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.