school/ p ublic academy is a public school, which means that it is "part of a changed, but constitutional, public school system f or Michigan" (McClellan, Point 1.) It is also a gover nment entity, and therefore may collect State funds and i s exempt from taxing. Private schools may convert to charter scho ols, granted that they become a government body. New Branches S chool is an example of this (see below).Results of the Legislation There are eight existing Public Academies i n Michigan, several more (the number is yet to be determined si nce applications are pending) are expected to open by S eptember of 1995. The eight existing Academies are describe d in the following paragraphs.5 New Branches School in Grand Rapids, MI was chartered by Central Michigan University in August of 1994. On September 27, 1994, State Superintendent of Public Education, Dr. Robert E. Schiller visited the school and determine d that it has met all of the necessary requirements of a Publ ic School Academy under Public Act 362 (the first charter sch ool legislation in Michigan.) At that time he determin ed also that New Branches was eligible for state funds for the academic year in progress. The school began as a p rivate school that ran on a budget that was limited by the $2,200 per-pupil tuition. Legislation allows for an expec ted $5,300 per pupil, replacing tuition. The founder of the s chool, David Lehman, sees charter schools as a way to prov ide a variety of choice for taxpayers. The class sizes a t New Branches are small and the school stresses arts and foreign languages. The seventy-two students are chosen by a random drawing, and learn in an environment without grade levels or academic grades. One-quarter of the students are o n the federal free or reduced lunch program (State Board of Education, September 27, 1994.) Northlane Math and Science Academy also rec eived its charter from Central Michigan University in August of 1994. The school was visited and approved by Dr. Schiller on October 4, 1994. It serves 39 students from kinder garten through eighth grades (State Board of Education, Oc tober 4, 1994.) It is a "Hands on, experimental, cooperativ e learning, with emphasis on interdisciplinary instru ction. Students use computers daily" (Operational, 1.) Horizon Community High School received its charter from Wyoming Public Schools. Dr. Schiller visited and a pproved of
4 of 5the school on October 4, 1994. The school provides students with a "strong academic core curriculum" as well a s "experience with technology applications, community service and career exploration (State Board, October 10, 19 94.) The approximately 300 students range in ages from fourt een to nineteen. Macomb Academy in Township, MI was chartere d by Macomb Clinton Intermediate School District. Windover Hig h School in Midland, MI received its charter from Midland In termediate School District. The school faced closing due to l ack of funding after Judge Collette's ruling in November. Academy of Casa Maria in Detroit, MI received its charter f rom Central Michigan University (State Board, October 2 0, 1994; Tribune Wires, 3.) West Michigan Academy for Environmental Sci ence in Grand Rapids, MI received its charter from Kent Intermedi ate School District. The hands-on science school has one hund red-twenty kindergarten through seventh graders. Creative lea rning, using the natural surroundings is stressed and scho ol days are one hour longer than most public schools) (Sanc hez, A1.) Aisha Shule/ W.E.B. DuBois Preparatory Acad emy in Detroit, MI was chartered by Detroit Pubic Schools Proponents of this formerly all-male black academy say that the setting will bolster self-esteem in the youth. Former President Bush and the Heritage Foundation endorse such schools, while the ACLU, National Organization of W omen (NOW) and Council of the Great City Schools oppose these schools. The school is seen as a remedy for the tough settin g of the inner-city and provides opportunities for under-pri vileged youth. Opponents argue that public education is fo r everyone, and these schools were discriminating aga inst women. In August of 1991, girls were allowed to en ter the public school (Associated Press, September 11, 1991 5; Celis, Section 4, Page 3; Richter, Part A, Page 4.) Conclusions The eyes of legislators around the country are on Michigan. With the passage of Michigan Public Act 416 of 1994, the state legislature has shown its strong su pport for the schools and for educational reform. Over thirt y new charter schools are expected to join the existing e ight in the fall of 1995, and many more in the years to com e. As the law moves from its infancy stage to its more produc tive years, the results of the law and the effect of the law on education in Michigan will be more easily assessed. NOTES (From Section)1 According to Proposition 2 1/2, property taxes ca n only be raised a maximum of two and one-half times from the present rate. Communities can vote to over ride this legis lation in order to create additional funds.2 At risk kids: YouthBuild Charter School, Neighbo rhood House Charter School, Boston University Charter Sch ool, and Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School. Elementar y age students: Boston Renaissance Charter School, Commun ity Day Charter Schools, and Western Massachusetts Hilltow n Charter School.3 Various grade levels: City on a Hill Charter Scho ol, Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter School, and Sou th Shore Charter School. Middle School: Chelmsford Charter School and Francis W. Parker Charter School.4 Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School and Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School
5 of 55Due to the recent passage of Michigan Public Act 4 16 and the declaration of unconstitutionality of Michigan Publ ic Act 362, the status of some former charter schools and the number of pending applications changes often and any data supplied in this report is likely to become outdated. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Michigan, click Here
1 of 9 MINNESOTA>Susan VernalLegislative History In 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass ground-breaking legislation authorizing the existence of charter schools. Charter schools w ere not the first radical reform effort debated in Minnesota. "Between 1985 and 1988 Minnesota... b ecame the first state to pass statewide public school choice legislation." (Sautter, pp. 78) This plan allowed parents to choose to which public school they wanted to send their child or ch ildren. Charter schools grew out of this legislation as a way of expanding parental choice. Many people were and are opposed to the idea of charter schools for a variety of reasons. Distri cts, for example were reluctant to approve charter schools because they take money away from t he district. Teachers were worried that charter schools would make the faculty and administ ration left behind feel abandoned. Also, there was a fear that faculty would "become sharply divided over the benefits and risks of a specific proposal or even the merits of attaining c harter status" (Amsler, pp. 4-5). Furthermore, many people were worried that teacher salaries woul d be lower in charter schools because they would have lower funding and high start-up costs. M any were also concerned about job security. If teachers took a leave of absence to teach at a c harter school then when they returned the staff hired to replace them would be laid off. Also, if m any students left the district to attend charter schools, fewer teachers would be needed. (Amsler, p 4) The Minnesota Education Association and the Minnes ota Foundation of Teachers opposed the proposal because they felt that "charter school s would drain resources away from other public schools and the idea in essence creates publicly fu nded private schools" (New Education 46). In addition, they believed these schools would lack ac countability. Opponents were also worried that charter schools would lose money because they "would not have the 'economies of scale' that favor school districts."(New Education 46) They wou ld, however be free from public bidding constraints, and therefore they would possibly be a ble to "negotiate more cost effective agreements" (Amsler 5). Furthermore they would be f ree to hire whomever they wanted for however long they needed, depending on their needs. There are many people who felt charter schools wer e an incredible innovative idea. Minnesota state Representative Becky Kelso, one of the legislative authors states, "The gift of charter schools is the gift of freedom." (Sautter, p. 3) Ted Kolderie, senior associate at the center for policy studies in Minneapolis believes that: "The charter school idea offers a way to broaden qu ality choice within public education. It offers a middle way between tradition al public education and the 'choice' proposals that use vouchers for private ed ucation" (Sautter p. 3). Prior to enactment, the hope was that charter schoo ls would provide a better education for students. Charter schools would allow for innovatio n in teaching and they could cater to children
2 of 9who had difficulty learning in a traditional school Also, charter schools would provide competition for public schools. If many students we re leaving public schools to go to charter schools, then the public schools would have to rais e their quality of teaching to avoid losing students. This would raise the quality of both char ter and public schools because they would be competing against each other. As a result, students would receive a better education than they are receiving now, regardless of which school they atte nded. Charter schools would also provide an accountabili ty that was not available with the traditional public school system. Because charter s chools would be based on a renewable charter, they could be discontinued if they failed to produc e the outcomes they specified in their agreement with the sponsor. Even though Minnesota h ad radical school choice legislation in effect, this type of accountability was not availab le within the public school system. Supporters of the bill hoped that charter schools would increa se access to innovative programs, increase quality, reach dropouts, replace failing schools, o ffer innovative learning opportunities, and solve problems flexibly (Sautter, pp 5-6). Also, elementa ry school enrollment is predicted to rise by 12 percent and secondary school enrollment by as much as 25 percent by the year 2003. Charter schools could help alleviate the burden on public s chools by providing more schools. Furthermore, charter schools could act as "testers" for ideas because of their size and flexibility. Then, if the program or idea proved to be successfu l, it could be implemented on a broader scale (Sautter, pp. 6-7).Summary of Legislation Despite opposition, mostly from teacher unions, th e bill was passed. The unions, however, did have an effect on the final bill. They successf ully lobbied to require at least one certified teacher as one of the organizers of a charter schoo l. The final bill also eliminated the option of having the state school board sponsor a charter sch ool and restricted sponsorship to local school boards. The bill also limited the number of charter schools allowed to eight and allowed a renewable charter to be granted for three years. Ch arter schools would receive the same general education revenue as other schools, which is the "s tate average general education revenue per pupil unit, calculated without compensatory revenue plus compensatory revenue as though the school were a school district" (Minnesota b 1). How ever, charter schools cannot issue bonds or levy taxes. [Not reproduced for this gopher-accessed document are a series of charts summarizing the Minnesota charter school law. The interested reader is referred to Bierlein and Mulholland's 1992 "Charter Schools: A Viable Reform Initiative," Appe ndix A.] Results of the Law By Spring of 1993, more than twenty schools had app lied for charter school status. Because of the limit on the number of charter schoo ls, only eight were approved. Those schools that were denied sponsorship were generally program s that already existed in public schools. School boards are reluctant to sponsor them because they feel that if the program is already working in public schools there is no reason to est ablish it in a charter school format. There is also a higher chance of obtaining a charter for a s chool that targets a specific population, such as at-risk students, that are not adequately served in existing public schools. (Sautter, p. 7) The Minnesota House Research Department conducted a survey of school board members and asked them to describe issues raised in debatin g the charter school proposals. Most reported
3 of 9focusing on concerns, rather than benefits of chart er schools. Almost a third of the responses (61 percent) were concerns whereas only 39 percent were potential benefits. Though there were many concerns listed, the majority were either insignifi cant or addressed by the charter proponents (Minnesota House Report, p. 24). The issues raised can be broken down into four main categories, the effect the charter school may have on the district, philosophical issues, issues specific to the individual proposals, and issues co ncerning the educational approach of the charter school.Benefits and Concerns Raised by School BoardsEffect on the District (Minnesota House Report, p.2 8) 33 percent of the concerns listed focused on the e ffect the charter school would have on the sponsoring district. The biggest complaint (49 percent of the responses) was that districts would lose revenue when students left to attend cha rter schools. Another 23 percent felt that charter schools would drain the resources of the sp onsoring district. For example, there was concern that operating a charter school would use d istrict personnel time. 14 percent also thought that charter schools would be elitist, "creaming" t he best students from public schools and leaving the rest behind. Another 14 percent thought there would be district liability problem. Of the 13 percent who believed there would be posi tive effects for the sponsoring district, 35 percent thought that charter schools would put t he district on the cutting edge of reform. The rest of the responses were about evenly split. They believed charter schools would reduce costs or that the district could learn from the charter. 18 percent gave responses other than these three. Philosophical Issues (Minnesota House Report, p. 29 ) In this debate, the two biggest concerns were the fear that charter schools lacked the support of the community and that they didn't have enough accountability. An additional 17 percent objected to the concept of a charter school Other responses given "were that the charter school was a risk for the district;" (Minnesota Hou se Report p. 30) they were inequitable because they had an unfair advantage because they were free from regulation; allowing one charter school would set a precedent and make it more difficult to refuse later ones; and charter schools would cause an unacceptable erosion of local control. (Mi nnesota House Report p. 30) The main benefit of charter schools is the extra c hoice for parents and students. In addition, charter schools promote more parental and community involvement. Many supported charter schools as a means of general educational r eform. Furthermore, charter schools offer more freedom for teachers because there is less reg ulation, and there is more freedom from bureaucracy.Specific Proposal (Minnesota House Report, pp. 30-3 1) The main concern with some of the specific proposa ls was that the proposal was not viable. Other concerns were the motives of the pers onnel involved, the facilities for the school, the effect on other districts, or poor design of th e school. Also mentioned was the concern that the charter school was being used only as a method of keeping a public school open that was slated for closure. There were only two benefits associated with speci fic proposals. One was the opportunity
4 of 9to keep open a school that was going to be closed. The school boards were sympathetic to the desire of local people to keep their school open. ( This can no longer occur since an amendment was added to the law in 1993 that made this illegal .) The school boards were also impressed by the commitment of the proponents of charter schools Educational Approach (Minnesota House Report, pp. 2 6-27) There were only 13 percent of the school boards th at were concerned about the educational approach of charter schools. Almost hal f of the concerns given were that the choice already existed in the district. The rest were eith er concerns about a specific curriculum, concerns that the needs of a specific population were not be ing met, or concerns about the quality of education. Half of the benefits associated with the specific educational curriculum were support for the specific curriculum proposed by a charter schoo l. Another 37 percent felt that charter schools met student needs and an additional 14 percent felt that charter schools were beneficial for students. Charter Schools Currently in Operation (Unless otherwise noted, the information from this section is derived from the Minnesota House Report)Bluffview Montessori In November 1991, Bluffview Montessori in Winona b ecame the first school to have its charter approved by their local school board. The S tate Board approved it in December 1991 and it planned to open in the fall of 1992 following a Montessori curriculum. Opening the school was not easy, however, because in March 1992 "two of th e original charter signers left Bluffview over a contract dispute." (Minnesota House Report, p. 56 ) As a result, the charter school had to submit a new proposal in July 1992 which failed to pass th e school board. The proposal was resubmitted in August 1992 but it was not passed again until De cember 22, 1992. The school finally opened on March 2, 1993. As of February 1994, the school e nrolled over 75 students in grades K-8, and "also operates a private Montessori pre-school. The school leases space in part of an old district high school that is now privately owned" (Minnesota House Report, p. 56). Bluffview Montessori is the only charter school th at has a nationally recognized curriculum. The curriculum is based on developmenta l learning and uses Montessori materials. The teachers in this school are required to be Mont essori taught. Kindergartners learn things such as practical life activities, for example, carrying objects and pouring liquids. They also do sensorial activities and language activities (Minne sota House Report, p. 40). City Academy In September 1992, City Academy in St. Paul became the first charter school to open. This school was created to help inner-city dropouts retu rn to school. By keeping classes small, City Academy gives individual attention to each student. They use an "interdisciplinary approach within the standard academic divisions and use mult iculturally sensitive text." According to Milo J. Cutter, a City Academy founding teacher, "One of the keys to our success is our size. We are small enough to give these students the attention t hey need and deserve. It makes a big
5 of 9difference" (Sautter 2). Because of this new charter school, the students w ho were at one time high school dropouts now aspire to attend college and many take classes at local colleges. Cutter believes, "...the biggest benefit is that we are held account able....We listen to what the students want and need because we ask them....We al so have the flexibility to respond... We can change the curriculum to meet the se needs as soon as we see them. Anywhere else it would take a year to change. It is much better than anything we have known in the traditional setting" (Sautter p. 3). City Academy serves mostly minority students, inclu ding a mix of African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, American Indians, and EuropeanAmericans. (Sautter, p. 27) There are not many women enrolled in the Academy, although they a re presently trying to raise that number. The overall goal of the school is "to provide resou rces for life-long education and social participation aimed at the elimination of self-defe ating or destructive behaviors."(Minnesota House Report, p. 37) Other outcomes include achievi ng grade level in reading and math, maintain smoke free, chemical free involvement in t he school, remain arrest free, maintain attendance, and receive appropriate assessment and placement counseling and follow-up support from a vocational counselor (Minnesota House Report 37). Toivola Meadowlands Toivola Meadowlands (TM) is a rural school located in St. Louis County in Northeastern Minnesota. It was planning on closing when the char ter school legislation was passed and it applied for charter school status. It was the secon d charter approved and it opened in September 1993. People have criticized TM because it had been a public school that was going to be shut down but after charter school legislation was passe d they applied and were granted charter school status. This created a debate over whether public s chools that were slated for closure should be allowed to apply for charter school status. In the original law, this was allowed, but in 1993 an amendment was passed that prohibited schools that w ere going to close from becoming charter schools. The board of TM argues that though the sch ool applied for charter status because of its impending closure, it meets the requirements for a charter school and thus should not be criticized. TM encourages multi-age learning and co mmunity activities. TM believes that when students graduate, they should be able to "demonstr ate the knowledge, skill, and ability to communicate with words, numbers, visuals, symbols a nd sounds...understand the diversity and interdependence of groups and individuals in societ y...and demonstrate the knowledge, skill, and attitudes essential for maintaining a balance among career, personal, and family activities" (Minnesota House Report, p. 39).Metro Deaf School Metro Deaf School in Forest Lake was sponsored in April, 1992 and opened in September 1993. As the name implies, this is a school for the hearing impaired. MDS is an American Sign Language school that serves under 20 students in K7. It is an alternative to the residential Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault, MN. "MDS incorporates student created learner outcomes, ASL, deaf history and culture, an d family education into its bilingual bicultural curriculum. This strategy is based on th e idea of total communication" (Minnesota House Report 57).
