The standards include:
- Traditional school districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure a coordinated approach that serves all children
- School governance should be representative and transparent
- Charter schools should ensure equal access to interested students and prohibit practices that discourage enrollment or disproportionately push-out enrolled students
- Charter school discipline policy should be fair and transparent
- All students deserve equitable and adequate school facilities. Districts and charter schools should collaborate to ensure facility arrangements do not disadvantage students in either sector
- Online charter schools should be better regulated for quality, transparency and the protection of student data
- Monitoring and oversight of charter schools are critical to protect the public interest; they should be strong and fully state funded
The adoption of the standards comes after MNEA and TREE advocated for them at a recent meeting, and the move was driven by Board member Amy Frogge.
Two recent reports indicate charter growth carries a significant cost to MNPS.
First, a report by MGT of America noted:
“… it is clear that charter schools impose a cost on MNPS – both directly and indirectly. It is also clear … that the loss of operating funds caused by the transfer of revenue cannot likely be made up through a reduction in capital or facility costs. Therefore, approving future charter schools does potentially meet the “bar” described in Tennessee Code Annotated 49-13-108(b) which encourages local boards of education to consider fiscal impact in determining whether new charter schools may be “contrary to the best interest of the pupils, school district or community.”
More recently, the Operational and Performance Audit of MNPS found:
“The key question for determining fiscal impacts is whether enrollment reductions allow a district to achieve expenditure reductions commensurate with revenue reductions. Fixed costs are incurred regardless of whether students attend traditional or charter schools. The problem is that some fixed costs, such as building maintenance, computer network infrastructure, and health services do not vary based on enrollment. Therefore, teachers and their salaries are a key cost driver tied to student enrollment … However, it is not always possible to reduce teacher costs proportionate to losses in revenue. For these costs to be reduced significantly, the school would need to close altogether.”
Because of these costs, it seems sensible for MNPS to put into place provisions designed to prevent fraud and promote transparency.
Leigh Dingerson of the Annenberg Institute, spoke at the Board meeting and noted in separate comments that a statewide adoption of the standards could protect taxpayers going forward. She said that while most charters operate with integrity, the standards can provide a means of catching bad actors before serious problems arise.
Here’s Dingerson in her remarks before the MNPS Board:
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