SBOE Approves Some Charter Schools

Wonder what the state board of education is up to on charter schools? Here’s that status after the March meeting. No new news, really.

The Board received information on the twenty-one charter school petitions approved by local districts thathe Department had received. Mr. Larry Englebrick, deputy commissioner, Division of School Innovations gave a PowerPoint presentation and reviewed the process that had been followed. He indicated that a review of the petition instrument and the scoring rubric would be undertaken and any suggested revisions would be brought to the Board by July 1st. He pointed out that the current charter schools grant allows for ten petitions to be funded for the 2007-08 school year. The twenty-one petitions received were reviewed by a committee and scored according to the new rubric. The maximum score was 188, and a charter school had to receive a minimum score of 144 points for it to be recommended to the State Board. He briefly reviewed the charter school petitions that were being recommended for funding. In addition to the ten new charters provided for under the grant, three charter schools previously approved by the Board but not funded were also recommended. Mr. Englebrick answered questions about the funding formula and the grant requirement hat urban low income schools be served by the grant. Staff also was also asked to provide additional information about the schools being recommended prior to charter school approval by the Board in April. The information requested included the estimated number of students to be served by each.

The April meeting was this week, but minutes won’t be published until after next month’s meeting, in keeping with tradition and practice.

The Pratt Tribune (“Charter School Wins Approval,” April 13) reports on at least one proposal, one that was submitted by the Pratt school district. Pratt USD 382 will get $150k for first-year operations and $60 for planning.

The new charter school will actually be part of the Pratt school system.

The new opportunity is “different from anything we’ve ever done,” and “a great big creative ball waiting to be tapped,” according to Assistant Sue Givens.

Walden Center will become a school within a school, Givens said, and will be housed at the district-owned building at 123 N. Oak.

There will be some innovations in the school day:

Walden Center emphasizes real-world learning within six career clusters, community internships during the junior and senior years and service learning. Eighth graders will be in class most of the time; older students may come to school only for meetings or a few classes they need to pick up.

The students will still be learning English, math and other subjects, but the delivery method will be different, Givens said.

Good for Pratt, and we wish everyone involved well. This brings us to a bigger point.

Innovation within school districts is fine, but if Kansas continues to make charter schools part and parcel of existing districts, rather than giving them the financial and legal independence that they enjoy in other states, then it is not reaping the benefits of this approach to public education. Institutional arrangements matter (see: checks and balances; federalism; the Bill of Rights), and the institutional arrangements in Kansas are still in a one-district-for-everyone model.

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