Selected readings on US charter schools
Washington’s experiment in charter schools is moving forward as the state Board of Education takes public comment on rules that will govern what is essentially a pilot project. Washington voters started this process in November when they narrowly approved Initiative 1240, which allows the state to join most of the rest of the country in the charter school movement.
The ballot measure calls for a nine-member Charter School Commission to approve and administer the schools. Those members will be appointed by the governor and the Legislature, but that group won’t start its work until March.
The existing 16-member Board of Education, which includes Phyllis Bunker Frank of Yakima, has different lines of authority than does the commission on charter schools. The board will approve local school boards that seek to set up the schools; nonprofit groups that want to set up a school can apply to the Charter School Commission. The board also will set up an annual application and approval process, and it has drafted rules that it hopes to adopt in February. Those rules are available for public comment at the board’s website, http://www.sbe.wa.gov.
A charter school is a public school that is open to all students but operates independently of district management and administrative rules. The state has been slow to accept the schools; voters narrowly approved I-1240 after similar measures had failed three times at the polls since the 1990s.
Charter schools aren’t a fix-all but can be a useful tool for finding creative approaches to education. I-1240 is a tightly drawn measure that allows a maximum of eight schools a year for five years starting in 2014. That’s a maximum of 40 schools compared with 2,345 schools in the state. The schools could increase instructional hours, must meet state academic standards and would offer flexibility in scheduling, curricula, budgets and staffing. They are required to employ certificated staff, and collective bargaining requirements apply.
With about 6,000 schools operating in 41 states, there is plenty of experience on which to tap for latecomers like Washington. The national consensus is many of them work, many of them don’t, and a key is oversight by the school districts and state agencies. Right now is the public’s chance to weigh in on what could bring creative and innovation improvements in our state’s schools — if they are done right.
Source: Yakima Herald Republic