Friday, April 02, 2010

Senate Gives Blind Approval to Charter Schools

This from the Herald-Leader:

Senate quickly approves
charter schools proposal

The Senate narrowly approved an education bill Thursday that includes a provision to allow charter schools in Kentucky, which supporters say will help the state fare better in its bid for federal grant money.

The bill attracted criticism from Senate Democrats who were unhappy that lawmakers had no time to discuss or study the bill before voting. It nearly failed on the Senate floor until Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, changed his vote to a "yes" at
the last second.

House Bill 109, which now contains several other education measures, heads to the House, where it faces an uncertain future. Democratic leaders there echoed concerns of Senate Democrats that the charter school issue popped up too late in the session and needs more debate...

Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, told the Senate chamber that charter schools would have to be governed by a board and adhere to state and federal education guidelines and curriculum standards.

Several Democrats, led by Shaughnessy and Sen. Gerald Neal of Louisville, lambasted the process because the measure was discussed for less than 15 minutes in the Senate Education Committee earlier in the day.

Just as Holliday began presenting the details of the proposal, Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, entered the committee room and told Winters, the panel's chairman, to "call the motion."

"I didn't even know what bill he was talking about," Williams said later. "I went up there and said, 'If you're going to pass any bills, call the motion.' We've got to get
these committees over with because we've got to get them to the floor." ...

So what's in the bill?

Rather than specifying the conditions under which charters might be created, HB 109 kicks that decision to the local board of education. Those charter advocates who wanted Kentucky to throw the system wide open are likely to be unsatisfied by HB 109 - because to provides for substantial local oversight - but I suspect, it will be seen as acceptable because it is a foot in the door. Those afraid of charters are likely to be assured by that oversight. I'm thinking this could pass the House.

Highlights:
  • House Bill 109 retains the definition of a "Qualified teacher" as a person certified by the Education Professional Standards Board.
  • In apparent response to concerns raised by Commissioner Terry Holliday, the provision stipulates charters to be “a public school within the school district that grants its charter and shall be accountable to the school district's local board of education…”
  • “Enrollment shall be open to any student who resides within the school district or a contiguous school district with all enrollment decisions made in a nondiscriminatory manner…”
  • A charter school shall be administered and governed by a governing body as specified by the charter school applicant and agreed to by the local board.
  • “The state board may waive state statutory requirements [for charter schools] or administrative regulations promulgated by the state board, except those relating to curriculum, assessment, and accountability…”
  • Charters are required to provide “Evidence that the plan for the charter school is economically sound for both the charter school and the school district, a proposed budget for the term of the charter, a description of how an annual audit of the financial and administrative operations of the charter school…”; “A description of how the school plans to meet students' transportation needs…” and “Methods and strategies for serving students with disabilities in compliance with all federal laws and regulations…”
  • “The rules and procedures by which students may be disciplined, including but not limited to expulsion or suspension from the school, which shall be consistent with the requirements of due process and with federal laws and regulations governing the placement of students with disabilities…”
  • “No person, group, or organization may submit an application to convert a private school or a nonpublic home-based education program into a charter school or to create a charter school which is a nonpublic home-based educational program.”
  • “A new charter school may be approved for a period of three (3) to five (5) years…”
  • “A financial statement that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the charter school that is transparent to the general public and that will allow comparison of such costs to other schools or other comparable organizations, in a format required by the state board…”
The charter measure is a Senate Committee Substitute attached to a bill that deals with early education assessment and intervention.

The amendment SCS (2) - at SECTION 3:

A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 160 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) It is the intent of the General Assembly to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn in schools that reflect high expectations and to encourage the use of different, high-quality models of teaching, governing, scheduling, or other aspects of schooling that meet a variety of students' needs, including at-risk students, and hereby authorizes the formation of charter schools to benefit students, parents, teachers, and to increase community involvement.
(2) Charter schools shall:
(a) Focus on closing achievement gaps between high-performing and low-performing groups of public school students by expanding learning experiences for students who are identified as academically low-achieving;
(b) Increase pupil learning through the implementation of high, rigorous standards for pupil performance;
(c) Provide parents and students with expanded choices in the types of education opportunities that are available within the public school system; and
(d) Be allowed freedom and flexibility in exchange for exceptional levels of results-driven accountability.

