In the 2012 legislative session, Charter School Partners introduced Charters 2.0 (HF 2714), a bold series of legislative initiatives to increase the number of high-performing charter schools in Minnesota. Two provisions of the bill included: 1) ensuring adequate start-up funding for new charters, and, 2) allowing replication schools that were created under an existing charter and board the ability to access the federal/state start-up funds.
Sometimes policy is implemented via legislative changes and sometimes changes can occur administratively. For these two very, very important provisions, these changes have and are occurring administratively.
MDE: Give credit where credit is due
Without a doubt, the credit for these policy initiatives goes to Commissioner Cassellius and her very capable staff led by Charter Center Director Cindy Murphy. Despite some tough setbacks, the staff has worked tirelessly over several years to secure the federal start-up funds for new charter schools as well as to restructure the federal Charter School Program (CSP) grants program to ensure resources are put only toward schools that show strong potential to be high-quality as well as to high-performing schools that seek to replicate.
In late 2010, the US Department of Education finally approved a 2009 request by the state of Minnesota to use the federal CSP start-up grants for expansion and replication of high-performing charter schools. Commissioner Casselllius subsequently approved the inclusion of this concept in MDE’s 2011 proposal to USDE for a new five-year award for Minnesota under the Charter School Program.
However, another setback occurred in the Summer of 2011 when the feds announced that only two states, New York and Florida, would receive CSP federal start-up grants. At the time things looked very tenuous as to whether Minnesota would receive the five-year grant and the previous ‘win’ to utilize federal CSP funds for replication of high-performing charters was potentially a moot point.
Minnesota receives $28.2 million grant
The Commissioner and her staff’s focused efforts to pursue the federal CSP award paid off when in March 2012, the state of Minnesota received a five-year $28.2 million Charter School Program award. The grant provides monies to Minnesota to plan, design, and implement new high-quality charter schools AND allows for these resources to go for the replication of high-performing charter schools.
We, at Charter School Partners, quietly did our best to support the department in their efforts. We
- provided a letter of support for MDE’s 2011 application to USDE for a new federal grant award, especially the proposal to provide startup grants for high-quality replication/expansion.
- maintained an ongoing dialogue with Rep. John Kline’s office while USDE’s decision on the MDE application was pending during 2011-12. Rep. Kline is Chairman of the powerful House Education and Workforce Committee.
- provided recommendations to MDE as to how to implement the restructured CSP sub-grant program for both new schools and replication/expansion of high-preforming existing schools.
CSP federal subgrant program announced this week
The several year effort culminated in last week’s announcement from MDE of the first round of subgrant funding competition under Minnesota’s new Federal Charter Schools Program grant process!
Round 1 applications for eligible developing schools are due October 16. A second FY 2013 competition, Round Two, will be held this winter (application deadline likely in December). Round Two will also include the first funding opportunity for significant expansion and new separate schools under a single charter (replication). The expansion and replication eligibility criteria will be finalized over the next couple of months.
In general, the following are the subgrant funding ranges under Minnesota’s new federal award for charters. The grants will be given over a three-year period.
- Planning: $150,000-$225,000.
- Implementation One: $125,000-225,000.
- Implementation Two: $100,000-$225,000.
In other words, there will be a range of how much a school will receive over a three-year period based on a series of ‘quality’ rubrics, with $675,000 as the top amount allowed. It is also possible that a new school might not receive any grant award if the quality criteria is not met.
Charters 2.0: More provisions needed
Despite realizing these two provisions in Charters 2.0, successfully launching a charter school in Minnesota is still daunting. Perhaps the most difficult challenge of charter start-ups is the current 64.3/35.7% state budget holdback funding formula.
As written about previously, the holdback has a particularly adverse impact on charter schools (versus district schools) and particularly for charters in their first couple of years. That is why the 2013 legislative version of Charters 2.0 will include initiatives that would mitigate the holdback impact on all charter schools and specifically reducing a new schools holdback formula to 90/10 for its first three years of operation.