6 Reasons Local School Boards Should Be The Sole Authorizers of Charter Schools

 

  1. Simplicity. Charter schools are public schools. They are funded with public money and they operate inside the geographic boundaries of existing school districts. They must be authorized by the same school board that considers other matters affecting public education in the district.
  1. Unity. A singular school board authorizer can consider charter schools in conjunction with other educational options in the district — magnet schools, community schools or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, for example. It does not serve the public well when a school board and a charter school operator separately identify a need for a specialized school, for example, and create redundant or overlapping options while competing needs go unaddressed.
  1. Impact.  A school board is in the best position to consider the impact that charter schools have on other schools in the district. Will a new charter school reduce the student population in a way that affects the building of a new school? Will its schedule affect bus service? Will revenue be reduced for other needs? A single entity is in the best position to consider all such questions together. In Detroit, growth in the charter sector left the city with roughly 30,000 more school seats— traditional and charter, all funded by taxpayers — than students.[i]
  1. Accountability. Charter schools must be accountable to their host communities. Problems of performance, abuse of discipline, or financial malfeasance must be handled by a public authority accountable to the local community.
  1. Appeals. Any appeals from the decision of the local school board authorizer should be narrow, focused only on whether it followed the proper procedure in making its decision. The appeal should not become an alternative means to approval via a different forum.
  1. Commonality. Eleven states with charter school laws make the local school district the sole authorizer, though the state may withhold final approval or receive appeals. Virginia, Iowa and Pennsylvania are among the states organized in this way.[ii]

[i] Kate Zernike, “A Sea of Charter Schools In Detroit Leaves Students Adrift,” New York Times, June 28, 2016.

[ii] Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-212.9; Iowa Code § 256F.3(3); 24 Pa. Const. Stat. § 17-1717-A(c).

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