6 of 9Cedar Riverside Community School Cedar Riverside was also approved in April, 1992 a nd opened in the fall of 1993 in Minneapolis. This school was established as a commu nity for low-income children and families. Many of the students are from one parent families o r immigrant families. About 95 students attend the school; 30% live in the high-rise apartm ent complex where the school is located. The school serves as a stable environment with an on si te social worker for people whose lives have been extremely unstable.New Heights Schools, Inc. New Heights Schools, Inc. located in Stillwater wa s approved by the State Board of Education in February 1993 and opened that fall. Ap proximately 200 students in grades K-12 attend this school for "at-risk" students. Only abo ut 30% of these children would fit into a traditional "at-risk" category (Minnesota House Rep ort p. 58) Students are encouraged to think purposefully, direct their own learning, and commun icate effectively, and work productively with others. Graduates have to provide "two or more culm inating demonstrations during the last three years prior to graduation that demonstrate...compre hensive outcomes in an interdisciplinary and life context, in-depth exploration of an issue, top ic, or theme." This is reviewed by representatives of the school and community (Minnes ota House Report pp. 36-37). Skills for Tomorrow Rockford school district approved Skills for Tomor row in 1993 and it began operating in Minneapolis in March 1994. This school is a vocatio nal/ technical school that allows students to participate in business internships during school. It prepares students to enter the workforce or a postsecondary vocational training program after gra duating (Minnesota House Report 58). This school operates yearround, with breaks interspers ed at 5-6 week intervals. Schools Opened in the 1994-95 School Year There are six charter schools that opened in the 19 94-95 school year. All of these schools are radically different. They range from New Vision s School in Minneapolis which targets at-risk children with reading and learning problems and use s intensive sensory-motor stimulation and EEG Neuro Feed-back and accelerate learning, to Min nesota New Country School in LeSueur, which is a computer-infused school that provides an individual educational program that uses a multidisciplinary approach. Other schools such as the Emily Charter School and the Parents Allied With Children and Teachers (PACT) teach to a multi-grade level. The following charts compare the currently operating charter schools. Th e first one compares enrollment and population characteristics for schools in operation through April 1995 and the second compares revenue and teacher salary in the six charter schoo ls open as of February 1994. Approved Charter Schools In addition to the 13 open schools, there are also 4 schools that have been approved but have yet to open. The Prairie Island Community Scho ol sponsored by the Red Wing School Board plans to open in the Spring of 1995. It will be a culturally based K-12 school, operating year-round, with a large amount of parental involve ment. Right Step Academy sponsored by the St. Paul School Board plans to open in the Fall of 1995. It will have both a residency and a
7 of 9day-school program for 14-21 year old at-risk stude nts. This school will be an alternative to incarceration and it hopes to help students achieve their full potential. World Learner School of Chaska sponsored by the Chaska School Board, hopes to open in the Fall, 1995, serving students from ages 6-12. Like Bluffview, this will be a Mont essori school. Community of Peace Academy, sponsored by the St. Paul School Board, wi ll open in the fall of 1995, serving grades K-8. This school will emphasize the community. Clas ses will be small, with teachers teaching the same students for a two-year cycle (Minnesota D epartment of Education 6). Parental Reactions to Charter Schools A survey of parents conducted by the Minnesota Hous e Research Department in 1994 shows that many parents are satisfied with their ch ild's charter school. Most parents listed curriculum and school features as their reasons for choosing a charter school. They liked the idea of small classes and the school environment offered by their respective charter school. The survey also showed that many parents were satisfied with the charter school's curriculum, teachers, school features, and the effect on the st udents. The students who attend Toivola-Meadowlands (TM) a nd their parents are very satisfied with the school. In a "Letter to the Editor," TM st udents write "charters allow students to be creative and to have more responsibility in their e ducation....charters also give the students actual experiences of dealing with the business world" (No rth Central Regional Lab 2). According to Dick Raich, a parent of a student at TM, "Charter S chools allow in house decisionmaking, which eliminates 'all the bureaucracy of getting th ings done' and leads to better communication among parents, students, and teachers" With the cha rter school students have regained an interest in learning (8). Raich also points out that charter schools are not necessarily for everyone. He says, "Why would you want to change something in a community w here education is acceptable? They have the outcomes they want. They see what they want com ing out of the public schools" (8). There are however, problems with Toivola-Meadows a nd other charter schools. Tim Robinson, another parent of a child who attends TM, wholeheartedly supports the school. He says, however, "I feel the transportation issue is inadequately addressed in the law. When there is a transportation problem, there is no solution. Thi s should be fixed" (10). In the Minnesota Research Report Study, the most f requently cited sources of dissatisfaction included lack of resources at the s chool, transportation, inadequate space, the school's administration, negative effects on studen ts, and the turmoil of the school's first year. Four Main Areas Charter Schools Are Experiencing Pr oblems (Unless otherwise noted, the information in this se ction is derived from the Minnesota House Report)Transportation Charter Schools have been experiencing transportat ion problems. Currently, "the district in which the charter school is located is required to provide transportation for students who live in the district." (Minnesota House Report p. 46) If a child attending the school lives outside of the district, the parent must get the child to at l east the border of the district of the charter scho ol.
8 of 9This creates problems for charter schools because t hey are limited to the traditional school year. Districts are angry because this arrangement is ver y expensive and inefficient for them. For the Metro Deaf School there is an additional problem be cause it involves special education students. If the district placed the child in the school then the district must provide transportation such as in the other cases. If, however, a parent places th e child in the school, they must supply their own transportation.Facilities Charter schools also have a problem finding and mai ntaining facilities. Because they do not have the option of levying taxes or obtaining a bond, they must try and find inexpensive facilities. Some of the charter schools are current ly housed in old school buildings and they are paying minimal rent. They must, however, pay for re pairs and renovations which can be expensive, especially in old buildings. Other chart er schools are finding homes wherever they can, usually in cramped quarters.Special Education Charter schools must also learn how to handle speci al education students. When they were first established, many were not aware of the rules governing funding. Therefore they were unprepared to provide the testing and assessment th at was expected of them. Also, some assumed the resident district would simply give them money to cover the costs. The charter schools many times had to hire someone else to come in and help them figure out the process. In other cases, they had to work with the sponsoring district, with whom they were not always on the best of terms.Relationship with the Sponsoring District Since their conception, charter schools have had a problem with the sponsoring district. Because the district must approve a charter, and th at new school would take money away from the district, some board members may not want to ap prove any charters because they would lose money. As a result, the law was changed to allow th e state school board to review cases where a charter received at least two votes from a school b oard. This makes it a little harder for individual board members to not approve charters on a monetary basis, but it is still possible. Also, districts may be scared of being "shown up" by the new charte r school and losing their students and teachers to the new school. Some schools, such as City Academy, do have positiv e relationships with their sponsoring district. City Academy, however, teaches children t hat have left the public school system and are not necessarily wanted back. This may be one of the reasons their relationship is not so antagonistic. The two charters mentioned that do se rve a general student population, TM and Bluffview, do not have a good relationship with the ir sponsoring school district, reinforcing the idea that the relationship with the district depend s on who the students attending the charter school are. Conclusion Currently there are 17 charter schools that have b een approved and 13 are in session. It is still very early to evaluate the long term effects of charter schools because they have only been in
9 of 9effect for less than three years. They appear to be working, and many of the concerns that people had before the schools were established are not pro ving to be valid. In a survey done of school superintendents by the Minnesota House Research Dep artment, two superintendents reported that "...students are now being served by the charter th at were not being served before" (Minnesota House Report 41). This statement shows that charter schools are not causing the "creaming" of students from public schools that so many people we re worried about. It has been shown that most of the schools currently in operation target a specific non-elite population and therefore can not possibly "cream" the best students. Also, it ha s been shown that it is easier to form a charter school that targets a specific population rather th an converting an existing program. This also make "creaming" more difficult because if schools a re being set up for at-risk students, then no one is creamed from the public schools. Charter schools are by no means a panacea for the problems in our educational system. They are not perfect. There are definitely problems that still need to be worked out, such as transportation, but these can be fixed with time. A s more charter schools come into operation they will learn from the mistakes of the early ones Though they are still very new, charter schools are having a small impact on the public edu cation system. According to Ms. Hunter of the Minnesota State Education Department, "What we' re finding is that the charter-school proposals are a catalyst for getting districts to s tart paying attention and listening to what the learners are needing and the parents are requesting (Walters). For a bibliography of references on charter schools in Minnesota, click Here
1 of 1 MissouriCandace CrawfordLegislative HistoryMissouri enacted a law in 1993. Summary of Legislation By the year 1997, the state board of educat ion will select three school sites to participate in an expe riment called "The New Schools Pilot Project". This proje ct allows a school to be managed by a team of five members th at would include at least one person to be designated the pr incipal of the school. The management team is responsible for hiring staff but must follow the existing rules of collect ive bargaining. The management team may apply for a wa iver exempting them from certain rules and regulations f rom the state board of education.Results of LawNo charter schools exist in the state of Missouri.Conclusions Missouri's legislation cannot be considered charter school legislation. It subscribes to none of the p recepts of charter schools as set forth in documents such as M oulholland and Bierlein's "Charter Schools: A Glance at the Is sues," the GAO Report "Charter Schools: New Model for Publ ic Schools Provides Opportunities and Challenges" or the artic le in Time entitled "A Class of Their Own." Those precepts in clude such as entering into a contract with the state. Accord ing to Missouri's law an entity does not even apply for a charter. a group is granted permission to run an experimental school. Missouri was also not included in Moulholland and Bierlein's report recently released in April 1995, "Charter Sc hools Update and Observations Regarding Initial Trends an d Impacts." Missouri's charter school law will need major overhaul and may even need a new law all together t o be conducive to charter schools. For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Missouri, click Here
1 of 2 NEW HAMPSHIREPhaedon Sinis & Kelly RodaLegislative History In New Hampshire, educational reform has be en an important issue because the quality of public schoo ls in most districts fails to meet the expectations of parents Some attribute this deficiency to a lack of extensive st ate funding for public schools; others attribute it to a lack of competition and incentives for improvement. Charte r schools moved to the forefront of the debate when Jim Ruben s, a state senator, campaigned heavily on reforming education by allowing local districts to establish charter schoo ls. By May 23, 1995, both legislative houses in New Hampsh ire passed a bill allowing the establishment of charter school s, and Governor Steve Merrill has expressed his support fo r the reform, so the bill will soon be signed into law. A Valley News article (3/11/95) described t he enthusiasm of parents and educators who want to set up their o wn schools. One issue the parents emphasized was affo rdability; they argued that charter schools will enable them t o design the education they want for their children, while o ffering it to other parents as well at public expense. They a lso discussed the element of consistency for children's education from year to year; and they predicted tha t charter schools will "set the tone for how schools should f unction." A Manchester Union Leader article (3/10/95) contras ted the arguments for and against the NH charter school bil l. One of the concerns it mentioned was that public money wil l flow from traditional public schools to charter schools, forcing taxpayers to "make up the difference." Another con cern was that most public school expenses are fixed, and tha t loss of funding will be disastrous for public schools. Oth ers accused the bill of allowing parents to send kids t o essentially private schools with public money. One school board leader alleged that such a bill will be detri mental to the community democratic process of running educati on. Sen. Rubens countered that allowing parents the exi t option, or the option to pull their children out of the traditional public schools to take advantage of bet ter educational opportunities, will be more productive and less divisive in improving education. Rubens also argued that charter schools will foster innovation, attracting the best teachers to create their own curricula. Contents of the Bill The bill, called the Charter Schools and Op en Enrollment Act, allows two NH-certified teachers, t en parents, or a non-profit organization to propose a school charter that addresses issues such as curriculum, a cademic goals, annual budget, location of facilities, metho ds of assessment, and various other details concerning th eir operation. Such schools will be exempt from state educational regulations, and the board of trustees will have full authority to oversee the operation of their sc hool. Each charter school will receive 2/3 of the average per-pupil cost of public education in its district; the other 1/3 will remain in the public school system. The law will go into effect July 1, 1995 bu t the first charter schools will not open for another year beca use of the approval process required by the bill. For the fir st 5 years, a maximum of 35 schools will be permitted to open, with no more than two per year in each district. D uring this
2 of 2time, a legislative oversight committee will be for med to periodically review the progress of charter schools After the year 2000, the limit on the number of charter s chools will be eliminated.Conclusions & Future Prospects Charter schools will very likely become a s uccess in New Hampshire, because the legislation does not restric t competition. Although it initially imposes a relat ively generous limit of 35 schools, this limit will be li fted in the year 2000. Because the limit is not likely to be reached by 2000, it will probably not hinder competition. Another reason charter schools might be a success is that t hey will be completely free from all state and local regulat ions except basic health and safety regulations. This d egree of autonomy will allow unprecedented opportunity for i nnovative reforms. Charter schools can introduce a highly co mpetitive environment in the New Hampshire public education s ystem.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in New Hampshire, click Here
1 of 2 New JerseySarah Godshall & Jennifer HillLegislative History New Jersey is on its way to becoming yet an other state with approved charter school legislation. Governor Christine Whitman has proposed a bill to establish charter sc hools. The Assembly Education Committee approved the bill by a 6-0 vote. The bill will now be presented to the full Assembly The bill has received strong support from the New Jersey Edu cation Association. It has also been endorsed by the New J ersey Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and S upervisors Association, and the New Jersey Association of Scho ol Administrators (Young, A6.) The bill has won the fa vor of the unions because it incorporates, among other things, protection for school employees. However, the union opposes releasing schools from state regulations Summary of the Legislation The bill, which has captured bipartisan sup port, includes the following: 1) 10 or more teachers, parents, or any com bination of the two, as well as a college or university in co operation with parents and teachers -can begin a charter scho ol. 2) provides a cap on the number of charter schools that can be created based on the population of a given c ounty. 3) private schools, parochial schools and e xisting public schools could not become charter schools. Despite this provision, State Education Com missioner Leo Klagholz, along with Rutgers University Professor F rank Esposito, who serves as an Education Department con sultant, suggested the bill allow existing private schools i nto the fold. However, the idea was opposed on the grounds that allowing private schools to become charter schools would mean that the state was funding private education (Thomp son, March 24, 1995, A10.) There is another charter school bill curren tly before the Senate Education Committee. However, the bill d iffers from the Assembly bill in two ways. 1) the bill does not provide a cap on the n umber of charter schools that can be created. 2) the bill allows businesses to create cha rter schools, whereas the Assembly bill does not.Expected Results of the Legislation Charter schools are intended to give parent s alternatives to the traditional public schools as w ell as increase the quality of education overall through competition. An opinion printed in The Record argue d that "charter schools draw a tiny portion of students. T he real battle is to improve the huge public districts, esp ecially in poor cities...Charter schools would be an ornament to the public system, not a substitute for far-reaching re form" ("Desperate Effort to Save the School Voucher Plan" B6.) Governor Whitman has postponed voting on he r voucher proposal. The voucher proposal is considered more controversial, so it has been separated from charte r school legislation. Originally, Governor Whitman's bill al so called for the creation of a program in Jersey City which would give eligible public school students vouchers that could be put towards private school tuition (Thompson, November 22, 1995, A3.)
