Shouldn’t decisions on school openings and expansion be decided by the education professionals at the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education?
The answer appears to be no, according to those praising the new charter school bill passed by the state assembly last week.
On the surface, Senate Bill 1096 updates transparency requirements for charter schools and the nonprofits that manage them, but in reality it piles on unfair requirements while giving an unprecedented amount of power to the state legislature.
In probably one of the most hypocritical statements of all time, AFT President Melodie Peters said to the Connecticut Mirror in reference to the new charter bill, “are they [charter schools] prepared to abide by the same set of rules as public schools?”
Except that’s not what this bill does. The provisions in this legislation are much stricter than what public schools are subjected to.
For example, SB 1096 requires charter schools and management companies to perform background checks before a person is hired. Public schools have 30 days after hiring to submit a background check. This is just one of many examples.
The most glaring problem with this legislation, however, is that it dramatically changes the way charter schools are approved and renewed. SB 1096 takes decision-making away from the State Board of Education and gives it to the 187 politicians in the general assembly.
Once signed into law, the state legislature will have unilateral control over approval, renewal and funding of charter schools.
No other state in the nation gives this power to state legislators, and for good reason: Education is too important to be placed at the mercy of political whims.
Not only will this further politicize an already unnecessarily politicized process, this legislation guarantees that, every two years, thousands of students will face uncertainty as to whether their school will exist in a few short months.
Would the state legislature allow this to happen to traditional public schools? Could you imagine every school fighting for survival every 24 months?
The only good news here is that changes to the legislation could still be made during a special session of the legislature.
Rather than listening to the hype from the teachers union and the anti-charter school lobby, I hope state legislators spend some time thinking about how this bill affects Connecticut students.
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