One of the more noxious bits of effluvia from the last, DFL-controlled legislature was a bill tightening the restrictions to “authorize”, or sponsor, charter schools.
Because of this law, a whole lot of charter schools are on the bubble:
Two years ago, state lawmakers approved a new law that makes authorizers more accountable for the financial and academic performance of the schools they sponsor.
“I think the new law is great and it’s really going to strengthen and make more consistent the quality of authorizing,” said Cindy Moeller, the head of Student Achievement Minnesota, or SAM.
SAM is an approved charter school authorizer, and Moeller was at last week’s open house, pitching her organization as a possible charter school sponsor.
The law is a result of several waves of hysteria about charter school “financial performance” whipped up by a series of specious think-tank reports on the schools’ fiscal accountability.
I’ll digress to ask – if public school districts had to operate under the same rules and scrutiny as charters, how many do you suppose would survive?
[Minnesota Charter School Federation president Eugent] Piccolo does not expect all 64 schools currently in limbo to close — but some could. That’s why he’s lobbying state lawmakers to extend the current arrangement by a year, a move that would help schools like the St. Paul City School.
“The school’s been around for 13 years, I’d hate for it to close just because of a process,” noted Nancy Dana, superintendent of St. Paul City School. Her current sponsor, the St. Paul School District, is not reapplying.
It’s up to the state education department to approve new authorizers. David Hartman, supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Education’s charter school division, said schools are right to be anxious. But he’s confident the outcome will be positive.
And that’s going to be worth watching; Mark Dayton’s Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius is, near as I can tell, no friend to charter schools. Charter school advocates will have to watch and see if there’s any slowdown in the approvals for authorizers.