State board to hear local charter matters, national group pushes changes

The state Charter Appeals Board agenda for Tuesday includes two local matters:

Meanwhile, a national group is pushing for measures it says would help ensure that failing charter schools close and good ones are opened.

Through the One Million Lives campaign, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers plans to work in three areas: people, policy and practice, the website says.

The points  the effort will push include stronger performance and accountability laws for charter schools and authorizers and the creation of statewide authorizers, the site says.

Alex Medler, vice president of policy for the organization, said that there needs to be a system that is clear from the beginning with regard to what a charter school has to do to stay open or be renewed. That means “a whole lot of transparency about expectations and measurement” and state policies that are easily executed when necessary, he said.

Some laws are ambiguous on the terms of renewal, Medler said. For example, some might say an authorizer doesn’t have to renew a charter if the school hasn’t made progress – but then the school could argue for even the slightest improvement as proof of progress.

It’s better to have a system that’s automatic, he said. For example, Florida law states that if a charter school receives Fs two years in a row in the state accountability system, the district “shall” not renew them, he said.

There should be a performance framework set up, so that schools know how they are doing each year on various measures, he said. That way, they’d have multiple notices before renewal time comes up.

NACSA also supports the idea of independent statewide authorizers – something Pennsylvania doesn’t have. Medler said some districts do well as authorizers, but others don’t have basic practices in place to make good decisions about charters.  If there are both statewide and local authorizers, that can stop local districts that are doing the job badly, he said.

“We really think best way to grow the charter sector is address its weakness and the parts that don’t work,” Medler said.

Related: Here’s another report from the PA Auditor General on cyber charter school funding.

About Angie Mason

I'm the education reporter at the York Daily Record. Follow me on Twitter: @angiemason1
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