2 of 2Existing Schools That Have Already Sought Reform Th rough Autonomy, Accountability, And Competition Although New Jersey has yet to pass any cha rter school legislation, the school district in Montclair, New Jersey has successfully implemented a magnet school program ai med at facilitating desegregation. The Montclair model is described and evaluated in detail in a paper entitled Choice in Montclair, New Jersey: A Policy Information Paper. The authors, Beatriz C. Clewell and Myra F. Joy, briefl y outline the proponent and opponent arguments that surrounde d Montclair's plan. Clewell and Joy stated that propo nents of choice believed that it would promote educational e xcellence, increase parental involvement, encourage varied pro gram offerings, and improve racial balance. Opponents, o n the other hand, believed that choice would result in be tter educational opportunities only for white, middle-cl ass, and highly motivated students, increase transportation costs for the school district, cause resegregation of schools and result in a lack of diversity in program offerings. Through their efforts, important information can be gained about the effectiveness of school choice and issues surroundi ng creaming and segregation. Since Montclair's plan was aimed specifical ly at reducing racial segregation, the schools were caref ul to avoid what Charter School opponents have referred t o as the creaming effect. In Montclair, school choice did no t result in increased segregation in schools divided along r acial and class lines. Since the Montclair system is made up of magnet schools and not charter schools, the experiences wi thin their school system may not play out exactly in a charter school system. For example, Montclair schools are still mo nitored by a school board and they are not freed from the stat e regulations that charter schools are unhindered by. However, the Montclair model is still helpful. Like charter schools, magnets schools operate in a market system. If pare nts aren't satisfied with the services offered at one school, they can-barring overcrowding -enroll their child in anoth er school. This competitive climate forces schools to be as ef ficient and goal-oriented as possible.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in New Jersey, click Here
1 of 2 NEW MEXICONeal Dickert Jr.Background Information The New Mexico Charter Schools Act came int o effect after the state legislature passed it in 1993. As stated in the legislation, the law's purpose is "to enable in dividual schools to restructure their educational curriculum to encourage the use of different and innovative teach ing methods and to enable individual schools to be resp onsible for site-based budgeting and expenditures" (NM Stat Ann. 22-8A-3). Since then, it has been in the process of accepting and reviewing applicants for the five charter schoo ls which it permits. There have been no additions to the la w since its enactment; however, the state's republican gove rnor recently vetoed an attempt to increase planning gra nts for prospective applicants from the current $5,000 whic h is routinely given (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 19 95). Legislation There are several key aspects of the New Me xico law that distinguish it as one of the more restrictive piece s of charter school legislation. It requires that only existing public schools be allowed to become charter schools and does not provide for open enrollment (Millot, 1995). Th e application/approval process is also quite restrict ive. It requires at least sixty-five percent support from t he teachers at the school and the significant involvem ent in planning and support for the measure from the paren ts whose children attend the school. The state board of edu cation is responsible for approving the charter proposal, and there is no appeals procedure. In terms of waiving requirem ents, a New Mexico charter school must follow any non-waive d requirements for public schools. Once a school rec eives a charter, the school is allowed to operate for a fiv e year period, after which the state board will review the school's progress based upon the charter agreement and decid e whether to renew the charter. In addition, the schools esta blished under this law are not legally autonomous. They re main under the authority of local school boards (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995, Millot, 1994 and GAO Repor t, 1995). Results of Law Four schools to date have converted to char ter status, all at the beginning of the 1994/1995 school year. These schools are Turquoise Trail Elementary (Santa Fe), Broad Horizons Educational Center (Portales), Taylor Midd le School (Albequerque), and Highland High School (Albequerqu e). According to Richard LaPan, Charter School Coordina tor, the state expects to determine the fifth conversion thi s summer in order to have that school converted for the 1995 /1996 school year. The exact format of these schools is unclear from the literature obtained, although it is known which state requrements ahve been waived for the schools. Both Turquoise Trail and Broad Horizons received waivers with respect to the distribution of instructional materi al funds, adn Broad Horizons also received a waiver in order to extend the school day (New Mexico Department of Education packet, p. 2). Conclusions What can we conclude about New Mexico's leg islation? Essentially, we must view this law as a sort of "experimentational" law. Because it only allows fiv e schools and specifies that the applicants must be existing public schools, the law does not seem to favor radical ref orm. For
2 of 2the same reasons and also the lack of open enrollme nt, it also ignores any element of competition or school c hoice for parents and students. Thus, as the legislation onl y allows entire public schools with their current student bo dy to become charter schools, the law does not provide fo r any smaller scale experimentation which would seem woul d be necessary in order to sponsor any truly radical ref orm within a school. A New Mexico charter school will simply benefit from certain waived restrictions on how a school sh ould be run. As a result, specifically due to the public s chool requirement, the law basically precludes any extens ive charter school system but may be effective in allow ing for the lessening of some unnecessary restrictions and for the promotion of innovative techniques and more student -centered learning programs.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in New Mexico, click Here
1 of 1 OHIOTiayana Marks & Elly Jo RaelBackground Information In May of 1994, Senator Anthony C. Sinagra proposed a charter school bill. He was urged to do so by two Cleveland neighborhood coalitions called CATCH (Churches Acti ng Together for Change and Hope) and WECO (Working for Empowerment through Community Organizing). CATCH i s made up 12 West Side churches, both Protestant and Catholic and WECO is composed of 10 East side churches.1 Supporters argued that charter schools (ter med "community schools" in the bill) promote student ac hievement, increase parental participation and teacher account ability. However, the bill failed. In opposition, the Ohio Education Association (OEA) argued that Ohio's schools are in trouble because they lack sufficient funds and charter scho ols would further diminish financial resources.2Currently The idea of state-wide charter school legis lation is not dead in Ohio, but there is no pending legislation. However, in Cleveland the organizations of CATCH and WECO ha ve formed a coalition called WECAN (Westside Eastside Congreg ations Acting Now). WECAN, the Cleveland Citizen's League and other Cleveland organizations are working together on a proposal for community autonomous schools in Clevel and. Community autonomous schools are similar to charter schools, but they offer more autonomy options for schools. Community autonomous schools allow for varying degrees of aut onomy depending on the capability of the school. These s chools would be developed through a transitional process t hat works on making schools capable of being autonomous and m aintaining accountability.3 For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Ohio, click Here
1 of 2 OREGONTiayana Marks & Elly Jo RaelBackground Information The charter school debate is currently go ing on in Oregon. Some of the arguments in support of the ch arter school bill include the following: 1) Charter schools allow for freedom to dev elop innovative curricula, focus on specialized learning areas, and create more efficient and productive organizati on.4 2) Charter schools are held solely accounta ble for insuring that their students meet state educational standards, and in exchange for this responsibility the regulation burdens are lifted. Deregulation gives charter schools the freedom to allow for creative teaching and learning.5 3) Charter schools help local boards assume a policy role as opposed to the role of the provider. Chart er schools allow the school to be the provider of public educa tion.6 4) Charter schools allow choice for everyon e not just those who can afford to choose alternate schooling for their children. Arguments against charter schools are based on the following concerns: 1) Charter schools will suck money away fro m public schools because public money follows students to ch arter schools, and because private schools are eligible t o convert to charter schools.7 2) There are concerns about what percentage of the per pupil expenditure would follow students to their re spective charter schools. The average per pupil expenditure is just that, a statistical average. The academically "ave rage" student, however, is relatively inexpensive to educ ate. The non-average students, those who have special needs or who face significant obstacles (i.e.. students with dis cipline problems, students who are mentally challenged or a t-risk, and students who are learning English as second lan guage) are more expensive to educate.8 3) Charter schools will become elitist, and public schools will be the dumping ground for the most dif ficult to educate.Currently Charter school bill 2892 has passed in the house and is awaiting action from the senate. Some of the impor tant provisions of the bill include the following (see H ouse Bill 2892): 1) Parents, teachers, school administrators or any other persons or groups may submit a proposal for a charter school. 2) Charter school proposals are to be subm itted to a sponsor. A Sponsor is defined as a board of a comm on school district, a union high school district, an educatio n service district, a community college district, an institut ion of higher education in the State System of Higher Educ ation or the State Board of Education. 3) If a sponsor rejects a proposal the appl icant may resubmit the proposal after amending it, or the app licant may submit the proposal to another sponsor. 4) A charter school is a discrete legal ent ity. This would give charter schools a lot of autonomy. 5) Charter schools must meet requirements f or student
2 of 2performance or be subject to closure. 6) Charter schools must have a way to infor m families of prospective students of the availability of the cha rter school to ensure that members of racial and ethnic groups have an equal opportunity to choose that school.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Oregon, click Here
1 of 3 PennsylvaniaSarah Godshall & Jennifer HillLegislative History Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Ridge, has devis ed his own charter school proposal, which requires the state t o allocate $1 million so that communities can create charter s chools that are planned by parents, teachers, and communit y members. Ridges proposal, which includes a voucher program, was strongly opposed by a coalition of over 30 organiza tions, including the Pennsylvania State Education Associat ion, which is the state's largest teachers union. The coalitio n claimed the plan was unconstitutional and a drain on public schools (Snyder, A1.) An editorial written by Ron Bowes an d printed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Bowes argued that "T he teachers unions, which struggled to help teachers r eceive just wages and fair treatment, are now taking the l ead in preventing the passage of legislation which would h elp primarily poor parents choose the best schools for their children" (Bowes, D3.) Summary of Legislation On May 9, 1995, Governor Ridge announced hi s education reform initiative, called the Keystone Initiative f or a Difference in our Schools (KIDS). Included in the i nitiative are: 1) school choice, competition, and local co ntrol 2) $1 million provision for charter school proposals 3) $38.5 million reserved for a school choi ce program that would allow parents the option of sending thei r children to a public, non-public, or parochial school. The p oorest children in 1/3 of the state's school districts wil l be given Education Opportunity Grants for the first year of the program (Pr Newswire Association, May 8, 1995.) Th is measure will most likely combat opponents' fears that schoo l choice programs will result in "creaming" and turn public schools into dumping grounds for unmotivated and problemati c students.Expected Results of Legislation If Governor Ridge's initiative is passed, i t may prove to be the panacea for Wilkinsburg School District w hich has unsuccessfully been attempting to turn its Turner E lementary School into Pennsylvania's first charter school. Th e district has met opposition to its decision to contract with Alternative Public Schools (APS) of Nashville, Tenn essee. Concerned citizens formed the Wilkinsburg Residents Against Profiteering. Wilkinsburg Education Association su ed the school board on the grounds that the plan, called t he Turner Initiative, violates Pennsylvania's Public School C ode. In addition, the Association, which is composed of 141 members, sees the plan as a threat to job security and an at tempt on the part of the district to undermine the teachers union (Haynes, B1.) In March 1995, Common Pleas Court J udge Judith L.A. Friedman granted Wilkinsburg teachers a n injunction that prohibited the school district from signing a contract with APS. However, Governor Ridge supports Wilkinsburg School Districts attempts to reform its schools. An editorial printed in the Pittsburgh Pos t-Gazette on April 1, 1995, made the following point: "The teach ers were given an opportunity to recreate Turner within the context approved by the board and the superintendent. If th ey refused or failed, then a privately run charter school was an obvious
2 of 3and reasonable alternative. If the law does not per mit such an approach, the law should be amended."Existing Schools That Have Sought Reform Through Au tonomy, Accountability, And Competition In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, charter scho ols-withinschools have been implemented. These schools have b een in use in Philadelphia since 1989 and in 1993, there w ere 95 charter schools-within-schools in 22 of the city's high schools. Approximately 4,000 students participate (Weber, D1.) The high schools are divided into groups of 2 00 to 400 students--a plan considered more manageable than th e traditional design. The academies are supervised by an independent, nonprofit corporation called Philadelp hia High School Academies Inc. The corporation acts as an ad vocate, fund-raiser, and mediator among corporate sponsors, school administrators, teachers, and students (Weber, D1.) These schools are created and planned by te achers, however they are not independent legal entities. In fact, much of the characteristics of charter schools that allow them to be innovative are not present in the Philad elphia schools. The schools do not sign a contract outlin ing their plans, they are not held accountable for student ou tcomes, and they do not risk abolition if their goals aren' t fulfilled. In addition, the schools are subject to the same rules and regulations of traditional schools. The schools-within-schools has been conside red a success so far. As a result of this reform measure, overall attendance and grades have improved. Philadelphia's model is cited in the National Education Association's (NEA) position on charter schools. The NEA praises the Philadelphi a School District for "promoting fundamental restructuring o f governance, instruction, parent involvement, and as sessment practices within the City's public, comprehensive h igh schools." Schools in Pittsburgh have also implemented elements of accountability, decentralization of administration, community and parent involvement, and public/private partners hips. The district's central administration is being reorgani zed and decentralized in order to cut administrative costs. Furthermore, in exchange for increased accountabili ty, individual schools are given more autonomy which al lows the schools to design the curriculum to meet the needs of its students, while also fulfilling the district's goal s. Central offices now serve a support capacity for th e schools. Although these schools have adopted many of the characteristics of charter schools, the schools are still under the direction of the central school board. There are magnet options at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Among the options p arents and students can choose from are an International Studi es Elementary School, aimed at familiarizing students with other languages and cultures; Arsenal Geographic and Life Sciences Middle School, which engages in projects with the P ittsburgh Zoo, the Pennsylvania Conservatory, the National Ge ographic Society, and The Carnegie; Rogers School for the Cr eative and Performing Arts, also a middle school, emphasizes d evelopment of both artistic and academic skills and bases acce ptance on either an audition or a portfolio. On the high scho ol level, the options become even more numerous and diverse. Students can choose from schools focused on computer science law and public service, mathematics and science, and vocational/technical studies, to name a few. In add ition students in all three levels can enroll in traditio nal schools that emphasize discipline and structure whi le offering a more traditional curriculum.Using The Pennsylvania And New Jersey Models to Add ress the
3 of 3Information Issue Informing parents of their options must be in place for school choice to accomplish its intended goals. In Montclair, brochures that describe each magnet school are avai lable. In addition, the district hosts open houses and meetin gs that allow parents to familiarize themselves with the di fferent schools. It is worth noting, however, that Beatriz C. Clewell and Myra F. Joy cite researchers' findings that the level of parental awareness differed along race and class li ne, with educated Whites possessing the greater awareness of their options (Clewell, 2.) In Philadelphia, information about the scho ol options are made available through radio advertisement and a publication called Options for Learning, which brie fly describes 50 schools. Moreover, there is a 24-hour information hotline. Visits to the district office and various guidance counselors are encouraged. Philade lphia also offers a unique information service called the Dese gmobile. The Desegmobile is described as a camper-style van that stops in various places throughout the city and all ows parents to walk through and view artwork and displa y cases from various schools (Zerchykov, 37.) There are ind ividuals on board the van to answer parents' questions. In Pittsburgh, the Director of Public Infor mation is in charge of writing and distributing information deta iling school choice. Furthermore, a parent information ce nter is being developed. The center's goals are to educate and train parents to make the best academic decisions for the ir children. There is an emphasis on attracting even t he hardto-reach parent (Zerchykov, 39.) The federal fundin g that Pittsburgh receives enables the city to mail a guid e about its schools to every household in the city prior to registration. Parent meetings are organized to help parents receive feedback and recommendations from one anoth er. There is also an Option Information Fair that parents can attend, as well as a City-wide steering committee that conv enes monthly to discuss parent education and services.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Pennsylvania, click Here
1 of 2 SOUTH CAROLINAAllison PadavanLegislative History In 1995 Bill 3388, "South Carolina Charter Schools Act of 1995," was brought before the General Assembly o f the State of South Carolina. The bill "allows for the formation of charter schools. A charter school is defined as a public, nonsectarian, non-religious, nonhome-based, nonprof it school which operates within a public school district, but is accountable to either the South Carolina Board of E ducation or the local board of trustees. The proposed legis lation does not address the number of charter schools allo wed in the state or a school district (Summary, p1)." As of A pril 1995, the Bill had just begun to be studied by a subcommi ttee of the Education and Public Works panel (Island Packet 4/19/95). The impetus of the movement is in Hilton Head, wher e proponents had hopes of opening a school by Septemb er '95, but may have to wait considering the law is not pas sed yet. Rep. Scott Richardson, R-Hilton Head Island, was t he leader of the legislation's formation. He points out that the bill doesn't guarantee that people will be able to open a charter school, "It will be up to them and their superinten dents to decide if this is the best thing for their communi ty. The bill will set the game field for them to play on (I sland Packet, 1/5/95)."Proponents of the legislation, aside from the polit icians involved, include community members, both students and parents. One member of the movement was quoted as saying, "We want to increase the quality of education throu gh competition We want to give everyone a choicea cross racial spectrum, across intellectual spectrum, and across economic spectrum (Island Packet, 11/18/94)."Concerns over the ramifications of charter schools have been voiced by a number of organizations. Some parents expressed concern over who would go to the charter schools an d who would get 'left behind.' Several members of the Hi lton Head chapter of the League of Women Voters "raised conce rns about such issues as financial accountability, whether ch arter schools fit the definition of public schools and wh at impact charter school would have on other public schools i n the school district (Island Packet 4/19/95)." Res egregation is another shared concern. Superintendent Barbara N ielsen, who has similar concerns, was quoted as saying, "It is very important for everyone to understand that they cann ot be used as a way to resegregate, not by any category. They must be fair, and all children must have equal access to th em (Island Packet 11/23/94)." Denis Doyle, a consultant for the Beaufort County School Board expressed a concern, shared by the county's superintendent Richard Flynn, over the appropriaten ess of charter school for small communities, "in great big cities...charter schools make a lot of sense becaus e it cuts through a lot of bureaucracy and red tape...In smal l communities, like Beaufort, you will have to think about it for different reasons. Beaufort is not bureaucratic Beaufort is straightforward (Island Packet 11/18/94 )." Salient points of bill APPLICATION The charter school application shall be a proposed agreement and include: a) a mission statement
2 of 2 b) goals, objectives, and pupil achievement standards c) evidence that an adequate number of pare nts, teachers, pupils, or combination support the formation d) description of the educational program, pupil achievement standards, and curricul um e) description of the plan for evaluating p upil achievement, types of assessments,t ime lines for achievement and procedures for taki ng corrective actions APPROVAL The approving body: a) may establish a schedule for receiving a pplications b) hold community meetings to obtain inform ation to assist in their decision to grant a n application c) deny an application if it does not meet requirements and provide written explanation wit hin five days of reasons for denial. Applicant may appeal to State Board of Education or amend applica tion to conform. Approving body has 30 days to appro ve or deny. d) becomes school's sponsor upon approval o f application. APPEALS a) Second opportunity for appeals exists sh ould State Board of Education remand the decision to the loc al board of trustees for reconsideration and the local board st ill denies. A final decision will be made within 30 days. This is not subject to appeal or review by the co urts. Conclusions Among the SC School Boards Association, the SC Association of School Administrators, and the Palme tto State Teachers Association there is reserved support for charter schools. All these groups will endorse the legisla tion, however, only if local school boards maintain autho rity and responsibility for the establishment of charter sch ools. It is likely that the charter school bill will be pass ed in the next legislative session. However, there does not seem to be a great number of groups waiting to open such schoo ls.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in South Carolina, click Here
1 of 2 TEXASLisa Studness & Valerie WrenholtBackground Information In 1995, the Texas educational code was rew ritten by the Senate Education Committee. The 1,088 page documen t offered "'a veritable smorgasbord'" of educational options to update the current public school system (Walt, Houston Chr onicle, Feb. 10, '94). One of the components of the docume nt is a bill which would allow for the creation of charter schools in the state. Opponents of the charter schools bill fear that the initiation of charter schools will lead to more rac ial, socioeconomic, and academic segregation than curren tly exists in the public school system. Magnolia McCullogh of Dallas fears that charter schools would "resegregate" Texa s. She fears that charter schools could be "another way to get rid of African-American males" (Walt, Senate Panel..., 1A). There is currently a federal desegregation rule whi ch prohibits the state from making any changes resulti ng in changing the racial makeup of a district by more th an one percent, but charter schools could potentially upse t this court mandated balance by radically shifting racial populations. Another major concern in Texas is how much local control should be given to districts. Eric Hartman of the Texas Federation of Teachers stated this concern when he said, "We had local control for 140 years and in that time Te xas schoolchildren's performance was at the bottom leve l" (Walt, Senate Panel..., 1A). Under the charter school bil l most decisions would be given to local districts. This local control would allow for greater innovation by chart er schools in approved home school districts. These innovatio ns would be expected to bolster student performance. The tr ade off would be delivered academic results in exchange for greater local control. The Houston Independent School District sch ool board, the Texas Business and Education Coalition, and man y professional organizations support charter schools, although their support includes many stipulations regarding who has the authority to grant charters, who will be eligib le to receive charters, and what state laws will be waive d for charter schools.Legislation The Texas education reform bill, a componen t of which is charter schools, is supported by both the House of Representatives, the Senate, and Governor George Bu sh. The two houses began meeting April 10, 1995, to reach a compromise regarding their respective education ref orm bills. If the houses successfully reach a compromise and t he bill is signed by the Governor, as is expected, charter sch ools would be allowed in Texas. Texas charter schools would be free of most state restrictions, but would not be granted complete aut onomy. Under the Texas bill, charter schools could be crea ted by anyone, but would then be subject to local school b oard approval. Charter schools could only be formed in home-rule districts. These home rule districts would be dist inct entities from general and special districts. The d esignation as a home-rule district would have to be approved b y at least five percent of the district's registered voters or at least two thirds of the school board.