SECTION 4. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 160 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
As used in Sections 3 to 9 of this Act:
(1) "At-risk student" means a student who is academically unprepared and has inadequate preparation for the next educational level, especially the student affected by socioeconomic or cultural factors;
(2) "Charter school" means a nonsectarian, nonreligious, non-home-based, tuition-free public school that operates within a local school district or a statewide virtual charter school approved by the Kentucky Department of Education through collaboration with Kentucky Educational Television and local school districts;
(3) "Governing body" means the body identified by a charter school in its contract with a local board that has legal responsibility and authority over the charter school policies, operations, and administration;
(4) "Local board" means the local board of education of a school district;
(5) "Local school district" means a county or independent school district;
(6) "State board" means the Kentucky Board of Education;
(7) "Qualified administrator" means a person certified by the Education Professional Standards Board under KRS 161.027 and 161.028; and
(8) "Qualified teacher" means a person certified by the Education Professional Standards Board under KRS 161.028, 161.030, 161.046, and 161.048.

SECTION 5. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 160 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) A charter school shall be a public school within the school district that grants its charter and shall be accountable to the school district's local board of education for purposes of ensuring compliance with applicable laws and charter provisions. A school cannot apply to, or be granted a charter by, a local board unless a majority of the school's students reside in the chartering school district or in a contiguous school district.
(2) A charter school shall be subject to all federal and state laws and constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Enrollment shall be open to any student who resides within the school district or a contiguous school district with all enrollment decisions made in a nondiscriminatory manner as specified by the charter school applicant in the charter school application.
(3) A charter school shall be administered and governed by a governing body as specified by the charter school applicant and agreed to by the local board.
(4) A charter school may organize as a nonprofit corporate entity organized under KRS Chapter 273 and exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
(5) A charter school for purposes of tax-exempt financing is a governmental entity. Direct leases and financial obligations of a charter school shall not constitute debt or financial obligations of the school district unless the school district specifically assumes such obligations.
(6) Based on the contract between the charter school and the local board, a charter school shall not be subject to specific district policies and state administrative regulations. Based on the contract, a local board may waive locally imposed school district requirements without seeking approval of the state board. The state board may waive state statutory requirements or administrative regulations promulgated by the state board, except those relating to curriculum, assessment, and accountability under KRS 158.6451, 158.6453, and 158.6455 to 158.6459. Any waivers of statutory provisions or administrative regulations granted under this subsection shall be for the term of the charter, except the state board shall review any waivers granted every two (2) years and may revoke any waiver it deems no longer necessary.
(7) A charter school shall not charge tuition, except a charter school may charge fees as may be allowed by other schools within the school district in which it is located.
(8) A charter school shall be responsible for its own operation, including but not limited to preparation of a budget, contracting for services, and personnel matters.
(9) (a) A charter school may negotiate and contract with a school district, the governing board of a state public postsecondary education institution, or any third party for the use of a school building and grounds, the operation and maintenance of the facility and grounds, and the provision of any service or activity that the charter school needs in order to offer the educational program described in its charter.
(b) A charter school shall not be required to pay rent for space which is deemed available, as negotiated by contract, in school district facilities. All other costs for the operation and maintenance of the facilities used by the charter school shall be subject to negotiation between the charter school and the local board.
(c) Any service that a charter school contracts with the local board shall be provided by the district at cost.
(d) The charter shall have standing to sue and be sued in its own name for the enforcement of any contract entered under this subsection.
(10) A charter school shall adhere to the same health, safety, and facility requirements as other public schools. Charter schools that are located in a school district's facilities shall be included in the district's local facility plan.

