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OKLAHOMA: Barresi calls for regulations for virtual charter schools

virtual-charter-schoolsState Superintendent Janet Barresi is calling for legislation to strengthen academic and financial standards for the state’s virtual charter schools.

Although a strong proponent of these schools, she believes that they must be held to “the same standards of accountability and transparency that are applicable to other charters in the public school system.”

She said she would like to get legislation in place soon, as the number of virtual charter schools in Oklahoma continue to grow.

“Oklahoma’s public schools predate statehood, while virtual charter schools have been around for but a handful of years,” Barresi said in a written release.

Twenty-five charter schools operate in Oklahoma, two of which are virtual schools.

The latest enrollment figures for those two — Epic One on One and Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy — is 5,269, Education Department officials said.

Three other virtual schools have applications pending before the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, according to the release.

Barresi has spoken with several legislators about sponsoring such a bill when the state Legislature convenes in February.

Among the items that need to be addressed are:

Ensuring that existing virtual charters renegotiate their state contracts in July 2014 when they will fall under the purview of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

Clarifying how student attendance is measured.

Ensuring virtual charters do not receive certain elements of state aid that would be inappropriate, such as student transportation.

Determining how economically disadvantaged students are identified.

Guaranteeing financial transparency.

“Virtual charters point to some innovative possibilities in public education as the result of improved communications, but such changes come with challenges,” Barresi said.

“Accountability, transparency and rigor remain crucial cornerstones to a high-quality education — cornerstones that would be protected through this type of legislation.”

Officials said Barresi’s call for the legislation is not related to a lawsuit filed by Epic One on One last month against the department and Barresi.

The charter school sued after the state Education Department refused to release its report card, attorneys have said.

Officials have said they withheld the report card because they had credibility and validity questions about the school’s assessment data.

An attorney for the school told The Oklahoman they expect the state to release its report card after a vote at the state Board of Education meeting Thursday. If so, they will dismiss the lawsuit, he said.

Members of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board

Pamela Vreeland, Jenks, 1st Congressional District; appointed by Senate President Pro Tem Scott Bingman

Debbie Long, Claremore, 2nd Congressional District; appointed by former House Speaker Kris Steele

Jaared Scott, Stillwater, 3rd Congressional District; appointed by Bingman

John Harrington, Edmond, 5th Congressional District; appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin

Source: Tulsa World – by Kim Archer

View more articles on Oklahoma charter schools

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Legislation, Oklahoma, Regulation, States.

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