A few days ago I posted about charter school legislation in the state of Washington being ruled unconstitutional and the fact that language in their bill and the one passed in Alabama earlier this year have similar language in how a state charter school commission should be set up. (This was also picked up by AL.com and a number of newspapers.)
I soon received an email from a former state legislator who was appointed to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission. (Are there private charter schools?) He disagreed with some of what I said. Which is fine as I welcome other views.
I replied with a lengthy email, complete with a link to an article and contacts for folks who know far more about charter schools than I do. No response in return.
My correspondent made no bones about supporting charter schools. He also implied that local school boards may become charter authorizers and control what happens in their communities.
(The fact he supports charters was hardly a surprise. All you have to do is look at his campaign financial records from 2014 to figure this out. He got $160,498 from Bob Riley’s Alabama 2014 PAC; $53,500 from the Business Council of Alabama’s Progress PAC and $13,500 from Speaker Mike Hubbard’s PAC. All three of these are major charter boosters. In addition, he also received $33,057 from the Alabama Federation for Children and $3,533 from StudentsFirst of Sacramento, CA, both of which tout charters. So in all, he got $264,088 from charter promoters.)
Here is the language from the bill concerning selection of this commission: Each member of the commission shall have demonstrated understanding of and COMMITMENT to charter schooling as a tool for strengthening public education and shall sign an agreement to hear the appeal and review documents in a fair and IMPARTIAL manner.
So how will commission members who are committed to supporting charters be impartial? I’m still scratching my head about that one.
As to local school boards becoming authorizers, here is more from the bill: To solicit, encourage, and guide the development of quality public charter school applications, every local school board, in its role as a public charter school authorizer, shall issue and broadly publicize a request for proposals for public charter school application…
In other words, you are not only an authorizer, you are a charter cheerleader. A superintendent of a large city system said to me, “Why do we want to spend time and limited resources encouraging competition?”
Besides if a local school system rejects a charter application, their decision will be appealed to the state commission, made up of charter supporters. And at this point, deciding not to waste time and money seems a prudent decision.