Sunday, May 16, 2010

Completely local, completely optional (Commissioner Holliday's charter bill)

Imagine that Commissioner Holliday's suggested charter legislation becomes law.

How will charters be formed?

First, someone must decide to apply.  That could be a group of parents, or teachers, or a combination.  It could be a company from out-of-state. So far,

Next, they'll complete a huge application.   They'll need to describe their school: its mission, its curriculum, its instructional approach.  They'll explain who will be in charge: what kind of board or council or senate or whatever will make the key decisions.  They'll spell out policies on enrollment, discipline. and special education.  They'll set out how they'll ensure health, safety, transportation, and adequate facilities. They'll show a multi-year budget.  They'll explain how the school can operate without doing financial harm to the surrounding schools.  They'll specify how quickly achievement will rise, what consequences will apply if results fall short, and what steps will be taken if the school has to be shut down.

Plus, the application will also have to show that they will do many things the same way as other schools.  Under the draft legislation, charters must give state accountability tests, meet state accountability goals for all students, and set and meet achievement gap targets for student subgroups.   They must employ certified teachers and principals, award tenure, and provide the health and retirement benefits that are standard for other educators.  They will not be able to discriminate in admissions, and they'll have to provide full special education services based on individual needs.

Then, what happens to the application?

The local board of education decides whether to grant the charter or not.

The board sorts out whether the applicant has an idea that's well thought out, and the board sorts out whether the new approach would be a positive addition to local education.

Elected local citizens, responsible for the well-being of the whole school system, decide whether the proposed charter should be allowed to open.

Yes, the last three paragraphs say"local option" three different ways.  Here comes one more paragraph that makes the local option point even stronger.

Once a local school board lets a charter open, the local school board can decide it needs to close. The  board can do that if the charter breaks a law, or doesn't fulfill one of its application promises, or  doesn't deliver the promised achievement.  The board can also simply decide that closing the charter is in the best interest of students.

The proposal for Kentucky is not about outsiders forcing charters into a school district.  It's about setting up an option and letting local leaders decide whether to use that option.

Sidebar for Jefferson and Fayette: The draft legislation also says that districts with magnet programs and parental choice of schools will not be required to form charters.   You can have charters in your districts, but only if your local board decides to allow them. It's a local option.  Of course, the point of this whole post is that charters will be a local option and a local choice everywhere in the state.  Saying they're optional for magnet-and-choice districts is redundant.  The idea is to reassure worried people in your territories one more time--but reading the whole bill shows that you don't really need that added round of protection.  Meanwhile, for those who think it might be interesting to try a charter school in Jefferson or Fayette, the draft bill will still allow that, using exactly the same process and requiring exactly the same work to show the local school board how the charter can be a positive contribution to local education.


  1. Thanks for this assesment. I know that there are many groups that want charters as an option, esp here in Jeff. Co. but what I have failed to see is an actual plan. As you correctly point out in this blog, there is a lot more work than just the desire for a charter. As you and I know, running a school is no small endeavor. Educating our children takes a large commitment, a commitment of all stakeholders, from those that construct the charter, the parents who want their children to participate in the charter, the teachers who will teacher at the charter, etc. In our family it is certainly one thing to say, let's vacation at the beach this summer, and another to put that into action by renting a place, saving funds for the trip, blocking out a time in our schedule, etc. What I haven't seen, and maybe you and others in Prichard, etc, have seen, is a plan for a charter school, either in Fayette or JC. There are groups interested in charters, but I haven't seen the "here's were it will be housed, here is a sample of the curriculum, etc. I can understand not committing to that until the charter bill actually passes. Furthermore, as Richard Day pointed out on his blog, while there are groups who want charters in this state (seperate from the politicians in Frankfort) I haven't heard/read/etc anything from them in quite sometime. I would think they would be far more vocal in support of this and demand it be on the table at the May 24 meeting. I know that the media doesn't always pick up on every education related news story, but (like you I'm sure) I actively seek out any news story about education and nothing. Certainly there is a misperception about the PTA and charters, the concern for PTA is the use of funds intended for public schools in relation to charters, not that charters are "wrong" etc. As a parent, I believe that our students need the best options in education available to them. ALL STUDENTS. As I have stated in my own blog, my concern for charters is about the mission of the charter (it's vision), about ensuring that ALL STUDENTS are part of a charter if that is what the parent wishes, and funding. Public monies won't pay the whole bill for a charter. That usually means private sources have to be obtained. As you and I know from our grant writing experiences, those funds often come with a specific set of requirement on accountability and how the funds are to be utilized. My concern would be that a charter, either here in JC or another district, would have to seek outside sources of funding which might dilute the mission/purpose of the charter before it can even be established. All in all, this is something we all need to be invested in and educated on in order to facilitate a conversation. Thanks for the post, sorry for my lengthy response. No short and simple answers on this one are there?

  2. In response to PTA peep's comment, so since there are numerous hoops to jump through to get a charter school in Kentucky if the Education Commissioner's charter school proposal gets passed, I say pass the charter school proposal. We need the money from Race to the Top to even fund our SB1 legislature that was passed last year. People are not knocking down Kentucky's doors to start charter schools. They have to have a proposal and some money to get one started if the Commissioner's proposal is passed....then they have to get their proposal for a charter school passed by the local school board. There are several checks and balances in the Commissioner's charter school proposal. Pass the legislation so that we can qualify for the federal money....We need it now...for the present....we cannot afford not to get this money.


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