House Committee Looks at Charter Schools

Do charter schools violate local control provisions of the constitution? That possibility is raised in a news article in the Hutchinson News.

State school board member Ken Willard told a House committee that charter schools could “reach kids who are not currently being reached.” True enough, though they can also be another option for all students.

Opponents of the measure questioned why that was necessary, saying local districts have almost never rejected charter proposals.

But by current law, local districts have total control over charter schools. In free speech cases, we might call this a “chilling effect.” In other words, the mere possiblity that rejection is possible is enough to squelch some attempts to innovate through opening a charter school.

Here’s another problem faced by charter schools:

About 1,800 students attend charter schools run by local districts across Kansas. They receive about $4,100 per student from the state

Charter schools do receive federal start-up money for 3 years. But they don’t get local money, and in many states, charter schools have had problems getting access to buildings and other capital equipment.

Which brings us to the problem of competition for money:

Ken Willard [R-Hutchinson], a member of the state board, told the House committee Friday that the bill would not require any additional state funds.

But Topeka schools Superintendent Tony Sawyer said a charter school could easily incur costs if it involved construction or renovation of buildings or busing of students.

Meanwhile, advocates of local school board supremacy claim constitutional privileges. Mark Tallman, lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said that the idea of letting the State Board of Education approve charters that had been rejected at the local level “violates the principle of local control of public schools in the Kansas Constitution.”

Further, he said, “Nothing in the state Constitution gives the state board the authority to tell local boards how to maintain, develop and operate public schools.”

In other words, protect the system?

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