Chicago, Memphis and Milwaukee Charters Receive Walton Foundation Funding
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Walton Family Foundation gave $3.8 million to start new charter schools in Chicago last year – more than any other city. “Generally, we’re providing operational support that helps a school address all its costs in its startup,” said Ed Kirby, deputy director for Walton’s education reform efforts. “Charters are fully public so they ought to be self sufficient with public funding in the long term.” In related stories, the Memphis Business Journal and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that in 2012, seven Memphis-area charter schools received more than $1.78 million and four Milwaukee charters received $1.4 million from the foundation. Greg Thompson, CEO of the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, said the Walton grants help “level the playing field” for charters, which don’t get facilities funding, or any start-up money until just before the school year begins. “Walton money is the difference between many charters being able to open or not,” he said.
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Memphis Business Journal, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
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Charter School Bill Filed in Kentucky House
According to WFPL and WBKO, Kentucky state Rep. Brad Montell filed public charter school legislation in the state House of Representatives. Montell crafted the law with help from the Kentucky Charter School Project. Under the bill, a pilot program would allow 75 schools to apply for charter status over a five-year period, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. Last year, charter legislation received a hearing in the Kentucky House Education Committee for the first time. The new Senate Education Chairman Mike Wilson is in favor of the bill. "We see repeatedly in areas where they've utilized charter schools, particularly in places where there are low performing schools or failing schools, they've used them and been very successful with them," he said. Wilson said someone in the Senate is considering pursuing legislation there as well.
Sources: WFPL, WBKO
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Editorial: Charters Should Be Welcomed in Mississippi
While the Daily Journal’s editors make clear that bringing public charter schools to Mississippi won’t solve all of the state’s education challenges, they write: “We support a reasonable charter school law that offers an alternative to students trapped in low-performing schools. Charter school operations with a proven record of sustained success should be welcomed in Mississippi. There are no doubt lessons that traditional public schools can learn and incorporate from the innovation that the best charters provide.” In addition to advocating for charters, the editorial urges lawmakers to institute programs for pre-Kindergarten; recruiting and retaining top-quality teachers; teacher merit pay and a significant investment in early-grades reading instruction to reach the goal of third grade reading proficiency.
Source: Daily Journal
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Black Leadership in Mississippi Considers Charter Schools
According to the Huffington Post, skepticism about public charter schools remains among some of Mississippi’s black political leadership, but Mississippians in general are more open to the concept than in previous years. State Sen. Kenneth Wayne Jones, the only African-American state senator to support last year’s charter school bill, will chair the Black Caucus during the upcoming legislative session. While Jones can’t guarantee caucus members would vote for a charter school bill, he said: “I know we’ll be listening more than last year. If this train is coming, we need to make sure we are on it.” Mississippi First executive director Rachel Canter said that under the proposed bill, traditional public school educators with strong track records will be eligible to open charters, a “huge issue” for the Black Caucus. “The most important thing is to give new opportunities to talented educators who are right there in their communities,” agreed Kenneth Campbell, president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.
Source: Huffington Post
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Editorial: Washington Teachers’ Union Should Withdraw Suit to Block Charter Schools
A Seattle Times editorial urges Washington state’s teachers’ union and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to drop legal challenges against Initiative 1240, the state’s new charter school law. “A courtroom battle over Initiative 1240 shifts the focus from improving education to arguing over only one educational strategy that is widely accepted around the country. The Washington Education Association (WEA) does not like charters because it cannot control them…The WEA is still searching for potential legal strategies. Here’s one: Focus on the needs of the state’s existing 2,281 public schools rather than on 40 schools that do not yet exist.” State Superintendent Randy Dorn is considering suing if lawmakers do not make his office, rather than an independent commission, in charge of charter schools. “No more threats,” the editors write. “Amending voter-passed initiatives during their first two years would require a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate. Lawmakers have more critical issues to vote on, namely a sustainable budget.”
Sources: Seattle Times editorial, Seattle Times blog
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New Hampshire Hopes to Have Charter School Start Up Grant Funds Restored Next Year
According to the Nashua Telegraph, a federal grant for starting public charter schools was slashed by nearly $800,000 after New Hampshire did not award as many grants as it planned to between 2010 and 2011. State officials say federal officials misunderstood how they disperse grant funds and will request the restoration of funds in August. Charter school advocates worry the state could face another reduction in funding if new schools are not approved soon due to the current moratorium. Roberta Tenney, director of the state charter school program, said the state is encouraging local school districts, which are unaffected by the moratorium, to authorize new charter schools for special programs. “It would be quite wonderful if they became mission-driven schools and gave kids the ability to develop other skills...Schools have the opportunity to do that, and I wish more would. It would help us in terms of getting the [grant] money out. That’s what the federal government wants, and it’s what we want.”
Source: Nashua Telegraph
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Maine Charter Application Rejections Lead Some to Question Process
According to the Bangor Daily News, the Maine Charter School Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to reject four out of five pending applications for new charter schools. The rejections led Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen to question whether the Department of Education and the commission are “doing a good enough job in indicating to applicants what they should be doing.” He also suggested that it should be easier for applicants to have open discussions with the commission about their proposals. Former state Sen. Peter Mills, now part of the group trying to launch Maine Virtual Academy, said he was dismayed that Tuesday’s hearing did not give his organization a chance to explain itself before the commission, and that the commission didn’t have a way to help applicants understand expectations. “I was looking forward to a dialogue about what our application lacked and how we could go forward,” he said.
Source: Bangor Daily News