Saturday, November 18, 2006

"BOE Asks Congress to Allow It To Relinquish Chartering Authority"

From the Friends of Choice in Urban Schools' newsletter.
The Board of Education voted 5-2 yesterday to approve a resolution "[requesting] that the United States Congress, the Secretary of Education, the Mayor, and the council of the District of Columbia relinquish [sic] the Board of Education's chartering authority." The Board is named as a chartering authority in the School Reform Act, D.C.'s charter school law, which was passed by the Congress in 1996. The Board also is named as a chartering authority in a law passed by the Council around the same time and still on the books, though all of D.C.'s charter schools have been chartered under the Congressional act, which takes precedence.

In the resolution the Board noted that it and the chief state school officer (who also serves as the superintendent of DCPS) were "moving to enhance capacity as a State Education Agency as it relates to charter schools." The Board also resolved to create a working group "to create recommendations that will enhance the [Board's] capacity as a State Education Agency as it relates to charter schools."

D.C.'s Board of Education currently wears three hats: DCPS school board, state board of education, and charter authorizer. The charter authorizer hat has never fit the Board properly (nor has the state board hat, for that matter), and, in consequence, over the years it has declared three year-long moratoria on creating new charters. Much of the time it also has done a slipshod job of overseeing and supporting its charter schools which, like those of the other chartering board, are independent of and compete with the school system for students and the funding they bring. During the last several months the Board also has been dealing with allegations of financial improprieties in its charter schools office, which is being investigated by both local and federal officials.

In spite of the Board's failings, many of the its 18 charters objected to the Board's giving up its chartering authority and, in a meeting with Board members last week, urged the Board to delay consideration of the resolution. Some of the Board's charters have argued that the Board, as the only publicly-elected (currently half-elected, half-appointed) body involved in education, should not forsake its responsibility for charter public schools. Additionally, the Board's charter schools are justifiably concerned about who will take on the Board's oversight role, about which subject there has been no public discussion by the Board.

The promises to beef up the Board's state functions were added to the resolution in response to these concerns, but no information has been provided as to how the Board's notoriously dysfunctional and DCPS-oriented state operations can be changed to provide effective support to charter schools over which it no longer has any authority. What's more, it appears more and more likely that some or all of the Board's state functions will be transferred to the mayor's State Education Office or elsewhere.

Under the School Reform Act the D.C. Council has the authority to appoint another chartering board; the Congress also could do so.


Ben Whelan-Morin said...

I'm just curious how, if at all, would this affect charter schools that were chartered by the DC Public Charter School Board?

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

The schools under the authority of the PCSB will not be affected (at least that's my understanding of things).