SECTION 6. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 160 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) An approved charter school application shall serve as the basis for a contract between the charter school and the local board of education. A revision of the terms of the contract may be made only with the approval of the local board and the governing body of the charter school.
(2) The charter school application shall be a proposed agreement and shall include:
(a) A mission statement for the charter school and a description of an educational program that implements one (1) of more of the purposes described in Section 3 of this Act;
(b) A description of the charter school's educational program, curriculum, and student achievement performance standards for the school's educational program. The educational programs shall meet or exceed the student performance standards adopted by the state board;
(c) A description of the methods for evaluating whether students have attained the skills and knowledge specified for its performance standards, the timeline for achievement of the standards, and the procedures for taking corrective action in the event that student performance at the charter school does not meet the standards;
(d) A description of the governance and operation of the charter school, including how parents, professional educators, and community members will be involved in the governance and operation of the school;
(e) Evidence that the plan for the charter school is economically sound for both the charter school and the school district, a proposed budget for the term of the charter, a description of how an annual audit of the financial and administrative operations of the charter school, including any services provided by the school district is to be conducted;
(f) The employment policies and procedures of the school, including the employment of qualified teachers and administrators including compliance with KRS Chapter 161 and any locally bargained contract in effect;
(g) If appropriate, a plan for the displacement of pupils, teachers, and other employees who will not attend or be employed in the charter school;
(h) A description of the charter school's enrollment policy;
(i) The rules and procedures by which students may be disciplined, including but not limited to expulsion or suspension from the school, which shall be consistent with the requirements of due process and with federal laws and regulations governing the placement of students with disabilities;
(j) A description of how the school plans to meet students' transportation needs and, if the school intends to transport students, a plan for meeting the transportation needs of low-income and academically low-achieving students;
(k) A description of the ages and grade levels to be served by the school;
(l) The school calendar and school day schedule, which shall total at least the number of days, or their equivalent as provided under KRS 158.070, or as otherwise directed by the General Assembly;
(m) Types and amounts of insurance coverage to be obtained by the school, which shall include adequate insurance for liability, property loss, and the personal injury of students. The state board may promulgate administrative regulations to implement the provisions of this paragraph;
(n) The term of the charter, which shall not exceed five (5) years;
(o) A description of the health and food services to be provided to students attending the school;
(p) Methods and strategies for serving students with disabilities in compliance with all federal laws and regulations relating thereto;
(q) Procedures to be followed in the case of the closure or dissolution of the school, including provisions for the transfer of students and student records to the local school district in which the charter school is located or to another charter school located within the local school district; and
(r) All requests for release of the charter school from specific state statutory provisions.
(3) No person, group, or organization may submit an application to convert a private school or a nonpublic home-based education program into a charter school or to create a charter school which is a nonpublic home-based educational program.
(4) The following shall apply to the process for the submission and review of a charter school application:
(a) An applicant shall assure to the local board that a majority of the charter school's pupils will reside in the chartering school district or in contiguous school districts;
(b) Applications shall be filed with the local board of education by October 1 to be eligible for consideration for the following school year;
(c) The local board of education shall review all applications and, if the board finds the charter school application is incomplete, the board shall request the necessary information from the charter applicant. The board shall appoint a district review committee to analyze the application before the board considers it for action. The district review committee specified in this paragraph shall consist of at least one (1) person with a demonstrated knowledge of innovative educational practices including charter schools who may reside outside the district; two (2) parents or legal guardians of students that reside in the school district; three (3) educators, including a minimum of one (1) principal from the district; and at least one (1) community business leader.
(d) After giving reasonable public notice, the local board shall hold at least one (1) public meeting to obtain information to assist the board in making its decision to approve a charter school application. The local board of education shall take action on the application in a regularly scheduled meeting of the board within seventy-five (75) days after receiving the application filed under provisions of this section. All negotiations between the charter school and the local board on the contract shall be concluded by, and all terms of the contract agreed upon, no later than ninety (90) days after the local board of education rules on the application for a charter school unless the parties mutually agree to waive this deadline.
(e) If a local board denies a charter school application or unilaterally imposes conditions that are unacceptable to the charter applicant, the applicant may appeal the decision to the state board.
(f) If a local board denies a charter school application, it shall give its reasons for the denial in writing. If a local board grants a charter, it shall send a copy of the approved charter to the Kentucky Department of Education within fifteen (15) days of granting the charter.
(5) The following shall apply to the initial approval and renewal of charter schools:
(a) A new charter school may be approved for a period of three (3) to five (5) years;
(b) A renewal of a charter may be for a period not to exceed five (5) years;
(c) A charter school renewal application shall be submitted to the local board and contain:
1. A report on the progress of the charter school in achieving the goals, objectives, pupil performance standards, content standards, and other terms of the initial approved charter application;
2. A financial statement that discloses the costs of administration, instruction, and other spending categories for the charter school that is transparent to the general public and that will allow comparison of such costs to other schools or other comparable organizations, in a format required by the state board; and
3. Requested changes to terms in the initial contract; and
(d) A charter may be revoked or not renewed by the local board if the board determines that the charter school did any of the following:
1. Committed a material violation of any of the conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter contract;
2. Failed to meet or make reasonable progress toward achievement of the content standards or pupil performance standards identified in the charter contract;
3. Failed to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management;
4. Violated any provision of law from which the charter school was not specifically exempted; or
5. The local board determined that it is not in the interest of students residing within the school district to continue the operation of the charter school.

SECTION 7. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 156 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) The Kentucky Board of Education shall promulgate administrative regulations to implement the establishment of charter schools under Sections 3 to 9 of this Act including:
(a) Procedures for resolutions of disputes between a charter school and a local board of education arising with regard to governing policy provisions of a charter school's charter contract;
(b) Procedures for appeal concerning the denial of a charter school application, the nonrenewal or revocation of a charter school's charter, or the unilateral imposition of conditions on a charter applicant;
(c) Evaluation and reporting requirements from local districts to the state board; and
(d) Any other provisions necessary to implement charter schools within the state, including a statewide virtual charter school in cooperation with school districts and Kentucky Educational Television.
(2) Appeals to the state board shall be reviewed based on the procedures established in administrative regulation under subsection (1) of this section; however, the state board shall have the final decision-making authority over situations in which the state board determines that the actions of the local board were contrary to the best interests of the students, school district, and the community and shall direct the local board in what actions to take.

