A charter school initiative was submitted by the League of Education Voters, Stand for ChildrenDFER (Democrats for Education Reform)  and Republican State Senator Steve Litzow yesterday and will require 250,000 signatures by July 8, 2012 to be on the ballot in November.

This piece was written by Parents Across America, Tacoma member Jennifer Boutell.

Charter Schools Initiative Introduced Today, First Analysis

A charter school initiative introduced today will be on the November ballot, if supporters are able to gather 250,000 signatures by July 6th.  I did a quick read through today, to see how it compared to the very problematic bill introduced in the last legislative session.

Some initial thoughts:

While this past session’s bill limited the establishment of charter schools outside of “at risk” communities, this initiative explicitly doesn’t:

“Authorizers shall give preference to applications for charter schools that are designed to enroll and serve at-risk student populations; provided, however, that nothing in this act shall be construed as intended to limit the establishment of charter schools to those that serve a substantial portion of at-risk students or to in any manner restrict, limit, or discourage the establishment of charter schools that enroll and serve other pupil populations under a nonexclusive, nondiscriminatory admissions policy.”

In other words, while the initiative is worded as though charters are intended to serve at risk kids, there’s nothing stopping wealthier communities from establishing them.

Like the last bill, this initiative creates a right of first refusal for charters, for any surplus school building.  This creates a problem for districts to balance enrollment in under-enrolled neighborhoods (making it more likely neighborhood schools will close.)

Issues also carried over from the last bill:

  • The initiative allows “conversion charters” with a parent or teacher trigger but establishes no particular framework for how the petition process will take place.
  • Charters can be authorized by an appointed charter schools commission (in addition to school districts) in which case school districts will have no authority over their budgets or enrollment.
  • Collective bargaining units are limited to a single charter school even if the charter is authorized by a district.
  • Charters can only be closed for poor performance following a lengthy process including a right to counsel, and to call witnesses (a right that public schools facing closure do not have).

Changes from the last bill:

  • No transformation zone section, no involuntary charters (thankfully);
  • explicit prohibition against contracting for educational services with other than non-profit entities;
  • charters can only be authorized by a district or the charter schools commission, no universities/colleges;
  • limited to 40 charters in the first five years.

This was a quick first impression, I’m sure other issues will come to light as others read the initiative.

Jennifer Boutell

For a brief description of charter schools, check out Charter School Myths.

For additional information regarding the Parent Trigger, see:

Parents Across America hails defeat of Florida’s Parent Trigger bill

Ben Austin and His Parent Trigger, Now in Seattle

Ben Austin’s Antics, Continued

For additional information on DFER, check out:

LACDP Statement on the Democrats for Education Reform’s Response to LACDP’s Cease & Desist Letter

DFER Watch

John Walton: DFER Catalyst?

Peas in a pod: Koret Foundation, The Hoover Institution, and Democrats for Education Reform