Rising Charter Enrollments in Detroit, Cleveland, Durham and Wisconsin
News outlets across the country continued to respond to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools report on rising public charter school enrollment. The Epoch Times reported that New York City’s charter school enrollment increased by almost 10,000 students last year, putting that city in second place for charter enrollment. The Detroit News observed that Detroit ranks second for percentage of students in charters, at 41 percent. Four other Michigan cities rank in the top 20 nationally. The Plain Dealer noted that Cleveland had the eighth-highest percentage of charter enrollment. Seven Ohio school districts had at least 10 percent of their students enrolled in charters, including four cities -- Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown -- which each had more than 25 percent charter enrollment. The Herald-Sun noted that North Carolina’s Durham County ranked 22nd in the nation for percentage of students in charters. WEAU reported that Wisconsin saw a 12 percent increase in charter enrollment last year.
Sources: The Epoch Times, Detroit News, Plain Dealer, Herald-Sun, WEAU
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In Georgia and Washington, a New Future for ‘Local Control’ of Schools
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Get Schooled blog featured commentary on recent charter school ballot initiatives by Adam Emerson of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Emerson notes that in several of Georgia’s largest counties, voters passed the charter school amendment by over 60 percent. School district officials in Gwinnett and other counties actively opposed the amendment, insisting it would diminish “local control” of public education. “That’s why citizens said yes to a charter commission independent of Georgia-style ‘local control,’” Emerson writes. “An overwhelming number decided that the most ‘local’ kind of school is one where the decision-making power rests at the school level, not in some faraway district office that holds veto power over all public education.” In contrast, Washington’s charter school initiative passed narrowly; Emerson writes that charter advocates there will have to work hard “to assure voters that the schools they plan to open over the next five years will add quality, innovation and variety.”
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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The Opportunities Emerging from D.C.’s School Closings
On his Dropout Nation blog, Rishawn Biddle urges D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to use the recently announced closings of 20 traditional public schools as an opportunity “to push for reforms that expand the array of high quality school choices available to every family.” Biddle advises Gray to “require the district to lease or sell the buildings to charter school operators, ensuring that there will schools for families in the affected neighborhoods. The district’s charter school board can also help by aggressively recruiting leading operators such as KIPP, along with community organizations and families, to launch new charters over the next few years.” Biddle also recommends rallying families in the affected neighborhoods with a Parent Trigger law, “giving them the ability to be active players in shaping the schools that serve their children.” Finally, Gray should launch an initiative to expand online and blended learning opportunities, attracting operators such as Rocketship Education and allowing for the creation of virtual charters.
Source: Dropout Nation
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Washington Proceeds Writing Charter Rules; Legal Challenge May Be Ahead
According to the Herald, Washington state's Board of Education is starting to write the rules school districts will follow for authorizing public charter schools. Washington’s recently-passed Initiative 1240 requires those rules be in place by March 6. The board will must set guidelines for conducting performance reviews of charter schools and evaluating the law after five years. The Washington Charter School Commission will also be able to authorize charters. Its nine members – appointed by the governor, House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor – will write the commission’s rules. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has contacted the Attorney General’s office to see if there are legal grounds to his contention that the initiative is unconstitutional, because it bypasses his office’s authority. Chis Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters in Seattle, said lawyers have vetted the initiative to ensure it will withstand a legal challenge.
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L.A. Board Says No to Charter Schools Moratorium
According to Education Week’s Charters & Choice blog , the Los Angeles school board this week rejected a resolution to put a moratorium on public charter school growth. More than 110,000 students attend charters in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Board member Steve Zimmer’s resolution asked charter operators to voluntarily delay applications until Superintendent John E. Deasy could report to the board on a range of issues, including charters' compliance with various laws on serving special needs students and English language learners, student disciplinary policies and parent-volunteer requirements. The California Charter Schools Association collected more than 2,000 signatures in opposition to the resolution and testimonials from charter school parents. "We're proud that the LAUSD board responded favorably to the parents who have shown the need and urgency in ensuring all families have access to high-quality school options," said association president Jed Wallace.
Source: Education Week
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Mississippi Lawmakers Renew Charter School Effort
The DeSoto Times interviewed two members of Mississippi’s House Education Committee who helped kill a bill to expand public charter schools last session. Rep. Pat Nelson opposes bringing charters to high-performing districts such as DeSoto County, but supports the idea for areas with low-performing schools. “There are some areas in the state with failing districts where we need to try it,” he said. Rep. Wanda Jennings said she would support a bill that provided for regulating charters and closing failing charters. Jennings said there were no such provisions in the charter school bills previously sent to the House Education Committee. House Speaker Philip Gunn, who has pledged to push for charter school expansion in the coming legislative session, recently removed Rep. Linda Whittington, who had also opposed charters, from the committee.
Source: DeSoto Times
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Philadelphia School Reform Commission Looks to Cap Charter Enrollment
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC) voted Thursday to suspend portions of the state public school code, saying it needed room to cap charter school enrollment and shorten the timeline for closing schools. A 2008 amendment to the charter-school law bans enrollment caps, but the district has been involved in legal cases surrounding those limits. After a court challenge by the Walter D. Palmer charter school, charters in the city can technically expand without SRC approval. "We want to be able to negotiate mutually agreed-upon plans with charter schools," said SRC Chairman Pedro Ramos. Since the Palmer ruling, multiple charters have agreed to enrollment caps and, in some cases, expansions. The district recently borrowed $300 million to pay its bills for the rest of the year, and projects $1 billion deficit within five years. “It's important, given the dire circumstances, that we try to maintain flexibility," Ramos said.
Sources: Philadelphia Inquirer