SECTION 8. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 161 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) (a) Teachers and employees in a charter school shall participate in the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System and the Kentucky Employees Retirement System. The charter school shall remit to the retirement systems the employer contributions required by law for participating employers. Teachers and other certified personnel shall make the employee contributions to the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System under KRS 161.540 and 161.560. Classified employees shall make the employee contributions to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System under KRS 61.543.
(b) Every charter school employee shall be provided the health and life insurance and other benefit programs extended to other school employees, unless the employee waives participation.
(c) A person who is employed in a charter school shall accrue service credit in the same manner as other school employees in the local district.
(2) A charter school teacher may participate in existing locally bargained agreements.

SECTION 9. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 157 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:
(1) The local board shall pay the charter school any federal or state aid attributable to an exceptional student as defined in KRS 157.200 attending the charter school in proportion to the level of services for the student that the charter school provides directly or indirectly.
(2) A local board shall distribute funds directly to a charter school located in the district in an amount equal to the per pupil funding based on the average daily attendance and add-on funds that are allotted under the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky program under KRS 157.360 and any other categorical funds that are allocated to schools based on a per pupil basis or in lump-sum grants. Other state, local, and school district funds shall be distributed to a charter school by using the same formulas and allocation processes as is used to distribute funds to any other school in the district. All state and local funding shall be distributed monthly by the local board to the charter school beginning July 1 following the approval of the charter school's application. The local board shall continue to disburse funds to the charter school for the duration of its contract and for the duration of any subsequent renewals.
(3) During the years of the charter school's operation, as received and to the extent allowed by federal law, a local board shall distribute federal funds to the charter school on the basis of the number of special characteristics of the students attending the charter school.
(4) Notwithstanding subsection (2) of this section, the proportionate share of state and federal resources generated by exceptional students attending a charter school and funds generated under other federal or state categorical aid programs by students attending a charter school or staff serving them shall be directed to the local board of education for distribution to the charter school serving students eligible for aid under state and federal law.
(5) A charter school shall be eligible for federal and state competitive grants and shall not be excluded from opportunity to participate as an independent educational entity as long as the available grants align with the grade levels included in the charter school and the other criteria established for the respective grants.
(6) All awards, grants, or gifts received by a charter school shall be retained by the charter school.
(7) (a) The governing body of a charter school may accept gifts, donations, or grants of any kind made to the school and expend or use the gifts, donations, or grants in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the donor.
(b) A gift or donation shall not be required for admission to the charter school.
(c) A gift, donation, or grant shall not be accepted by the governing body if subject to a condition that is contrary to law or contrary to the terms of the contract between the charter school and local board.
(d) All gifts, donations, or grants shall be reported to the local school district in the charter school's annual audit report...

2 comments:

ptapeep said...

What I find so disconcerting is the lack of discussion on this bill. If having charter's was so critical to the initial Rttt application, then it could have been voted on and perhaps passed when the application was being created. It wasn't, because we were all reassured that not having charter's wasn't necessarily going to be the "death bell" of the application.

I am more concerned right now about the budget and it's proposed 100 million in cuts to basic education programs, text books, early childhood, gifted and talented, as well as the fact that by rushing thru legislation without knowing the future impact is indeed short sighted. Does education need reform? Absolutely. Not just here in Kentucky, but throughout the nation. Could charter's provide a positive alternative? Certainly, and they can also be a negative. Studies continue to show that Charter's were not the saving grace of education reform under NCLB. That some have performed exceedingly well is balanced by those that have failed to produce their promised results. As parents, we are keenly aware of our role in our children's educational wellbeing. There are many who imply that parent involvement will be increased because of a charter is flawed. The PTA, not just here in Jeff. Co. but throughout this nation is dedicated to everychild.onevoice. whether that is at a charter or not. Parent involvement is the key to a student's success. Our concern, that success is being limited by this budget. Our leaders in Frankfort have wounded our children's educational opportunities. How they fix that damage has yet to be seen. And how it ultimately impacts our children will not be known immediately either. Children do not have political affiliations. It is unfortunate that our leaders in Frankfort can't set aside theirs for the wellbeing and future of this state.

Richard Day said...

Myrdin,

Me too. I thought the issue needed a full discussion so the state could pound out a solid bill that did what it needed to do for low-performing schools without harm to the overall system. Instead Kentucky kinda grabbed Colorado's bill and went with it. They certainly could have done worse but that's not much of a consolation.

Early on, you will recall, the state was trying to argue that school councils and charter schools were virtually the same thing. I think that stopped the conversation from moving forward and ultimately will have cost us some unknown millions of dollars.

And, you're right. Kids don't have political affiliations, just the need for a great education.

Thanks for the comment.