2 of 2 Home rule charters would still be bound by some state mandates including minimum standards for students a nd no tolerance policies toward drugs and violence on cam pus. Schools would also be prohibited from any type of discrimination on the basis of gender, national ori gin, ethnicity, religion, disability, or academic or ath letic ability. Charter schools would be required to foll ow federal guidelines regarding special education and bilingua l programs.Conclusion Senator Bill Ratliff probably best summed u p charter school legislation in Texas when he said, "'I think generally people are favorable to the idea (of charter school s). I think the devil will be in the details as to what t hings they (the Legislature) allow the charter schools to do'" (Markley, The Houston Chronicle, Dec. 18, '94). If the curre nt debates regarding class size caps in grades kindergarten th rough four and restrictions regarding the Texas' no pass, no p lay regulation are solved by the Legislature, charter s chools may be created in Texas. Although under the past Texas education bill there was no explicit provision which would no t allow for the creation of charter schools, the passing of the Texas charter school legislation is hoped to stimulate ch arter school creation. "There is a keen interest in char ter school status and relief from state mandates; a similar TE A (Texas Education Association) program, The Partnership Sch ool Initiative, drew applications from 2,000 schools (9 9 were granted)" (Overview...). Texas is currently seekin g major changes and innovation in education and many Texans view charter schools as a initial solution to a better e ducational system.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Texas, click Here
1 of 2 VIRGINIAAllison PadavanLegislative History Supporters of charter schools in Virginia r eflect the same point of view as those in Florida and for the same reasons. They feel that charter schools are more r esponsive to community needs, more accountable, facilitate mo re involvement of parents and teachers, and foster com petition in a given school district, thereby helping strictl y public schools to do better. Critics cite the issues of elitism, segregation bet ween students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and a diversion of money from regular schools (The Virgin ia Pilot and The Ledger Star, 1/5/95).The Virginia School Boards Association and the Virg inia Association of School superintendents both voted ag ainst the creation of charter schools. In stating their oppo sition they emphasized concerns of potential financial dis parity between the current public schools and proposed cha rter schools. They feel if certain schools should be fre ed from specific rules and requirements as a way of stimula ting quality education then all schools should be given the same prerogatives.Legislation creating charter schools was introduced in both the Virginia Senate and the General Assembly at the request of Governor George Allen. While the State Board of Education has not come out in favor of the measure, many of i ts members have indicated general but conditional support of t he concept. Various members question the potential of increased disparity among students, the education of special education children as well as the need to have discrimination prohibitions clearly spelled out in the law.Despite the comprehensive content of the legislatio n and the Governor's strong support, both houses of the legis lator have decided not to debate the issue during the 1995 ses sion. The Senate and the House of Delegates voted to refer th e proposal to a one year study. Five delegates and four senato rs will have been appointed to study charter schools. (Roan oke Times and World News, 2/3/95).Although the Senate sponsor of the bill is from Roa noke, his enthusiasm for the legislation is not shared by the relatively large Roanoke school district. Their op position centers about a number of key charter school issue s: potential for reduction in public school funding, e litism, costs of transportation, teacher certification, and a potential for lower teacher wages, and appropriate educational assessment measures (Roanoke Times and World New 2/4/95).On the other side of the issue, the Secretary of Ed ucation for Virginia, Beverly H. Sgro, citing her alliance with Governor Allen, strongly supports charter schools. Her reasons are highlighted by the need for meaningful reform of education and a recommendation from the Governor's Commission on Champion Schools, a group of 53 Virginians repre senting various professions and interests. She makes it cl ear that the Governor's bill ensures that all educational st andards will be met specifically in math, science, and soci al studies. In addition, safety, health, and civil ri ghts laws must be adhered to.Secretary Sgro outlines step by step all of the pos itive aspects for charter schools, including increased ac ademic potential, flexibility and accountability, and bett er
2 of 2opportunities for students with special needs and i nterests. She refutes those who feel funding losses to public schools might occur and highlights the value of competition between charter and public schools.In response to the earlier criticism from the Roano ke district with regard to teacher certification requi rements, she points out the values of allowing charter schoo ls to invite professionals such as engineers to teach mat h and a "retired symphony conductor to teach music (Roanoke Times and World News 2/4/95)."One of the few administrators in Virginia to suppor t charter schools is Portsmouth School's Superintendent Richa rd Trumble. In differing with the association he belon gs to, he echoes all the positive reasons outlined by Secreta ry Sgro with special emphasis on the targeting of gifted st udents and learning disabled students.Another supporter is Michelle Easton, a member of t he Virginia State Board of Education. In countering t he elitist charges she points out since wealthy parents alread y have the ability to place their children in private upscale schools, why shouldn't poor parents have the same opportunit y to improve the quality of their children's' education.Others who feel charters schools would lead to a di smantling of public schools include school teachers, a number of legislators in both houses, and the Virginia Confer ence of the NAACP, which raised the issue of resegregation.Salient points of the bill The bill, introduced on Jan. 23, 1995, was referred in both houses to the Committees on education and is s imilar to charter school laws currently in effect in other st ates such as Minnesota: It provides for the submission of a p roposal to local school boards to include a mission statement, goals and performance standards, evidence of parental and tea cher support, a statement of need and a description of g overnance. Anti discrimination standards are clearly stated an d schools must be nonsectarian. If a local school board reje cts an application an appeal may be made to the court havi ng jurisdiction.State and local funds would be allocated on the sam e basis as public schools including federal money for disabled pupils. Enrollment would be open to any child residing in t he district and may be open to children outside the di strict if desired.Conclusions Virginia seems to be more divided over the issue of charter schools than many other states. There are strong members to both the proponent and opponent sides. As evidenced by the legislators' call for a one year s tudy of the issue, it is clear that many conflicts need to be resolved before the state can begin to think of pas sing the bill and allowing any charter status to be granted.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Virginia, click Here
1 of 1 VERMONTPhaedon Sinis & Kelly RodaLegislative History Vermont's proposed legislation has passed the state Senate and is under consideration in the state Hous e. Contents of the Bill This bill will allow partnerships or corpor ations to run 10 experimental charter schools. These schools wi ll be greatly deregulated, although they will still have to abide by civil rights statutes, health and safety rules, basic accounting principles, and labor and collective bar gaining laws. Applications for charters will be accepted b y a specific deadline each year and will be granted for five years. A proposed charter must contain specific i nformation concerning the operation and assessment of the char ter school. For each charter school student, he comple te average per-pupil spending will be transferred to the chart er school, leaving none in the public school of the student's home district, but the local government can impose a lim it on the number of students attending a charter school. Conclusions & Future Prospects Jeb Spaulding, a Vermont state senator and the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, argues that in t he future, such schools will invigorate education by involving parents; that the quality of education will rise; that innov ation will occur by allowing entrepreneurs greater freedom to develop new kinds of schools; and that the system will bec ome more responsive to the needs of students and parents. O ne criticism is that the innovation and the best stude nts will move to the charter schools and leave the original public schools as a dumping ground. This fear is unsubsta ntiated by evidence from other states; in fact, charter sch ools in California are often geared towards difficult-to-ed ucate children. It does not seem likely that Vermont's scho ol system will be drastically changed for the better because of this bill, however. First of all, Vermont's unique scho ol choice system implies that charter schools will not bring significant change to a school system in which choi ce already exists (Lieberman, pp. 244-247). And the cap impos ed on the number of charter schools will prevent further comp etition from arising.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Vermont, click Here
1 of 3 WASHINGTONTiayana Marks & Elly Jo RaelBackground Information Charter schools as a an educational reform measure have been a topic of debate in Washington for a couple o f years. Some of the support for charter school legislation has been based on the following arguments:(See note 1 at bot tom) a) Charter schools add an element of compet ition. Competition in providing public education will exis t if there are a large number of charter schools competing wit h each other and regular public schools for students. Thi s competition will lead to improved education for all students because regular public schools, feeling financially strapped due to loss of students, will improve their educati onal services to attract students. Charter schools will provide improved education to attract students in order bri ng money into the school and to meet state achievement stand ards because if charter schools fail to meet state stand ards they will be shut down. b) Charter schools will be able to meet the diverse needs of students. c) Charter schools will increase parental i nvolvement in educational decision-making processes, and make pub lic schools more responsive to parental concerns. d) Charter schools will not become elitist schools if mandates are made to insure that charter schools ad mit a certain percentage of at-risk, low-income, and othe r disadvantaged students. Despite these pro-charter school arguments the first attempts to bring forth charter school legislation failed. Rep. Wes Pruitt proposed House Bill 2673 in Jan. 19 94, and Senator John Meyer proposed a similar measure, Sena te Bill 6226. One of the arguments that Pruitt presented w as that charter schools would break up the monopoly that sc hool districts have over the provision of educational se rvices. (See Note 2.) The Washington Education Association (WEA) and the Washington State School Director's Association (WSS DA) strongly opposed the charter school bill. Union me mbers felt that charter schools were a step towards privatizat ion, and privatization was a threat to the union. Also, a W EA spokeswoman, Teresa Moore, and then State Superinte ndent of Public Instruction, Judith Billings, argued that Wa shington did not need charter schools because the school ref orm laws already in existence encouraged innovation.(Note 3) Furthermore, the Legislature had granted all 108 applications ma de by public schools for waivers of state regulations. Other arguments that opposed charter school legislation in Washington were based on the following concerns: (Note 4) a) Charter schools may heighten race, class and academic differences in public schools despite contract prov isions that forbid discrimination of any sort in the stude nt application process. b) Charter schools will fall apart when the founding parents lose interest as their children move on. c) Charter schools are not a lasting or bro ad solution to public education. d) What about teacher job security? e) Charter schools may lower the standards of teachers. Currently
2 of 3 House Bill 1147 for the provision of charte r schools passed in the House in March and has been sent to t he Senate. This is the first of any charter school legislation to get House and Senate approval in order to bring it to a vote5. Opposition remains with the WSSDA, but the WEA has not opposed the bill. Below are some important provisi ons of the bill (see House Bill 1147): 1) The bill allows for only 10 charter scho ols statewide, and no more than one per district. Allo wing only 10 charter schools may hinder the competition argum ent because there would not be a sufficient number of s tudents attending charter schools to provoke the other publ ic schools to improve their educational methods. 2) Charter schools must hire state-certifie d teachers. This addresses the concerns of those people that fe el teacher standards would become lower if non-certified teach ers were hired. However, these fears about employing uncert ified teachers are based on the assumption that state-cer tified teachers are competent to teach and uncertified tea chers are not competent. 3) The bill does not allow charter schools to limit their admissions on the basis of intellectual abili ty, measures of achievement or aptitude, or athletic ab ility. Furthermore, it does not allow a charter school to limit admission to residents of a specific geographic are a if the percentage of the non-Caucasian population in this specific area is not greater than the percentage of the nonCaucasian population in the school district where the geograp hic area is located. These admissions provisions make it a violation for charter schools to become elitist schools. Vio lating these admission laws are grounds to have a charter revoked. Also, these open admissions policies counter the ar gument that the public schools will become a dumping groun d for the most difficult to educate. 4) Charter schools must have a board of tru stees that will be the governing body of the school. The boar d of trustees must consist of teachers employed in the s chool, parents of the students enrolled in the school, and other individuals. This provision allows parents and tea chers to have an important role in the functioning of the sc hool. This provision holds parents and teachers responsib le for the maintenance school and educational achievement of t he students. 5) Nonprofit organizations or cooperatives, public college and university teacher preparation programs and existing public schools are eligible to establish c harter schools. 6) Charter school applications are to be su bmitted to the local school board for approval. If an applica tion is rejected, the application may be submitted to the s tate board of education. 7) Charter schools have to meet health, saf ety, and civil rights requirements.Footnotes1 The Seattle Times, "Charter Schools May be Answ er to Parents' Concerns" October 12, 1993, Pg. E10.2 News Tribune, "Legislature '94: Charter Schools Would Break 'Monopoly,' Backers Say" February 1, 199 4, Pg. B3. 3 News Tribune, B3.4 The Seattle Times, E10.5 News Tribune, "House Approves Pilot Plan to Cre ate Innovative Schools" March 12, 1995, Pg. B6.
3 of 3 For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Washington, click Here
1 of 4 WISCONSINCandace CrawfordLegislative History Wisconsin's charter school law was passed i n August 1993. The original bill which was opposed by such groups as the Wisconsin Education Association and the Departm ent of Public Instruction was heavily sponsored by governo r Tommy Thompson. Starting in 1994, Governor Thompson has tried to expand Wisconsin's charter school law including pro posals to remove the limit of ten districts, allow charter sc hools to hire uncertified teachers and allow private contrac ting for the hiring of personnel. Governor Thompson's new p roposals have created an uproar among several groups includi ng the state superintendent of schools, Democratic leaders and teacher's unions across the state. Summary of Legislation The number of schools allowed to be charter ed has been limited to 20, 2 per district in ten districts. Tw o groups can charter a school: a local school board or any other group. For a local school board to receive a chart er they must submit a petition to the state superintendent. For an other group to receive a charter, they must submit a petition signed by at least 10% of the teachers in a distric t or 50% of the teachers at any one school. After obtaining the appropriate signatures, the petition must be submit ted to the local school board which must have a public hearing within 30 days of receipt to determine community support for the school. After the hearing, the school board may gr ant the charter. If the school board receives a charter it may hire a management team to run the school. According to the Wisconsin law, "A charter school i s an instrumentality of the school district in which it is located (Wisconsin State Charter School Law)." The school has complete control over its budgetary processes but t he district holds the power to grant, revoke and contr ol any other aspect of a charter school within its distric t. Results of Law Three charter schools are up and running in Wisconsin. They are all in separate districts and serve differ ent students. Two are schools within schools and the o ther started from the ground up.Beaver Dam Beaver Dam serves 70 at risk students from grades 6-12. The school is located in area with a population of about 15,000 with 3400 students in grade K-12. The schoo l was started from the ground up after studying 15 progra ms for at risk students in Illinois and Wisconsin. The middl e school students attend a typical 7 hour school day while t he high school students generally spend 3-31/2 hours in the classroom. The rest of their day is spent in the c ommunity completing on the job training. The school is sta ffed by five teachers and a social worker that addresses th e student's social and emotional needs. Each student has an individual learning plan which addresses the needs of that particular student and the school creates a family atmosphere for its students. Some students will graduate with the Wisconsin High School Equivalency Diploma or a port folio of their job skills. The major problem the school had in startin g up was
2 of 4garnering support from the local community to pass a budget referendum. In the state of Wisconsin, there is a revenue cap on funding that can only be waived through refe rendum. The school was allotted a budget of $350,000 but ne eded more money to lease and modify an old building and to hi re new staff. The founders of the charter first had to ex plain exactly what the revenue cap was and then they had to fight a perception that the school district was trying to g et rid of the "bad" kids. Many people were wondering where t his building was to be located that was going to put aw ay these "bad" kids. After explaining to the community the purpose of the school and its plan, the referendum passed on a 2-1 margin with strong union backing. The school is trying to develop a competenc y degree. It would not be based on the traditional units for gra duation like four years of English, but would be based on s kills that each student has gained from on the job training. The main goal is to prove to people that Beaver Dam's studen ts meet a workplace readiness guideline.Madison Middle School 2000 The city of Madison is the capital of Wisco nsin and contains a population of about 200,00. It is a Uni versity town which offers a nice place for family. In the last decade or so there has been a migration from Chicag o, located 2 1/2 hours away in nearby Illinois, from housing p rojects such as Cabrini Green. The new population has brou ght to the city of Madison a cultural diversity but it has als o caused some uneasiness in the city. It is a place that ha s high graduation standards and high student achievement s tandards for its students. Middle school 2000 is located in West Madison but serves children mostly from South Madis on. The school is a conversion school and serves 6-8 grader s. It does not serve a specific population of students bu t has a breakdown of 30% of students above grade level, 30% at grade level and 30% below. There are about 80 students p er class that are selected by a student selection committee. The school uses an integrated curriculum with a strong computer focus. Each classroom has five computers and there are powerbooks for students to take home for outside as signments. Madison is co-housed with a pre kindergarten/early childhood program. The students have book buddies and helps out with the other program. They also have e-mail pen pals at the local university that they meet at the end of the s chool year. One of the start up problems Madison had wa s when the technical director proclaimed that middle school k ids did not need the type of technology the school wanted h im to build and promptly quit. They also had problems wi th hiring staff for the new school. Currently they have been trying to find a site and have had backlash from the South Ma dison community who wants a 600 student comprehensive mid dle school within walking distance of their community. Howeve r, Middle School 2000 is a small school with about 240 studen ts with creators who have a very different focus. Recently the referendum bond passed for the school to build at a site on the outskirts of South Madison. They would like to get all the details worked and erect a permanent facility for the school. They would also like to initiate a contract system with parents, who would have to pledge 2 days of their time in a school year to hel p around Middle School 2000. The school would also like to have elected positions for their school governance counc il which comprises 5 different committees that cover differe nt areas of school operation. Stevens Point The city of Stevens Point is a small city o f about 26,000 people located in a rural area. However the school
