Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Update on Charter Legislation from MASB

Senate Pops the Cap off ChartersThe Senate voted on Thursday to pass SB 618. The bill passed the full Senate 20–18, with six Republicans joining the Democrats to attempt to block the unprecedented expansion of university-authorized charters. Below are the key provisions of the legislation:
  • Permits authorizers to allow charter schools to operate at more than one site under one board.
  • Exempts charter school property from real and personal property taxes.
  • Deletes geographical boundaries for community college-authorized charter schools.
  • Removes the current 150 school cap on university-authorized charter schools.
  • Eliminates the number and geographical limits for urban high school academies.
  • Removes “Schools of Excellence” graduation rate and conversion stipulations.
  • Removes the requirement that a charter authorized by a local district maintain the labor agreements of that district.

The legislation did include a provision that would have allowed school districts the ability to privatize instructional staff. This was removed with a floor amendment, a move MASB supported.
MASB has constructed a list of our main issues and areas of concern with the legislation; please refer to this list when communicating with your community and members of the legislature.
  • Removing community college authorizing boundaries dilutes local college board oversight and is unnecessary with universities already having statewide authority.
  • Allowing multi-site schools under one charter contract could create a statewide school district, resulting in thousands of students with no locally elected board or citizens’ oversight.
  • Eliminating the cap on university-authorized charters removes the current incentive for charters to show academic success before allowing school expansion.
  • Eliminating the current provision that only allows additional charters in school districts that have a graduation rate of 75.5 percent or lower is counter to the argument that competition drives success. This change appears aimed at boosting charter performance by allowing chartering in an already successful district.
  • Exempting property leased to charter schools from property taxes will undermine the community and School Aid Fund.
  • Removing the requirement that authorizers limit their 3 percent oversight activities fee will allow them to co-mingle funds and result in weakened charter school monitoring and oversight and creates a financial incentive to authorize charters as a way to increase revenue.
  • Retaining current law requiring cyber schools to report to the state superintendent and legislature regarding student participation and performance is critical to monitor this, as of yet, unproven educational model.