I was reading an article in The Washington Post titled: A perfect education storm in Washington state. In the article, they published a post on what is going on in Washington state by Wayne Au, an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell and an editor for the social justice education magazine, Rethinking Schools. He was also a plaintiff in the charter school legal challenge, along with organizations including the Washington Education Association and the League of Women Voters.
There are many great points in Wayne Au’s post which I have pointed out below.
The key issue is this: Washington State’s constitution has a provision that only “common schools” receive tax dollars allocated for public education. The law in Washington State is structured so that charter schools are governed at both the school level and state level by an appointed board, not an elected one. As such, charter schools in Washington State would receive public monies without any guarantee of accountability to any democratically elected, public body. The Washington State Supreme Court decided that this lack of public oversight of charter schools meant that did not meet the definition of “common schools” and therefore are not eligible to receive public monies made available for public schools.
In Delaware, charter schools are governed both at the school and state level by an appointed board, not an elected one. All charter school boards are appointed by the charter schools not elected by the residents where the charter school resides. Charter school board members are not required to be a resident of the State of Delaware; one would think they would be since they are making decisions using Delaware taxpayers dollars. Our State Board of Education and the Secretary of Education are appointed by the Governor; there are no checks and balances in place when it comes to Delaware Education. The state is the authorizer of all Delaware charter schools except for three: Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy, and Delaware College Prep, the Red Clay School District is the authorizer. Their charter board members are still appointed by the charter school in which they serve.
This year, I introduced House Bill 186, Charter Audit Bill. Below is the bill synopsis.
Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015.
It was released out of the House Education Committee with a fight (I had just enough votes 8) and I pushed to get the bill on the House agenda. Finally, on June 30th the House voted on the bill (23 yes, 17 no 15 Republicans 2 Democrats, and 1 absent Peterman), I have posted the vote count as well. It was placed on the Senate’s agenda on June 30th and Sen. Sokola tabled it, it was placed in the Senate Education Committee. The charter school lobbyists were there all night in Dover lobbying folks not to support House Bill 186.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLES 14 AND 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO OVERSIGHT OF CHARTER SCHOOLS.
Date: 06/30/2015 08:37 PM Passed
Vote Type:SM Yes: 23 No: 17 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 1
|Briggs King||N||Longhurst||Y||M. Smith||Y|
I have a hard time understanding why folks in Dover voted no on House Bill 186. How can you vote against transparency and oversight especially when it involves our constituents’ money and when we know about the abuses that have taken place. The Office of the Auditor of Accounts has issued audit reports on Delaware Military Academy and Academy of Dover. Family Foundations is currently under investigation and most recent Pencader Charter, Reach and Moyer have closed. Recently the State Board placed four charter schools on probation: Freire, Delaware Design Lab, Academy of Dover and Prestige Academy.
As Washington State’s Supreme Court has said: If a school is not controlled by a public body, then it should not have access to public funds. The logic is simple and compelling, and opponents of public school privatization in this country need to spread that message far and wide.