3 of 4district that includes Stevens Point serves about a population of about 50,000. It is a collection of four small towns all within one area that contains alot of lar ge crop farms. The population is not a very diverse one bu t is becoming more so with the arrival of a huge migrant Asian population. Stevens Point is a school within a school a nd serves students grade 10-12. The school's goal is to have students from many different ability ranges but mostly serve s the needs of the middle of the road or average student. The school also wanted to include students with disabil ities in its program. They wanted to do an integrated curri culum with courses such as Technical Thinking and Cultural Her itage. The school is run on a block schedule with classes ranging in duration from 30 minutes to 80 minutes. The studen ts only attend for half a day in the mornings. The student s also do some community work and get some on site job experi ence. Steven Points main problem starting up was funding. The school board was having a hard time giving up budge tary responsibility to a group of people not necessarily associated with them. In its contract the school h ad to stipulate that it would follow the budgetary polici es of the district. The local union believed that the teache rs hired at Beaver Dam was trying to bust up the union. The teachers had to reassure them they had no intentions of leav ing the union and that was another point stipulated in the contract. The third problem they had was not knowing what to do. It was a learn as you go process. They have also run into a problem with the usual school gossip accusing the t eachers who work with the program as creating an elitist gr oup of students and not working as hard as other teachers in the building. Stevens Point plans to follow the sophomore s that are in the program until they graduate. They hope also to follow them two years after they are out of high school in order to measure the effect of the program on the students. They hope to get out in the community more next year and mayb e do some classes at the local university. Next year they wi ll also switch the program to the afternoon so that they ca n run past the typical 3:00 PM school day.Conclusions Wisconsin's law is a good start. Governor T hompson has been working on expanding Wisconsin's highly restri ctive charter school law for over a year now. Some of hi s proposals include removing the limit of ten distric ts, allowing charter schools to hire uncertified teache rs and allowing private contracting for the hiring of pers onnel. However, Governor Thompson's new proposals have cre ated an uproar among several groups including the state superintendent of schools, Democratic leaders and t eacher's unions across the state. Many see the governor's p roposals as purposefully "trying to divide the community."(J ohn Matthews, director of Madison Teachers Inc., Capita l Times 1A, Feb. 10, 1995). Others such as Senator Joseph Wineke a democrat from Verona thinks "he's intent on destroy ing public education"(Jeff Mayers, Wisconsin State Journal, 1A January 26, 1995). But the governor contends that he wants to give "every single school... the freedom and the flexibi lity to educate our children as they(parents, teachers and administrators) know best"(Jeff Mayers, Wisconsin S tate Journal, 1A, January 26,1995). However, to furthe r meet the needs of charter schools in his state, Governor Tho mpson needs to add a few more suggestions to his proposal He needs to include an appeals process for rejected ch arters and a provision that would make charter schools legally autonomous from the local school district. As seen with Stevens Point, the local school board and administr ation can pressure petitioners to include items in their char ter to
4 of 4restrict their freedom in running their school.For a bibliography of sources on charter schools in Wisconsin, click Here
1 of 3AUTONOMYNeal Dickert Jr. Level of autonomy is certainly one of the key issu es in the charter school debate, as increased autonomy is what makes a charter schoo l different from a regular public school. Often, the level of autonomy granted is the central factor in comparing various charter school legislation and activity. However, a utonomy occurs in various areas of charter school activity, and what is often so inter esting about it is the many ways in which states have dealt with different aspects of i t in their charter school legislation. This section will provide a cross-sectional view of how the eleven states who currently have charter school laws deal with various issues o f autonomy. The first key aspect of measuring autonomy is perh aps the most visible and the most symbolic of a state's law. This characteristic is whether a charter school in a particular state is a legally autonomous entity or subsumed under the control of other bodies. States whose laws are typically considered more autonomous tend to allow their schools to be legally autonomous; whereas those les s autonomous states more frequently place charter schools under the authority of some b oard, usually the local school board (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995). In fact, Ar izona, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota all allow charter schools t o be, in most cases, legally autonomous entities, often structured as non-profit corporations. The only state that has significant established charter school activity but still puts the charter school under the authority of the local school board is Colorado. Bu t, almost all of the states with fairly minimal activity allow the local board to have cont rol over charter schools. Georgia, Kansas, New Mexico, and Wisconsin all do so. In the typical category of lower autonomy legislation, the only state that is questi onable is Hawaii. In Hawaii, the issue of legally autonomous schools is being considered b y the Attorney General (Mulholland and Bierlein, April, 1995). For Hawaii to grant leg al autonomy would be an unprecedented event, as its law is one of the most restrictive, allowing only conversions to charter schools from existing public schools. Another significant element of legislation which i s an issue of school autonomy is the system employed to waive requirements. Here aga in, there seem to be two main options. Either the legislation offers a blanket ex emption, in which a charter school is automatically free from all or most state and/or di strict regulations, or it offers a sort of line-item waiver in which certain requirements are removed as specified in the charter proposal or as requested by a charter applicant. Ob viously, the first of these two options appears to offer a much greater amount of autonomy to charter schools, as it essentially allows charter applicants to make up their own rule s; whereas the other option only lets charter applicants ask for permission to ignore cer tain rules. Arizona, California, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are the states whose laws offer blanket exemptions. Massachusetts and Hawaii also offer options near bl anket exemptions, and Georgia allows those exemptions specified in the charter. C olorado, Missouri, Kansas, Michigan, and New Mexico have more stringent laws, requiring waivers for every exemption requested (Millot, 1994, Bierlein and Mulholland, A pril, 1995). In short, each of these states deal with the issue of exemption differently, and, a blanket exemption does seem to grant much more auto nomy than the line-item exemption option. However, it is important to note that, even in a state where the applicant is applying under blanket exemption, the state may still be reluctant to
2 of 3disregard state regulations. The real difference be tween the two programs is essentially symbolic, as the two methods are basically a statem ent of user-friendliness. Both programs could allow the exact same charter school to exist by exempting certain regulations or deny the same school by asserting th e necessity of other regulations, but it seems to be the case that blanket exemption laws en courage applicants more than the more restrictive item-by-item waiver systems becaus e of their freer form and decreased bureaucracy. Yet another significant issue in the realm of auto nomy is admissions requirements. It must first be mentioned that the s tates of New Mexico, Hawaii, and Georgia essentially remove themselves from this iss ue, because their laws only allow conversion to charter schools from existing schools thus leaving the constituency if the schools exactly the same. Their admissions standard s remain identical. However, in states providing for school choice, admissions requ irements are very controversial and diverse. The most common system of admissions is to ban any form of discrimination based upon athletic or intellectual ability, race, etc. Then, if there are too many applicants at a school, there will be a lottery to decide who will attends the school within the specified geographic area of eligibility. Massa chusetts probably grants the most amount of autonomy in terms of admission, allowing for selection based upon certain minimum academic standards. On the other hand, Cali fornia is much more restricted in who its schools can admit and refuse. Can charter schools hire uncertified teachers? This issue also enters into an evaluation of the operational autonomy of a charter school. Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and, in almost all cases, Michigan are t he states which rest fairly resolute on this issue, not granting individual applicants the ability to choose whether they will hire uncertified teachers. In most other cases, dependin g upon their exemption style, the other states offer the possibility of negotiating a n exemption from this requirement according to the procedures outlined in their legis lation. For example, in New Mexico, unless the requirement that only certified teachers be hired were waived by the board, a charter school would be expected to comply with tha t rule. On the other hand, in Massachusetts, a charter school, in applying, would be free to design its own system for the hiring of teachers. If the school were approved the school would follow that hiring procedure, but it would never have to ask for a wai ver of that requirement. Other issues of school/teacher relations illustrat ing the amount of autonomy granted by states' legislation include whether char ter schools are subject to collective bargaining agreements, whether they have the right to hire and fire teachers, and whether charter school teachers remain in the state retirem ent system. A comparison of these additional issues gives an idea of how much autonom y states really tend to grant in employee/employer relations. While almost all state s keep its charter school teachers within the retirement system (Michigan and Minnesot a are uncertain.), these other aspects of employment vary greatly. Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado, for example, offer a great deal of autonomy to indi vidual schools in teacher relations, Massachusetts granting schools significant autonomy in all of these areas. On the other hand, Wisconsin and Kansas offer almost no degree o f autonomy in any of the areas of teacher/school relations. Georgia, Arizona, Califor nia, Michigan, and New Mexico all offer the possibility of negotiating autonomy on em ployment issues (Millot, 1994). One of the most important areas of charter school activity in which autonomy is a vital issue is the area of funding, and the approac hes vary extremely from state to state. This section will simply look at which states are a nd are not autonomous for their operations funding, or the federal and state funds upon which they operate. Arizona (although the amount depends upon whether locally s ponsored or state sponsored),
3 of 3California, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Minnesota are all autonomous in this respect. Colorado is guaranteed to obtain at least eighty pe rcent of operation funds, and Hawaii is generally autonomous, despite the fact that it may receive only the average per pupil amount received by the department of education. In Georgia, Kansas, and Wisconsin, the charter designates the amount of funding. And, in N ew Mexico, appropriate administrative costs can be withheld at the distric t level before it reaches the schools (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995). While the above-mentioned areas of charter school autonomy focus on the operation of the schools, it is also very important to consider the amount of autonomy granted in the application process, specifically, w hat sort of groups, etc. may submit a proposal to form a charter school. In this area, th ere are large disparities between states, evidence of their often completely different charte r school goals. For example, Georgia, Hawaii, and New Mexico only allow existing public s chools to convert to charter status. Thus, there is very little autonomy in these states as to who can start a charter school. These highly restrictive laws are completely differ ent from the much more accessible, less restrictive laws of virtually all of the other states. Arizona allows for any public or private group, or individual to organize a charter school proposal. California is similar in saying that anyone can circulate a petition to esta blish a charter school (Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995). It even allows such schoo ls as home schools to obtain charters. Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin also al low for essentially any group or individual to propose a charter school, although Wi sconsin also allows for a local school board to establish charter schools. Minnesota, in k eeping with its strict adherence to teacher certification, only allows certified teache rs to organize charter schools. Massachusetts requires at least two certified teach ers or at least ten parents, or any other individuals or groups. Finally, Kansas allows for e ssentially anyone to organize a charter school, including school district employees and edu cational services contractors. Thus, it becomes apparent that there is a very wide range of what types of schools can be established as charter schools in different states (Millot, 1994 and Bierlein and Mulholland, April, 1995). The above areas are some of the most significant i n terms of charter school autonomy. From the high correlation between the num ber of schools established and level of autonomy, it seems evident that degree of autonomy functions as a major incentive in the establishment of charter schools i n the United States. Return to Contents
1 of 7 The Chartering ProcessKelly RodaOBSTACLES While the legislation regarding the charter ing process varies widely from state to state, the obstacles t hat individuals have run into when proposing schools have b een similar. The obstacles that exist for those proposin g charters are the same reasons that the Southwest Regiona l Report mentions to explain why the one-hundred charter scho ol limit in California has yet to be reached These are that starting a school is time-consuming and burdensome; th at developing and meeting standards for accountability is dif ficult; that there is no funding to start proposals for charter schools; that the degree of autonomy desired will no t exist; that teacher unions are unsupportive of charter schools, thus making hiring of teachers more difficult; a nd that there are other, more convenient alternatives ava ilable for parents. Charter school proposers are runn ing into these hindrances all over the country. Although charter schools exist to improve s chools, there is no doubt that money is a main concern fo r charter school proposers. In order to gain support for a charter school, a certain degree of propaganda must be used Creating and distributing information takes time which c ould otherwise be used to earn money. While spending mone y trying to disseminate their ideas to teachers, parent s, administration and other influential people to gain support, individuals seeking a charter are losing po tential capital. In order for a charter proposal to be succe ssful, money is a necessary ingredient. It would be naive to think that legislation does not have some effect on the possible difficulty one has creating a charter school. In some states, chartering a school is a long, drawn out process without a chance of appealing. This discourages individuals to propose sch ools. Other states have a quick process set up that req uires little time. According to the GAO report, schools seeking the most independence are the least supported by the districts (p.9). Thus, it may be difficult for the most inno vative schools to find the sponsors that some legislation req uires. Interpreting how legislation will effect th e relative facility of obtaining a charter without hav ing a good knowledge of the political background in th at state is impossible. For example, in Massachusetts t he approval of the Secretary of Education is the only t hing required to start a charter. One does not know, how ever, how difficult this is to obtain without investi gating Massachusetts and the present Secretary of Education. Nonetheless, legislation can be a major ob stacle for those proposing charters. Another main obstacle is creating the propo sal itself. One has to create a school that will appeal to the general public in order to be successful. Simply s atisfying all of the questions that charter school legisl ation asks can be incredibly arduous. Addressing issues s uch as employee standards, employee benefits, employee sala ry, transportation for students, food services, the location o f the school, the types of facilities to be provided, and so on can be an extraordinary task. Each issue has to be d elved into and considered from all angles; keeping in mind financial concerns, interest groups, as well as the d esire to create
2 of 7 a fine educational institution. When added altogether, there are many obsta cles that one proposing a charter school must overcom e. While this makes the charter process time consuming an d complex, it also discourages those who are not truly fo cused on improving the educational system. It takes a motivat ed person, who is very frustrated with the present traditi onal school system or very excited about the possibilities of new innovation to attempt to create a charter school.LEGISLATIONARIZONA An unlimited number of charter schools are allowed by local board sponsorship, while the state Board of Education and state Board of Charter Schools can approve 25 charter schools a year each. The length of the charter is five years, and any public body, private person, or private organization can organize a charter school. Charter schools can be sponsored by a school district, the state Board of Educa tion or the state Board of Charter Schools. In addition, a bi ll has been approved by the Senate that would allow universities community colleges, and county school superintendents to issue charters. The application process for a proposed charter school requires information about how schools plan to measu re student improvement. Charter schools must design a method to measure student progress toward the outcomes adopte d by the state board of education and must report annually on su ch testing. Rejected applications may be resubmitted. CALIFORNIA Any individual may initiate the charter but they must have the support of 10% of the teachers in one s chool district or 50% of the teachers in one school for the c harter to be proposed for approval. Within thirty days of receiving a petition for a charter school, the school b oard must hold a public hearing on the provisions of the proposed charter. A public hearing helps indicate how much po pular support there is for the charter school in question Within sixty days of receiving the petition, the school board must approve or reject the charter. If the charter is r ejected, the petitioner can appeal to the county superin tendent. The county superintendent must then create a re view panel that consists of three teachers from other schoo l districts in the county. The review board determines if the charter was fairly considered and if not, the charter i s returned to the governing board for reconsideration. If th e charter is rejected again, another public hearing may be held at the request of the petitioners, and the charter is considered one last time by the county board of educat ion. COLORADO Under Colorado law, charter schools which t arget students at risk of school failure receive preferenc e for approval by local school boards. However, rejected applicants may appeal to Colorado Board of Education, whic h can overturn local board decisions. Upon reaching the 5 0 charter school limit, individuals or groups may also enter an appeals process through the Colorado Board of Educa tion (Charter Schools: Policy Brief, Feb. 1994).CONNECTICUT The proposed Connecticut bill will allow an y person, association, non-profit organization, for-p rofit corporation, public or independent institution of higher education, local or regional board of education or regional educational service center to apply to the commissioner of education to create a charter school. Applicants mus t provide a
3 of 7 variety of information in their application such as their mission, purpose, procedures for governing the school, the financial package, admission criteria and s o on Within sixty days of submitting an application to the commissioner, a copy of the application will be filed wit h the local or regional board of education of the school d istrict. Within thirty days of receiving the applica tion from the commissioner, the local or regional board o f education will recommend to approve or reject the charter. If approval is recommended a public hearing takes place. If not rejected by over two thirds of the state board of ed ucation after the hearing, the charter school is approved If the local or regional board of education recommends r ejecting the charter, after the hearing has taken place, two third of the state board of education must approve o f the charter school in order for it to be approved. FLORIDA Charter schools may be formed in Florida e ither:(a) By creating a new school. A proposal for a ne w charter school may be made by an individual, teache rs, parents, a group of individuals, a for-profit corpor ation, or a non-profit corporation. Or (b)By convertin g an existing school to charter status. In the case of an existing public school, the proposers shall be the p rincipal, teachers, and/or parents at the school. A p rivate school, parochial school, or home education process is not eligible for charter school status. The organizers of a charter school may appl y to, and the school may be sponsored by, any of the following: 1. The district school board 2. The State Board of Education 3. The Board of Regents The district school board shall have the fi rst right of refusal. Within 60 days a decision to deny or accept the charter application shall be made. The ent ity applying for the charter may then apply [sponsors] I f a district school board denies a charter, the school b oard shall provide a written description of the reason s for the denial to the applicant. The applicant mus t include this document in any [following] applicatio n made to alternate sponsors. The sponsor shall acce pt the responsibility to monitor the flow of cash and disbursements to the charter school.GEORGIA The application process for Georgia stipula tes that a majority of the faculty, staff, and parents be in favor of having it. in order to submit a proposal to the local board. Then, with the local board as spons or, the group presents its proposal to the state board, a nd then it proceeds to the state board for final appro val. The legislation does include the opportunity to resubmit an application to the state board and give sta te aid to making the charter acceptable. HAWAII Hawaii will only grant charters to existing public schools. Once a proposal has gained the support of t hree-fifths of the faculty, staff, support employees, and parents, the charter receives automatic approval from th e state board of education, except in cases where state b oards see conflicts between the proposed program and statewide standards. Amendments to charter applications can be m ade by local school boards, and charters are essentially guaranteed for four years given no violations of state wide requirements.
