Charter School Laws are they legal or not? Part 1

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

Barbieri Y J. Johnson Y Peterman A
Baumbach Y Q. Johnson Y Potter Y
Bennett Y Keeley Y Ramone N
Bolden Y Kenton N B. Short Y
Brady Y Kowalko Y D. Short N
Briggs King N Longhurst Y M. Smith Y
Carson Y Lynn Y Smyk N
Collins N Matthews Y Spiegelman N
Dukes N Miro N Viola Y
Gray N Mitchell Y K. Williams Y
Heffernan Y Mulrooney Y Wilson N
Hensley N Osienski Y Yearick N
Hudson N Outten N Schwartzkopf N
Jaques N Paradee 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 DoverFamily 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.

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9 thoughts on “Charter School Laws are they legal or not? Part 1

  1. Linda Calder

    Thank you Kim for sharing this information. I too would like an explanation from those who voted no and would hope that the senate gets this out of committee and votes it into law. Please keep sharing who is doing what in Dover so that we can understand where we might have gone wrong in who we supported for re-election in the past as well as those we want to return to office.

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  2. Herbert Evans

    I seem to notice a pattern here, are elected “leaders” whom we send to serve the “public interest,” which means for the greater good of the public, I know it’s very complicated and confusing to the ethically challenged among us, are sent to Dover to serve a public trust which means to be good stewards of the public tax dollars. We the tax payers entrust those we send to represent are best interests and the best interest of future residents. Thats where that whole thing about “stewardship” comes in. But the thing that seems very apparent with most of are elected “leaders” is they never fail to disappoint when it comes to upholding their obligations to the very people that allowed them the privilege of public service. Someone once said and unfortunately I can’t remember who it was at this time, “people get the government they deserve” I disagree I don’t think the people of Delaware deserve the government we have and I certainly don’t recall ever hearing any politicians platform state “elect me and I will do whatever serves the best interest of the few”. But apparently thats what we have. I can’t imagine in what world oversight is a bad thing to be voted down. I can’t imagine in what world people that vote against a bad budget are shouted down. It ain’t gettin better next year by ignoring it this year. I can’t imagine in what world organizations demand public tax dollars, show time and again that those dollars will be mismanagement, misappropriated and just plain missing, and are representatives feel no oversight is necessary in light of many examples of mismanagement and feel no obligation to the public is necessary. It goes to show you whose best interests those that we elected are truly concerned about. It’s our money, its your duty to protect our money. Accountability is not a bad thing unless you have something to hide.

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    1. Loraine Miller

      I disagree with the previous poster Mr. Evans. Obviously Speaker Schwartzkoph and the others that voted against the Audit Bill feel very strongly that the funds are being spent well. They must know more than us they are in charge if they didn’t they wouldn’t be in charge right. I trust our leaders they know more than us they get all the information that we don’t they so they are more informed. We should just let them do their job. Thats why we voted for them.

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      1. john kowalko

        Please don’t be surprised or disappointed if your blind trust in the Speaker and others to know and do what’s right in the best interest of the public proves misplaced. Knowing more details and intimacies of policy does not necessarily translate into an honest reckoning or decision on policy. Precluding an independent audit to verify facts will never, ever guarantee that funds are being well spent and to “feel” very strongly is not the same as to “know”. Most instances of naivete and blind trust are eventually rewarded with disappointment.
        Representative John Kowalko

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  3. Pingback: Charter School Laws are they legal or not? Part 1 | Kilroy's Delaware

  4. dave

    given that charter schools are a reject of the bureaucracy, its not surprising that there supporters would reject the additional state overhead. they are still audited.

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