More Policy Reflections for 2016

The Center of the American Experiment, a Minnesota conservative think tank, included a number of policy recommendations for Education “Student Achievement and Prosperity” in their 2014 Minnesota Policy Blueprint. With state legislatures again in session, the time is right to examine a few of them, particularly around chartering.

Eliminate the funding imbalance between district schools and charter schools. 

Amen! This is a policy recommendation for nearly all chartering states. According to Blueprint Author Mitch Pearlstein, charter schools in Minneapolis receive about 34% fewer dollars per student than do district schools, even though charter schools in the city serve needier students. That funding gap averages about 30% fewer dollars across America. How can we justify that a student in one public school receives that much less funding than another? Every child deserves an effective education.

Don’t stifle Innovation in charter schools with new rules and regulations. 

Amen, Amen—for all chartering states! The charter school bargain is to trade regulation for results.  However, pressures to increase governmental intervention over two decades have been stronger than the original desire to remove governmental barriers. As Pearlstein writes, “Given the inevitable creation across the country of bad charter schools among terrific ones, chartering institutions must have the authority to step in to protect children. But that authority must not be permitted to become a backdoor to imposing rules and regulations that have stifled innovation in district public schools.”

Empower voters to turn all public schools into charter schools.  

I’ve always been a fan of “charter districts,” with New Orleans being the best example with over 90% of its public schools being charter public schools. But given the volatility of current political debates, I believe this is best encouraged as an option offered by state or local policymakers, not voters. Charter schools cannot be successful unless chartering leaders themselves are motivated and empowered.

Give parents the right to convert low-performing schools to charter schools.

California is best known for this option, commonly known as a “Parent Trigger” law. While I love parent engagement in chartering, I’m not a fan of Parent Trigger. Charter schools were meant to create schools new, with parents and teachers fully engaged in bringing that school—and its unique characteristics—to life. Chartering was never intended to be a “penalty” conversion of a low-performing school, or a consequence unwillingly imposed on others.

Provide reciprocity to teachers who earned licenses in different states. 

With teacher shortages looming, particularly in rural areas or in specific teaching disciplines, this makes sense, with proper oversight. This is in process in Minnesota.

Bottom Line: Few chartering policies haven’t been tested somewhere in America. Only some policies align with the origins of chartering. Let me know how I can be a policy resource for you or your state.