4 of 7IDAHO Although the Idaho Charter School bill pass ed unanimously in the House Education Committee, it failed to gather a majority vote in the Senate Education Commi ttee (Fadness, Mar. 21, 1995; Pg. A9). The bill proposed by Rep. Fred Tillman R-Boise allowed for the establishme nt of charter schools by teachers, parents, or businesses ILLINOIS A charter school bill was passed in the Sen ate last year but did not pass in the Democratic controll ed House of Representatives. There was not very much i nformation on the chartering process.INDIANA The Indiana Charter School bill failed to g ain a majority vote in the General Assembly on April 29, 1 995 (Labalme, Apr. 30, 1995, p. B4). In the bill, charte r schools could be created by teachers, community leaders, or an independent group (such as a corporation) (Shankle, Ind ianapolis Business Journal. 15:51, p. 5).KANSAS The law in Kansas is in it's beginning lim its the number of schools to 15 statewide and each distric t can have no more than 2 charters operating. Any group may apply for a charter including educational contractors and parents. In order to apply, a group must submit a pe tition to the local school board of the district in which they want to locate their school. Once the local board approves the charter, it is sent to the state board of e ducation who reviews the charter for parts not in compli ance with federal and state laws and regulations. If the cha rter passes the review, the state board of education approv es the establishment of the charter school. The charter school may then apply for a waiver from local scho ol district regulations and state regulations. The wai ver must first be approved by the local school board, then it may request on behalf of the charter school a waiver fr om state board regulations. However, the school is still legally an entity of the local school district. LOUISIANA Groups seeking charters must include at lea st three people holding Louisiana teaching certificates. P ublic schools could also transform into charter schools w ith the approval of two thirds of the faculty and two thirds of the parents present at a public meeting. MASSACHUSETTS Charter school applications can only be approved in the Massachusetts's Executive Office of Educati on. This eliminates local school boards and par ental groups from the chartering process. These schools may be sponsored by a business or corporation, at least two cer tified teachers, or greater than or equal to ten parents. Th e sponsors submit their application to the State Secretary of Education (Piedad Robertson) who has the authority to approve or reject the charters. There is no appeals process. MICHIGAN A public school academy is defined as a gov ernmental body, which includes any combination of grades K12. An authorizing body is a "public educational i nstitution that has been granted the power to issue contrac ts to those interested in establishing and operating a Public School Academy" (Michigan Public Q & A, 1.) These bodies may
5 of 7 include one of Michigan's fifteen public st ate universities, intermediate school districts, community co lleges, and local school districts except those classified as fourth class or primary districts. Community colleges are limited to authorizing only one charter school; state public universities are limited to a combined total of seventyfive schools (Michigan Center for Charter Schools, 2.) An individual is allowed to apply to establ ish and operate a Public School Academy. These individuals are granted a contract by authorizing body, that is subje ct to the constitutional powers of the State Board of Education. Components of a contract include the follow ing: "educational goals of the school and the methods by whic h they will be assessed", "the governance structure of the school", "age or grade range of the pupils attending the school", and "the articles of incorporation" (Michigan P ublic Q & A, 1.) The chartering (or contracting, which is th e term used in the Act) process in Michigan is as follows. An application is filed with the authorizing body (the Act currently has information it requires for the application but does not have a single or specific application) by a corporation. Profit or non-profit organizations may appl y to an authorizing body, so long as the organizati on meets existing regulations regarding religion and the scho ols (Michigan Center for Charter School, 1.) The author izing body may or may not evaluate any applications, and t he Act does not require that applications be evaluated unde r a certain time frame. The body may or may not offer any c ontracts, and in the case of competing applications, the det ermination is made on resources, goals and proposed stude nts (McClellan, Point 5.) Rejected applications are appeal ed to the voters (McClellan, Point 6.) The major responsibilities of the authorizi ng body include reviewing and evaluating each proposed and existing school in the areas of educational goals, State re gulatory codes, articles of incorporation, programs and pra ctices of the school (Michigan Public School Academies Q & A, 2.) A Public Academy's admissions process can be restricted along the lines of ages, grades, and enroll ment numbers, but cannot be selective. If there are more applicants than available spaces, a random selection p rocess is used among those students who are new applicants to the schools. The academy cannot discriminate on the basi s of any abilities, intellectual or athletic, and ca nnot use testing or other measures as a basis of admissions, even though the academy may have an intellectual focus (Michigan Public Q & A, 2.) The only acceptable preferentia l status is granted to siblings of enrolled students (M ichigan Center for Charter Schools, 1.)MINNESOTA At least one licensed teacher must be invol ved in the group proposing a charter. The group must get a sponsor either a local school board or the state board if rejected by the local board. The state board of education gives the final approval. The state board of education can also take appeals if at least two local board members voted f or the charter school. MISSOURI By the year 1997, the state board of educat ion will select three school sites to participate in an exp eriment called "The New Schools Pilot Project". This proj ect would allow a school to be managed by a team of five me mbers that would include at least one person to be designate d the principal of the school. Once the local school board approves the management team, they are granted some powe rs that are similar to those provided in most charter s chool legislation. For example the school can apply for a waiv er from the state board of education for exemption from some rules and
6 of 7 regulations. NEVADA A charter bill is in hearings in the Senate but it's present status is unclear.NEW HAMPSHIRE The bill, called the Charter Schools and Op en Enrollment Act, allows 2 NH-certified teachers, 10 par ents, or most non-profit organizations to propose a schoo l charter. Each proposed school must be approved by a majority of the eligible voters present at the annual s chool district meeting. The school must also be approved by the district board and the state education department. Rejection by the local board can be appealed to the educ ation department. NEW JERSEY New Jersey has a charter school bill which is now in the full assembly. According to the bill t en or more teachers, parents, or any combination of the two, as well as a college or university in coop eration with parents and teachers can begin a charter sc hool. The bill provides a cap on the number of chart er schools that can be created based on the population of a given county. Private schools, parochial schools and existing public schools could not become charter sch ools. NEW MEXICO The application/approval process is also qu ite restrictive. It requires at least sixty-five percent sup port from the teachers at the school and the significant involvement in planning and support for the measure from t he parents whose children attend the school. The state boar d of education is responsible for approving the charter pr oposal, and there is no appeals procedure.OHIO The bill failed. There was little informat ion on the chartering process proposed.OREGON Parents, teachers, school administrators, o r any other persons or groups may submit a proposal for a charter school. Charter school proposals are to be submitte d to a sponsor. A Sponsor is defined as a board of a common school district, a union high school district, an education service district, a community college district, an institutio n of higher education in the State System of Higher Edu cation or the State Board of Education. If a sponsor rej ects a proposal the applicant may resubmit the proposal aft er amending it, or the applicant may submit the proposal to another sponsor. PENNSYLVANIA A bill has been proposed in Pennsylvania, b ut it is in its beginning stages. The chartering proce ss isn't defined in it. SOUTH CAROLINA Parents, teachers, and community members ca n organize a charter school proposal. They must find a sponsor. Sponsors can be local school boards or Stat e Board of Education. The appeals process is handled through State Board of Education. In order for the bill to pass an
7 of 7 adequate number of parents, teachers, pupil s or any combination are needed for support of chart er school. TEXAS Under the Texas bill, charter schools could be created by anyone, but would then be subject to loc al school board approval. Charter schools could only be formed in home-rule districts. These home rule di stricts would be distinct entities from general and speci al districts. The designation as a home-rule district wou ld have to be approved by at least five percent of the di strict's registered voters or at least two thirds of the school board. VERMONT This bill will allow partnerships or corpor ations to run 10 experimental charter schools. Applicati ons for charters will be accepted by a specific deadline eac h year and will be granted for five years. A proposed cha rter must contain specific information concerning the operati on and assessment of the charter school. VIRGINIA In Virginia's bill, the submission of a pro posal to local school boards has to include a mission stat ement, goals and performance standards, evidence of parental and teacher support, a statement of need and a descript ion of governance. Anti-discrimination standards are clearly s tated and schools must be nonsectarian. If a local school bo ard rejects an application an appeal may be made to the co urt having jurisdiction.WASHINGTON Nonprofit organizations or cooperatives, pu blic college and university teacher preparation programs, an d existing public schools are eligible to establish charter s chools. Charter school applications are to be submi tted to the local school board for approval. If an applicati on is rejected, the application may be submitted to the sta te board of education. WISCONSIN To get a charter a petition must be circula ted and presented to the local school board.
1 of 2PROBLEMS FACED BY EXISTING CHARTER SCHOOLSSusan Vernal Once charter school legislation is passed, the deb ates and arguments between proponents and opponents do not cease. Implementing and running charter schools creates more problems that must be solved. Problems arise with transportation, special education students, facilities of the school, the r elationship between the charter school and the sponsoring district, and the fear of ethnoc entrism or segregation. In states such as Minnesota, where the district in which the charter school is located must provide transportation to students liv ing in the district, charter schools are limited to the traditional school year. Some of the "innovative" programs teachers would like to implement require a year-round school, howe ver they are unable to try them because there is no way to transport the students. Because charter schools have such a limited budget, they are unable to transport the st udents themselves. The public school district often does not want to transport the stude nts because this costs the district money that is not being spent on students in a district s chool. In Minnesota, if the child does not live in the district where the school is located, t he parent only needs to get the child to the border of the district. From there, the school district is required to provide transportation to the school. Under this system, th e buses have to go out to the edge of the district to pick up these students, which is a very costly and time-consuming process. Special education students also present a problem. In terms of transportation, there is a question of whose responsibility they ar e. In Minnesota, if the state places the child in a particular school then the district is r esponsible for funding the transportation. If, however, a parent places the child in a particu lar school then he or she is responsible. Funding special education students is also a very c omplex process. Often when a charter school is set up, the administrators are not famili ar with the rules governing special education funds. They may have to hire someone to t each them the process. Also, many times they are not aware of the costs of testing an d evaluating these students. The money may not be supplied by the resident district, depen ding on the law, but charter school administrators may not be aware of this until later In addition, there is sometimes controversy over who is responsible for providing s ervices for special education children. In general, however, if the state places the child in a charter school, they have to pay for transportation and any additional costs. If the parents place the child, then they are responsible. Because the sponsoring district has to approve the charter, and this charter will take money and students away from them, the relatio nship between the district and the charter school is often strained. There is often a question of liability and responsibility. For example, if someone was injured, who would be r esponsible? The school or the district? In Deer Valley, Arizona, a charter was re jected because responsibility was not specified. Because of the lack of money, it is also very hard for charter schools to find and maintain adequate facilities. Charter schools must comply with fire and safety codes, therefore any old building they acquire must be ren ovated to pass current inspections. Even after the building is originally brought up to date, it must still be maintained. In Minnesota, charter schools cannot levy taxes or bon ds and therefore it is extremely hard
2 of 2to find money. In addition, if a charter school is renting space from someone else, then they are at someone else's mercy. They can be asked to leave at virtually any time. For example, a charter school for the mentally handicap ped in Michigan may have to close because Macomb Community College can no longer prov ide space for them. Therefore, they must find a new location or close their doors. Some opponents of charter schools have also argued that charter schools promote ethnocentrism or segregation. For example, City Aca demy in Minnesota and W.E.B. DuBois in Detroit have unusually high proportions o f minority males. Academy of the Pacific Rim, which is scheduled to open in Boston i n September 1995, has also created some controversy. This school is supported by Bosto n's Asian Community and it will focus on Asian languages and culture. This school m ay further exacerbate race relations in the Boston area. This type of segregation is als o feared in many states with pending legislation, such as Florida. However, as seen in t he state by state summaries, the fears regarding elitism and "creaming" have not been real ized and it is possible that the fears about ethnocentrism will not be realized either. Return to Contents
1 of 2Arguments and Groups Affecting Current Attempts to Pass Charter School LegislationTiayana Marks In the states that are currently debating whether or not charter school legislation should be passed reoccurring arguments arise. Also, the key people and groups involved in the debate are relatively the same for each stat e. One set of arguments against charter schools focus on elitism and segregation. The concern that charter schools will segregate alo ng racial and economic lines and lines of academic ability echoes throughout the states of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Vermont, Connecticut, and Louisiana. Opponents think traditional public schools will bec ome the dumping ground for those students that are more difficult to educate, and th at certain minority and economic classes would be left out of the benefits that char ter schools claim to provide. The people having these concerns vary. For example, many polit icians in Florida think that charter schools will lead to resegregation of public school s. This fear is shared by The Virginia Conference of the NAACP, and has been expressed in Texas as well as South Carolina. Citizens in Illinois think that charter schools wil l selectively choose students. Some politicians in Florida think that charter schools w ill set up a system for the affluent. Another very strong argument in opposition to char ter schools is that charter schools take money away from traditional public sch ools. Many teacher and school board associations oppose funding loss because publ ic schools are already financially strapped. Charter schools would only make education more difficult to accomplish. The Oregon School Boards Association and the Ohio Educa tion Association as well as concerned citizens in Illinois and the Hilton Head chapter of the League of Women Voters, have expressed concerns about the effects o f public funding of charter schools. The concern that charter schools divert money from regular schools is also expressed in Virginia. In many states arguments against the deregulation of charter schools have been voiced. In Indiana people think that charter school s will become private schools that are publicly funded. In Idaho people fear that charter schools will attract extremists like Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations. In Virginia t he Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents believe that if certain schools are deregulated then why should reg ular public schools be subject to those same regulations. Concerns about deregulation have also been expressed by the Chicago Teachers Union and educational unions in Ne w Jersey. Another reoccurring argument against charter schoo ls is based on fear of a voucher system. In many states people think charter schools will lead to a voucher system. Citizens in Illinois feel charter school le gislation will open the door to vouchers for private schools. In Pennsylvania a coalition of 30 organizations strongly opposed a charter school proposal that would allocate money f or vouchers. People in Florida and Louisiana have also expressed that charter schools are a step towards a voucher system. An argument in favor of charter schools that is vo iced in many states is that charter schools create competition, which will impr ove education, and charter schools provide more choice for parents and students, which makes charter schools more responsive to students' needs. In Louisiana the Lou isiana Association of Business and
2 of 2Industry and Associated Professional Educators of L ouisiana think that charter schools will create competition and innovation. These same ideas have been expressed in Texas by the Texas Business and Education Coalition, the Houston Independent School District school board, and other professional organ izations. In Virginia, South Carolina, Connecticut, and Vermont the competition and innova tion arguments have also been used to support charter school legislation. The strongest and loudest voice in the debate over charter schools seems to be the voices of the teacher unions. Without the support o f the teachers it is difficult to pass charter school legislation. For example, in Illinoi s the Chicago Teachers Union strongly opposed deregulation of charter schools and the bil l for charter schools did not pass. In Washington, the Washington Education Association (W EA) opposed the first attempts to establish charter school legislation and the bil l never came up to vote. However, the WEA has not opposed the most recent charter school bill and this bill has passed in the House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate app roval. Also the strongest opposition in Ohio seemed to be the Ohio Education Association The attempt to establish an Ohio charter school bill also failed. In New Jersey, the re is support for charter schools by the New Jersey Education Association as well as many ot her unions. The bill seems likely to pass when it comes to a vote. The concern that reoccurs most among teacher union s is that charter schools undermine the union. In Indiana the teacher unions feel that charter schools limit the collective bargaining power of the union. In Connec ticut teacher unions feel that charter schools exploit teachers because there would be no standard pay or union requirements with charter schools. The Pennsylvania State Educat ion Association opposed a charter school proposal because the bill did not provide jo b security. Job security is an important focus of teacher unions and without a guarantee of job security many unions oppose charter school legislation. In New Jersey the chart er school bill provides protection for school employees, and it is strongly supported by t he New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Boards Association, the New Jersey P rincipals and Supervisors Association, and the Association of School Administ rators. Besides unions other advocates and opponents for c harter schools include parents and community organizations. In Ohio two coalitions of different churches urged Senator Sinagra to propose the first charter school bill. Since the bill for state-wide charter schools failure, the two coalitions have co me together to promote a proposal for community autonomous schools (a similar idea to cha rter schools) specific to Cleveland. The Idaho PTA opposed the charter school bill for I daho. In Illinois the PTA felt charter schools were a chance for change. The Virginia Conf erence of the NAACP voiced its concern about charter schools and desegregation. Pr ofessional organizations in Texas, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania have also expressed the ir support or opposition. Other prominent voices in the debates over charter schools are those of administrators and politicians. Superintendents and State Superintendents, state boards of education, governors, education commissioners, a nd school board members have all voiced their thoughts about the pros and cons of ch arter school legislation. The debate for and against charter schools has inc orporated various voices and arguments. The strongest voice seems to be that of the teachers, but parents and other organizations also have a voice. Return to Contents
1 of 4 INTEREST GROUPS' HOPES, FEARS AND EFFECTSSarah Godshall & Allison PadavanARIZONA Proponents' Hopes Charter schools will : meet individual needs : be laboratories for innov ation : be new professional oppor tunities for teachers : bring teacher autonomy an d innovation : bring competition to fiel d of education Opponents' Fears Charter schools will : lead to dropping of cours e work relevant to current world : not be worthwhile, as the y only help a small percentage of population : result in the creaming ef fect Political Coalitions Involved Not Available Interest Groups' Effects on Legislation Not AvailableCALIFORNIA Proponents' Hopes Charter schools will : introduce competition : give incentive for reform in the educational system : introduce choice : introduce variety : bring innovation to publi c schools : provide more individualiz ed, specialized education : liberate publicly-funded schools from state and local education regulations : serve as models for exist ing public schools Opponents' Fears Charter schools will : threaten the high wages o f the licensed unionized teachers in public schools : result in the creaming ef fect : cause an outflow of money from public schools to charter schools : not result in needed refo rm Political Coalitions Involved : National Education Association (o pposed) : American Federation of Teachers ( support) Interest Groups' Effects on Legislation : Teacher unions opposed to charter schools may have encouraged the bill to cap at 100 charter schools, with the hopes tha t this would reduce competition.COLORADO Proponents' Hopes Charter schools will : provide more individualiz ed education : expand parental/teacher/a nd student choice : provide innovation to com bat the homogenous nature of public sc hools : encourage professional gr owth of teachers
2 of 4 : increase academic perform ance : be held accountable, and therefore increase emphasis on intend ed purposes of specific schools i n the educational system. Opponents' Fears Charter schools : violate the concept of ne ighborhood schools and threaten equity : are no more innovative th an existing districts' schools : take away tax dollars in order to form schools that would enjoy private status. Political Coalitions : Opposition from administration le d by appointed administrator from Minnesot a, Lew Finch : legislators : educational organizations : residents : parental groups : Colorado Association of School Bo ards (CASB) (conditionally supports) : Colorado Education Association (c onditionally supports) Effects on Legislation : CASB has tried to form a bill com patible with local district responsibili ties and operations GEORGIA Proponents' Hopes : Want to expand parental involveme nt in school decisions to seek waivers a nd develop new programs Opponents' Fears Charter schools will : divert money from public schools : create elitist schools an d leave those in need behind : provide religiously offen sive programs Political Coalitions : Governor Zel Miller (D) ( supports) : Freshman Republicans in t he House during passage of original bill (wanted more autonomous leg islation) : group in the legislature, composed mainly of Republicans, lookin g for less restrictive legislation at the moment (supportive of a law granting more a utonomy). : Georgia Association of Ed ucation (opposed) : Religious right (opposed) Interest Groups' Effects on Legislation : Georgia's law remains one of the most restrictive of all statesHAWAII Proponents' Hopes Not Available Opponents' Fears Not Available Political Coalitions Not Available Effects on Legislation : The law seems to serve as an inst itutional measure to allow for the el imination of bureaucratic regulations in specific instances. KANSAS
3 of 4 Proponents' Hopes : Charter Schools will create schoo l choice Opponents' Fears Not Available Political Coalitions Involved Not Available Effects on Legislation Law does not grant charter schools enough autonomy; law termed "dead"MASSACHUSETTS Proponents' Hopes Charter schools will : foster innovation : create accountability : create choice : encourage parental involv ement Opponents' Fears Charter Schools will : result in segregation, be nefiting the wealthier, more mot ivated students : foster ethnocentrism (Aca demy of Pacific Rim) Political Coalitions Involvement : Massachusetts Teachers Associatio n (opposed) : Massachusetts League of Women Vot ers (opposed) : Massachusetts Municipal Associati on (opposed) : Education Association of Worceste r (opposed) : Massachusetts Association of Scho ol Communities (opposed) Effect on Legislation : Opponents are currently seeking a n injunction prohibiting the use of tax dollars to fund charter schools.MICHIGAN Proponent Hopes Charter schools will : have smaller classes : have updated resources : create competition : create opportunities for disadvantaged students : foster innovation : encourage parental choice /involvement Opponents' Fears Charter schools : will fail to meet state m inimum requirements : take money from public sc hool districts : create the creaming effec t : are unconstitutional : are not genuine public sc hools Political Coalitions Involved : Michigan Education Association (o pposed) : local teachers unions (opposed) : American Civil Liberties Union, M ichigan chapter (opposed) : Central Michigan University (in f avor) : Wayne State University (in favor) Effect on Legislation : TEACH Michigan, which is an educa tional reform coalition, is seeking to am end the state's constitution so it will all ow for school choice among both public an d private schools. : Teachers' unions, along with the ACLU, filed a legal suit, claiming that c harter schools are unconstitutional because th ey use state funds but are not regulated by th e State Board of Education. As a result, the charter schools allowed under the original Michigan Public
4 of 4 Act Number 362 were deemed unable to receive public finds. Following the decision, Michigan Public Act Number 416. The Act allows for more regulation by the state.MINNESOTA Proponents' Hopes Charter Schools will : foster innovation : create competition : increase school quality : reach dropouts : solve problems flexibly : create choice Opponents' Fears Charter schools will : Take money from districts : create publicly funded pr ivate schools : eliminate economies of sc ale : create job insecurity for teachers : offer lower salaries to t eachers : cause divisions among the faculty who will not be able to agre e on the benefits and risks of specif ic charter school legislation Political Coalitions Involved : Minnesota Education Association ( opposed) : Minnesota Foundation of Teachers (opposed) Effect on Legislation Due to union lobbying, charter scho ols need to be organized by at least one c ertified teacher. Only local school boards ca n sponsor a school. Only eight charter schools are allowed and their charter must be renew ed after three years.NEW MEXICO Proponents' Hopes Not Available Opponents' Fears Feared charter school autonomy Political Coalitions Involved Not Available Effect On Legislation Restrictive; considered experimenta l WISCONSIN Proponents' Hopes Charter Schools will : give schools greater auto nomy : create choice Opponents' Fears : Charter schools will destroy publ ic education : Schools will be given too much au tonomy Political Coalition Involved : Wisconsin Education Association C ouncil (opposed) : Department of Parents for School Choice (in favor) Effect on Legislation Restrictive legislation; 10% of tea chers in district have to approve before school appli es for charter status.
1 of 2WHY NO CHARTER SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN FORMED IN SOME STATES THAT HAVE PASSED LEGISLATIONLester Eggleston Jr. As a result of our research we have found that cer tain themes and trends have been most prevalent in preventing schools from bein g formed in certain states with charter school laws. In this section, I will attemp t to explain in further detail what the opposition is to the creation of these schools and why they have not been formed. One reason why a charter school may not be formed right after the legislation has been passed is because the law as written may be to o restrictive. If the law is too restrictive then organizations or individuals inter ested in creating a charter school may be deterred from initiating the process. At times i t may be more feasible to work from within the system to change or improve the educatio nal system. An example of a restrictive law is one that does not allow a charte r school to have full legal autonomy. If a charter school does not have a full waiver from s tate and district regulations, then we might question the reason for a charter school. Cha rter schools are presumed to be places where people with new and creative ideas can apply them in the classroom without restriction. Without that freedom, it is just anoth er public school that must try to find solutions to many problems within the confines of t he laws of the state. Some states such as Kansas and New Mexico, require that the school r eceive an approved waiver for every law that they may wish to be exempt. In this case t hey have to ask permission as opposed to other states which have the ability to w ork by their own rules and. States that have allowed charter schools to create their own ru les seem to have more applications for charter schools. Another area of charter school legislation in whic h autonomy plays a role is when it comes to who controls the schools. In Georgia Kansas, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, charter schools can only be sponsored by the local board. Upon approval the proposal is presented to the state board. Both of these bodies consists of the same people who run the present public schools of the area. This may ca use conflict between the two groups in the fact that if these organizations are resistant to change and reform from within the public schools, it is very difficult to gain suppor t for schools that are created to work significantly differently than other public schools In some states the school board also has the ability to withdraw a charter at any time i f they don't approve of the way the school is run. Such restrictions are an active dete rrent for anyone interested in opening a charter school. A deterrent from opening new charter schools is th e limit on the type of schools eligible to become charter schools. Some states suc h as Georgia and Hawaii require that only public schools are allowed to convert to chart er schools. The weakness in this approach is that if a person has a new and creative idea for educating students they have to go about convincing a whole public school and it s' most powerful constituents, that it is an idea for which it is worth changing the prese nt rules and structure of the school. A more open law would allow the same individual to so licit the backing of a few people and as long as funding is not an issue, apply to op en a new school, which may be a more simple task. There are other reasons why charter schools may no t be created in a state even if
2 of 2the state currently has charter school laws. For ex ample, people may not know where to begin, in terms of gathering support for the idea, funding, or how to go about writing an application. The idea of charter schools is still v ery new so getting access to this information may be difficult, depending on the loca tion of the interested party. For instance, suppose a concerned parent or group of pa rents, of low economic means and education have decided that a charter school may be the answer for their children. They may not have access to computers, extensive librari es or the research skills necessary to locate this information. As a result, they are depe ndent on others outside of their social group to assist them. These other people must be co nvinced that the charter school may be in their interest as well. Today the United States act as one big testing gro und for charter schools. Some methods are bound to be more successful than others It is important to realize that with innovations there is some risk involved, and if we expect charter schools to mature without local restrictions we must created policies and regulations to reasonably reach these goals. Return to Contents
1 of 1FEDERAL ROLE IN CHARTER SCHOOLSCandace Crawford Although charter schools have moved to a national forum as a form of school reform, most of the work being done is at the state and local level. The federal government has had a limited role in the developmen t of charter schools. The major connection between charter schools and the federal government is the distribution of Title 1 funds and the enforcement of laws concernin g special education and how that education is funded. The major issue with Title 1 is if a charter schoo l is considered a legal autonomous body then it is like a school district a nd the funding should be given directly to the school. If the school is a part of the local school district then the funds should be distributed through the district. The problem is th at the census data that is used to determine the amount of funding given to a district by the state does not include charter schools. The state has to figure out a way to surve y charter schools. Most states have not addressed this issued in their laws. For example Ha waii's law states "Once accepted, the school is to receive state funds equal to the state wide per pupil expenditure for average daily attendance, in addition to applicable state a nd federal programmatic funds." It does not mention if federal funds will be distributed di rectly to the charter school from the state education agency or whether it will be distri buted through the local district. In Minnesota the schools are considered legally indepe ndent and receive funding as if they were a school district. The other issue that faces states in relation to t he federal laws is who is responsible for meeting regulations concerning the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Should the district who has most of the fiscal resp onsibility or should the charter school who is receiving funds from state and local sources ? In Minnesota responsibility depends on who placed the student in the charter sc hool. If the parent placed the child then the school is responsible but if the district places the child in the school then the district is responsible. There is a section in the Improving America's Scho ols Act that provides startup grants for charter schools. The Improving America's Schools Act is the bill that re-authorized the Elementary and Secondary Educatio n Act of 1965. Unfortunately, with the proposed cuts currently under review in the Sen ate, it is doubtful if this provision in the IASA will get the necessary funding. Charter schools are a state entity and the federal government will have a limited role in their implementation. The main role the fed eral government can have is clarifying the status of charter schools or providing startup grants to charter schools. It may be hard for the federal government to establish the status of charter school since the state laws vary so much. It may be that each state's law will have to be assessed on a case by case basis. Return to Contents
1 of 11LESSONS LEARNED Charter school legislation, and the schools subseq uently created, are too new and too varied to allow us to draw many universal concl usions. However, neither the grandest hopes of proponents nor the direst fears o f opponents have been realized thus far. The development of charter schools has proceed ed under the constraint of legislation designed, in most cases, to minimize any possible h arm that might emerge from the experiment. In some cases that constraint has effec tively precluded the creation of any charter schools. Less constraining states are at th e leap-off point for the development of a relatively large number of schools. As schools in crease in number and variety, and operate over time, we will get clearer answers to o ur questions. Will charter schools create a system of elite schoo ls and reduce traditional public schools to a dumping ground of the poor, minority, hard to educate, and expensive to educate? Many argue that charter schools are elitist and th at they "cream" the best students and teachers from public schools, leaving the publi c schools as a "dumping ground" for everyone else. This argument is one of the most oft en mentioned, yet it is completely untrue. In states with charter schools in operation it has been shown that charter schools often cater to "at-risk" or hard to educate student s or some type of special education population. For example, California, Michigan and M innesota all have operating charter schools that cater to a specific population of stud ents. Of the seventeen schools scheduled to open in Massachusetts in the fall of 1 995, five specifically target "at risk" students. Of the fourteen schools operating in Colo rado, two specifically target at risk students, and the remainder accommodate the spectru m of students one would find in any public school. Colorado law states that schools which target "at-risk" students receive preference for approval by the local school board. In California, none of the first 39 charter school s established were targeted towards gifted students. Five are specifically for at-risk students and two are for special education students. Options for Youth Charter Schoo l in Victorville, for example, helps dropouts or potential dropouts to realize the impor tance of an education. With the help of this school, students can receive their high sch ool diploma and possibly attend college, an option that was not available to them p rior to the opening of this school. W.E.B. DuBois Preparatory Academy in Detroit, Michi gan, also serves "under-privileged youth" and provides them with a s afe, positive, encouraging environment. In Massachusetts, the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School is scheduled to open in September 1995, and this chart er school was also formed specifically to educate at-risk students. Minnesota has both a charter school for at-risk st udents and a school specifically for the hearing-impaired. City Academy in St. Paul was created to help inner-city dropouts return to school. Many of these students n ow attend college and have plans for their futures. Metro Deaf School located in Forest Lake is an American Sign Language school that gives deaf students an alternative to t he Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf. Neither of these schools "cream" off any stud ents from the public school system. On the contrary, these are the typically hard to ed ucate students and losing these students does not adversely affect public schools. A Minneso ta Research Report found that it is easier to have a charter approved if it is for a sc hool that targets "at-risk pupils, special
2 of 11education pupils, or drop-outs...." because those s tudents are the hardest and the most expensive to teach (Stewart 23). Ironically, there is some potential for elitism in states, such as Georgia, New Mexico, and Hawaii, which only allow existing publi c schools to convert to charter schools. This may create a problem because only tho se schools with educated parents who have the time to convert their school to a char ter school are affected. For example, Addison Elementary in Georgia serves a fairly avera ge, middle class constituency. It seems a legitimate possibility that only such alrea dy decent schools will be willing or able to go through the process of obtaining a chart er. The law requires a significant amount of motivation on behalf of the parents, facu lty, and staff of a school in order to apply for and obtain a charter. Therefore, it seems unlikely that a school which is functioning very poorly will have the initiative or ability to transform itself into an effective institution. Thus, the only schools who m ay be able to take advantage of such a law could be schools that are already doing a fairl y good job of educating its students. Therefore, this requirement does not seem immune to the possibility of fostering a sort of educational elitism. In schools that aren't as restrictive as Georgia, New Mexico, and Hawaii, elitism is not occurring. In fact, the charter school laws are enabling low-income students to obtain what many consider to be a better education. In Arizona, for example, Foothills Academy, a former private school, is scheduled to c onvert to a charter school in September 1995. Because tuition will no longer be c harged, students of all socioeconomic backgrounds will now be able to atten d the college preparatory school. In Minnesota, Cedar Riverside Community School provide s a stable environment for many students who are from one-parent or immigrant famil ies. New Branches School in Cedar Rapids, Michigan was also a private school that con verted to charter school status. The students attending the school were chosen by a rand om lottery and over a quarter of them are on the federal free or reduced lunch progr am. All states prohibit charging tuition and most of t hem employ a lottery system to determine which students are accepted after student s from the local district are accepted. It is impossible to view these statistics and still argue that charter schools "cream" students from the public schools. There is very lit tle data on the "skimming" of teachers, but that does not appear to be happening either.Will charter schools create an educationally harmfu l instability in a child's education? Some people are concerned that charter schools cre ate unnecessary instability in a child's life. They believe that because the curricu lum or pedagogical approaches in a charter school may be so different from that of a p ublic school, transferring a child into the charter school disrupts his or her flow of lear ning and creates unnecessary trauma. Charter schools might also close due to financial p ressures or having their charter revoked. Research conducted by the Minnesota Legisl ature concluded that some parents of children attending charter schools were concerne d about possible instability or discontinuity. However, this concern is not specifi c to charter schools. Changing schools, regardless of the type of school, is alway s somewhat traumatic for a child. Because there is no national curriculum, a child wh o moves from one state to another or even from one school district to another within mos t states, will not necessarily enter the new school at the same level as a student who had b een there since kindergarten. Some overlap or gaps in the material learned and/or peda gogical differences are likely occurences. This is no different from a child movin g from a public school to a charter school with a different curriculum.
3 of 11What sorts of laws do more to promote or restrict t he development of charter schools? Despite the fact that few charter schools have bee n established in these states, the charter school legislation in Georgia, Missouri, Ka nsas, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and Hawaii provides a great deal of insight into what s ort of laws will be effective in promoting the establishment of charter schools. Alt hough each state's law is different, they all point very strongly to the conclusion that in order to be truly effective in producing innovative schools, a charter school law must grant a significant amount of autonomy to the schools. One of the most significant restrictions present i n several of these state laws is the stipulation that only existing public schools may a pply for charter school status. The failure of the "public school requirement" to estab lish a significant charter school system is evident in that the states which have it have ge nerated very few proposals and almost completely lack established charter schools. (Note 1) States with very active charter school programs, such as California for example, al most always allow for the establishment of completely new schools by differen t groups and sometimes grant charters to home schools. Thus, they open the door for the establishment of charter schools which are much smaller and more focused tha n the normal public school. Upon examination, it simply seems contradictory to much of the intent behind the common idea of charter schools that only public sch ools should be qualified to receive charters. First, as mentioned, this requirement obl igates charter schools to operate on a very large scale. The new school would have to main tain enrollment equivalent to the old one, because the other public schools in the ar ea could not handle the overflow of students if one school converted to a much smaller charter school. The point is that charter schools in many areas tend to be smaller, m ore focused settings in which it is much easier to be innovative. If a school must main tain its enrollment of 1,000 students, and especially if it must have the exact same stude nts as before, (Note 2) it will be much more difficult to implement innovative strategy tha n it would be if a group of parents or teachers could start a new, smaller school which wo uld focus on a particular type of student or learning style. Also, the "public school requirement," especially in states with no open enrollment such as Georgia, closes the door on two other extremely important pieces in the typical argument in support of charter schools, the notions of competition and of school choice. In terms of competition to stay open these schools will essentially have none. They may lose their charter (their permission to run the school differently) if they do not fulfill the contract, but the school will re main. It will simply return to its previous status as a non-chartered, public school, retaining the same students as before. There will not be very strong motivation within the system to establish a charter school if the competition between schools is taken away. The result of the "public school requirement" is, as is evidenced by the proposed curriculum of Addison Elementary in Cobb county, Ge orgia (Georgia's first applicant), the creation of a school which is exempt from certa in bureaucratic red-tape that may be normally associated with public schools, but it doe s not seem to be able to generate significant educational reform. (Note 3) Essentiall y, states with this stipulation, especially those without the policy of open enrollm ent, will never be able to create "charter schools" as they are often construed. They will only be able to make some minor changes in the way education is conducted. Fo r this reason as well, some schools have opted just to hope for a reduction in red tape rather than go through the rigorous application process necessary to actually receive a charter. (Note 4)
4 of 11 In short, the"public school requirement" must be d ismissed if a state ever wants to generate a truly active system of educational refor m. The only real argument in favor of the "public school requirement" is that it is a goo d thing not to allow any significant change in the system; however, as I mentioned earli er, this notion seems contradictory to the idea of charter schools itself. While a law of this type may allow the parents, faculty, and staff of a school to restructure its own progra m, it will simply never promote school choice or competition, two key elements in producin g true innovation through charter school initiatives. In any case, this type of refor m measure could represent an attractive option for those who believe that all the public sc hool system needs is a little bit of freedom in order to reform itself. A typical objection to charter schools in general is that they will become elitist institutions which will serve only the privileged. This assertion in fact seems to be true in states with the "public school requirement." For example, Addison Elementary in Georgia serves a fairly average, middle class const ituency. It seems a legitimate possibility that only such already "decent" schools will be willing or able to go through the process of obtaining a charter. The law require s a significant amount of motivation on behalf of the parents, faculty, and staff of a s chool in order to apply for and obtain a charter. Therefore, it seems unlikely that a school which is functioning very poorly will have the initiative or ability to transform itself into an effective institution. Thus, the only schools who may be able to take advantage of s uch a law could be schools that are already doing a fairly good job of educating its st udents. Therefore, this requirement does not seem immune to the possibility of fosterin g a sort of educational elitism. Another extremely visible factor contributing to t he relative weakness of these states' laws is the limits placed on the number of schools allowed in the states and often within the districts. With the exception of Georgia which has no number limit, and Hawaii, which allows 25 charter schools and has but one school district in the entire state, the number of schools permitted is extremely small. (Note 5) With such small numbers of charter schools possible, (Note 6) it se ems highly improbable that there could ever be any significant competition set up be tween schools. And, the notion of competition via school choice is central to the the ses of many charter school advocates. The imposition of such small limits on the number o f schools indicates a hesitancy to plunge into a large scale charter school system but does seem to be in some ways a reasonable way to "experiment" with charter schools in order to find out if they are an effective alternative. It does however seem to be i mportant that the states expand the number soon in order to create a large scale charte r system if a "charter school system" is their goal. (Note 7) Therefore, while this strategy may work to illustrate what type of charter schools might be established and to show ho w effectively they accomplish their educational goals, these severe limits definitely h amper the element of competition between schools and the accessibility of the charte r school option to both prospective students and people interested in forming these sch ools. A law containing such strict limits can be a first step in establishing a system of charter schools, but the number must grow if a true system is to be effected. An alternative approach to limiting the number of charter schools would be the notion that the states just want a sort of testing ground in order to decide which types of reform they should implement in the public schools on a large scale basis. This view, as does the latter argument about the "public school r equirement," has no intention of establishing a "charter school system." It seeks no thing but the establishment of "laboratories" for educational innovation and may a lso be effective if the states gather useful information from the "experiments." Many of these laws also impede the establishment o f charter schools though the
5 of 11extensive application and approval processes they i nvolve. For example, in Georgia, a majority of the faculty, staff and parents are requ ired to form the petition to become a charter school, the local board is required to spon sor the application, and then it must go to the state board for final approval. (Note 8) Thi s extensive, intimidating, and expensive process has effectively inhibited all but Addison Elementary and two other schools from attempting to become charter schools. In addition, within this group of states, only Georgia allows any sort of appeals pro cess. It simply seems that, according to these laws, no part of the establishment of a ch arter school is easy. The laws are simply structured in a manner which gives so little autonomy and so many bureaucratic restrictions to prospective applicants that they pr ovide little incentive to attempt the establishment of a charter school. Some do assert t hat it is good for only the most driven to receive charter status, but this argument seems indeed counterintuitive as, if charter schools offer the possibility of significant reform it would seem that it should be a readily available option to any group interested. A lso, the obstacles in the path to charter status could work to promote educational elitism. I t is conceivable that only the most efficient, most unified schools (often those which are already good and have the most money.), will be able to survive the extensive appl ication and approval process. Indeed, it seems that these inordinately restrictive proced ures may be the most damaging to charter school activity, because they simply make t he option difficult for those who are interested, thus greatly decreasing active reform. In its own way, each of these states advocates a goslow" approach to charter school establishment. While the "public school requ irement" seems to be an unduly restrictive and inefficient measure in many cases, there may be some validity to limiting the number of charter schools possible. (Note 9) An d, it must be acknowledged that both ideas have some appeal, as they do not cause the ed ucation system to be shaken up too suddenly. However, it seems that the laws must be c hanged soon, as in the case of Minnesota, or they will simply remain very inactive and produce very few of the goals which charter schools are designed to accomplish, n amely to facilitate school choice and improve the education system through competition an d innovation. Finally, it seems that any state wishing to foster charter school activity must not legislate an unduly extensive application and approval process.What is the difference between charter schools and vouchers? A prominent concern about charter school legislati on is that it is the first step toward creating an unrestricted voucher system whic h will essentially privatize and destroy our public system of education, leaving man y children educationally stranded. While that forecast can only be answered in the fut ure, current experience does not support the argument. While there are commonalties between charter schools and voucher proposals, charter school legislation empha sizes a degree of public accountability in the provision of education that w ill prevent the deleterious effects feared by opponents of unrestricted voucher systems Charter schools and various voucher proposals exis t along a continuum. The strongest commonalties are that parents (or childre n) have some choice as to which school they attend, and tax-based funding follows t he child. The greatest differences concern degrees of accountability, approval process es, and legal status of the school and its staff. Accountability: All charter schools hold a time-sp ecific charter, usually for 3-5 years, after which they must either reapply or go t hrough a formal review process. In addition, they must document student performance on a quarterly and/or yearly basis. In
6 of 11some cases, student performance is measured solely according to conditions spelled out in the charter (in essence, a contract) which are s pecific to the school. In other cases (most states), the school must administer an annual examination to its students and report the results to either or both the sponsoring institution and a state authority. In some cases the examination is specified. In others, there is some choice. The recently passed New Hampshire law requires charter schools t o administer both the State's new assessment and one of several, nationally standardi zed examinations. The charter school is held accountable for: (1) me eting the conditions specified in the charter (e.g. materials provided, courses taugh t, student performance, etc.); (2) abiding by applicable state and federal laws; and ( 3) sponsoring institution's or state's standards of student performance (which may differ from the charter school's). If the charter school fails in any measure, it's charter m ay be revoked. In all states, that means a cessation of public money. In most it means that the institution as constituted will cease to exist. Approval process: Charter schools must apply for a nd be approved by a public agency. In most cases, that includes a combination of the local school board and a state board. Various avenues exist, and all states requir e approval by a state board or agency. Often teachers and local voters have a say. Most st ates do not allow existing private schools to convert to charter school status. All st ates restrict the absolute and local number of charter schools (at least for now). Legal Status: Most states wrestle with this issue. In some cases, the school district in which the charter school is located is legally a ccountable for the actions of the charter school. In other states, charter schools are consid ered legally autonomous. Voucher proposals generally do not restrict the nu mber of voucher receiving schools in either a district or a state; do not req uire voucher receiving schools to go through an extensive approval process (the charter school approval process can take a year or more in most states); do not hold the vouch er receiving school accountable for the terms of a contract which includes the specific ation of the mission, curriculum, pedagogy, resources, and student performance standa rds; do not provide for quarterly, annual, or 3-5 year reviews which can lead to the r evocation of the contract for any of a wide variety of measures; and generally raise diffe rent sorts of legal issues regarding autonomy and liability. Charter schools and voucher proposals exist along a continuum. To complicate matters, both voucher proposals and charter systems vary widely. At a certain level of generality, ALL these ideas begin to look very simi lar; at the level of specifics, the effect can vary significantly. These two terms -"charter s" & "vouchers" -are two among many, and perhaps hide more than they reveal. Lingu istically and empirically, "charter" emphasizes the contract between the service provide r and a sponsoring agency and/or state. "Voucher" emphasizes funding. The former mak es the school public, the latter only makes it publicly funded.Will charter schools compete with regular public sc hools for students and resources? If so, what will be the effects of that competition? One of the most crucial ideas underlying the conce pt of charter schools is that they will create competition among schools, allowin g parents to choose the school that will best serve their children's needs. Without cha rter schools, reform and experimentation with curriculum and school restruct uring which are responsive to parental choice only take place in magnet and other special schools. These schools are few and far between and usually have long waiting l ists. For example, "There is one
7 of 11academic elementary magnet school in Birmingham; ha s been for years. Each year parents camp out overnight at the school in order t o try to register new kids for it. Each year many students are turned away because of lack of space (Rick Garlikov, Education Policy Analysis Forum)." Charter schools will allow more of these types of schools to open. More children will have access to specialized education that fit their interests and learning styles. However, so far, charter school laws have produced little direct competition within the educational system. Most states restrict both the total number of charter schools that may be formed, and the number that may be formed within any district. Massachusetts's 1993 Education Reform Act only allo ws a maximum of twenty-five charter schools to be created and fully operational at one time. The largest number of children who can be educated by charter schools in Massachusetts is three-fourths of one percent of the schoolage population. Limited auto nomy in states like Georgia has also prevented groups from seeking charter applications. Although there are states, such as Arizona, that have minimal limitations on the numbe r of charter schools that can be established or on the number of students they can s erve, charter schools are too new a phenomenon to accurately measure the degree of comp etition they will spark with the traditional public school systems. Even without directly competing with regular publi c schools, charter schools have a ripple effect in the educational mainstream. School districts have acted in response to the appearance of charter laws. In Minn esota districts are finding ways to incorporate changes sought in public schools by par ents and teachers, where before they had been dismissing the proposals as unfeasible. In Massachusetts, "where the state grants the charters and school committees (district s) have no role, Boston--largely at the urging of the Boston Teachers Union--set up its own 'in-district' charter program" (Kolderie, Public Services Redesign Project). In Co lorado, the number and variety of district-sponsored schools has suddenly expanded wi th the appearance of a charter law, and suppressed public interests are now being addre ssed (Raywid, Phi Delta Kappan). There are potential fiscal side effects on public schools that may lose students to charter schools. Many of the public school's expens es remain fixed regardless of how many students are enrolled. The result could be the further impoverishment of public schools and reduced quality of education for those children. Research on charter schools has not documented the fiscal effects on public sch ools because it is too early to make any conclusions.Are parents informed about their options so that th ey can make reasonable decisions about the education of their children? Charter school proponents generally believe that p arents have their children's best interests in mind. However, parents must have adequ ate information to make the best decisions for their children. Information must be m ade available to parents in a way that will be meaningful to them in order for all childre n to be served by charter schools. Oregon legislation mandates that information about available charter schools be made available. Pennsylvania has used several types of m edia to inform parents about school options. Information about school options are made available through radio advertisements, a publication, and a 24-hour hotlin e for information. Despite these many measures, however, it is important to note that res earchers have found that the level of parental awareness differs among race and class lin es. Some parents are still not receiving information about school choice. This pro blem must be addressed and remedied.
8 of 11 Furthermore, the assumption that parents are seeki ng the best education for their children is not necessarily true. Parents are not n ecessarily all perfect and their motives for enrolling their children in a particular school s may not be based on finding the best school that will offer the best education for their children. For example, one of the fears regarding establishment of charter schools in Texas is that some schools will be set up as "football schools". Parents may decide to enroll th eir child in a particular school based on athletic, rather than academic, concerns. Texas legislation prohibits these kinds of schools, but the fears in Texas persist (Walt, Hous ton Chronicle, Mar. 2, '95). More information could also come from the media. C harter schools would be under close public and interest group scrutiny, and any type of error by the charter school would be widely broadcast. This accountabili ty through close scrutiny may enhance the quality of education in charter schools In essence this could be a way of "whistle blowing", or bringing to the public's atte ntion schools that are not providing adequate education for their students. This would a lso make schools accountable even to children whose parents may be uninformed or who sim ply do not care. An example of effective "whistle blowing" is the media coverage t hat surrounded the shutdown of EduTrain in California. This type of careful monito ring and public broadcasting will promote responsible management of charter schools.How are charter schools held accountable? In order to meet parental information needs and to publicly ensure quality, assessment has become a major issue for charter sch ools. The problem with comparing charter schools across the nation is that different types of assessment are used to test their accountability. One state may use tests while another relies on portfolios. New Hampshire requires charter schools to administer an d report the results of the mandatory statewide assessment, to submit quarterly reports o n how well they are meeting the goals specified in their charters, and to administer and report the results of a national, standardized examination. The variety of assessment s used both state to state and within states makes it difficult to compare charter school s to each other or to public schools. Assessment as the basis of accountability isn't ne cessarily consistent or accurate, yet it influences people's choice and opinion and i s an important component. Regardless of the form of assessment or the office that overse es accountability, charter schools differ from traditional public schools in that they can be, and have been, shut down if they do not measure up to official standards. They are held accountable not only for abiding by applicable laws, but also for the measur ed performance of their pupils. Over 100 charter schools have opened in the United States. Some charter schools work, and others have problems. Where problems have developed, the school board in most cases has moved quickly to fix them. Charters have been revoked by their sponsors. In December 1994, the Los Angeles school board revoked the charter for a school called Edutrain because of questionable acco unting as well as an inability to prove the school had met its academic goal. The sch ool also suffered from mismanagement. As teachers ran short on supplies, a dministrators treated themselves to a school-leased $39,000 car and a $7000 retreat to Carmel, and the principal was given a $5000 monthly housing allowance and a bodyguard. Th e fact that the charter was revoked and the school shut down is evidence of the success of California's charter school law. Legislative provisions for accountabili ty worked. Do charter schools provide a panacea for the ills o f American public education? No. It is overly optimistic to view charter school s as a cure all to the present
9 of 11educational system. Perhaps the small changes insti tuted by charter schools are beneficial, however, and perhaps in the long run th ey will have a greater impact than at the present. Currently very few charter schools exi st. For example, if all the proposed charter schools in Arizona opened next fall, the to tal charter school enrollment for the state would be about 8000 students, less than 1 per cent of the total public school population in the state. Thus the loss of students from traditional public schools would probably not make a major impact on even the school s who lose the most students, and certainly not enough to impact would occur to foste r educational reform on a national or even statewide level. In Michigan, an opinion print ed in The Record argues that "Charter schools would be an ornament to the public system, not a substitute for far-reaching reform" ("Desperate Effort..., B6). For now, charte r schools exist on the periphery of public schooling, though, as noted above in the cas e of Minnesota, they may produce widespread ripple effects. Financial implications remain a serious concern. T he most vocal opposition to charter schools is heard when the ways they are fun ded are discussed. Opponents fear that money earmarked for traditional public schools will no longer be available to them. School systems will also lose money to fund their p rograms from students who were previously educated in non-sectarian and religiousl y affiliated private schools. When these students attended private school, the taxes t heir parents paid to the town to support the public school system were utilized to boost the average cost per student. If these children enroll in charter schools, and, thus, reen ter the public school system, a portion of their expenditure (all of it, in Massachusetts) will follow them to the charter school. A community containing a charter school will need to divert funding away from the existing public schools in order to pay for this ne w population of students being educated at public expense. The breadth of course o fferings, the n umber of faculty, and the purchase of new materials at the traditional pu blic school will decrease. Moreover, due to the loss of monies, buildings may fall into disrepair, teacher-pupil ratios may increase, and some schools will be forced to consol idate. Communities containing charter schools are vehemen tly opposed to the manner in which they are funded because they will take mon ey away from their school budget. Massachusetts currently states that if the district housing these schools contains a posit ive foundation gap, they are responsible for paying the charter school the average cost per student of their district (this does not exclud e the use of state or federal aid that these locales receive). Communities without a positive fo undation gap pay the lesser of the average cost per student in their district (if that is the location of the charter school) or that of the charter school's. The charter schools s eem to receive special treatment while the school district as a whole suffers. For example in Boston, the average cost per charter school student was determined by dividing t he current school budget by the number of students enrolled. Thus, the average cost per student enrolled in a Boston charter school is set at $7031 while each student e ducated in Boston's traditional school system is allocated $5851 (22). Raising the average cost per student is assumed to assist charter schools with their start-up costs and incre ase the number of educational benefits and innovative programs these schools can offer. In Massachusetts, lawmakers are divided on the manner in which state aid should be distributed-via monies designated for educational reform of the public school system or from other sources. It is only when these questions are resolved th at we can evaluate the financial losses the communities will suffer. One tenet to the argument citing the need for char ter schools is that they will decentralize state involvement in and introduce gre ater amounts of local control into public education. This appears to contradict the ch artering process in Massachusetts.
10 of 11Although private enterprises file charter school pr oposals, their involvement in the application's acceptance or rejection terminates th ere. The only body who has the power to grant or reject charter school applications is t he Secretary of Education. There is no input from parents, citizens in the community who w ould house the charter school, the members of the school committee, administrators, or teachers. If the charter application is rejected, there is no appeals process. Thus, sta te involvement in public school education is not curtailed, as some proponents clai m, by establishing charter schools. Rather, it becomes the primary institution that con tinues to shape the education it offers its citizens. A central question that requires asking is: Do cha rter schools do anything that regular public schools cannot do? Alternative schoo ling already exists in the traditional public school spectrum. For example the Ohlone Scho ol in Palo Alto, California incorporates learning pods and many volunteers into its school's philosophy rather than the more traditional style of a teacher lecturing a t the board. A great amount of parental involvement is also found in the Graham-Parks Schoo l in Cambridge, Massachusetts. GrahamParks was two decades ahead of its time in offering a family atmosphere and stressing interdisciplinary learning. Magnet school s, which are similar to charter schools that emphasize a particular area of study (such as a performing arts school), are another option for public school education. Schools that ut ilize nontraditional methods of teaching are already present in the public school s ystem. However, public schools generally retain a constraining geographic relation ship to their enrollees. If you live in district X you attend school Y, innovative or not; excellent or not. Taking a leaf from the page of the magnet school idea, charter schools exp and the possibilities for basing school-home relationships less on geography, and it s correlate--wealth, and more on interest.NOTES Presently, Georgia has no charter schools in operat ion, Hawaii has just accepted its first application, and New Mexico has four char ter schools, all in their first year of operation under charter. 1. Neither Georgia nor New Mexico, for example, allows for any sort of open enrollment in which parents choose which school the ir children will attend. 2. Addison's charter essentially just allows a little more administrative freedom in the areas of testing, distributing funding for prog rams to help "slower" children, and in coordinating staff development. Also, New Me xico's listing of the waivers approved in the charters of its four current charte r schools only shows waivers in funding control and, in one case, extending the sch ool day. Though these areas are not the only changes in the charter schools, they a re the instances in which current state re gulations are waived. 3. Clarke Central High School in Athens, GA was consid ering applying but declined, saying that they would wait and see if the governme nt would gradually cut the bureaucratic restrictions without having to go thro ugh the application process. 4. KS -15, NM -5, and WI -10. 5. Wisconsin only allows two per district. 6. Minnesota started with only 8 schools allowed and h as increased to 35. 7. There is also the requirement of at least a majorit y of parents, faculty, and staff in favor of the conversion in all states where charter schools must be existing public schools. 8. Most very "active" states, including California, Co lorado, Minnesota, and 9.
11 of 11Massachusetts have some sort of limit to the number of charter schools allowed, although their numbers are not nearly as small.