Here’s a quick review of some national and state charter school highlights over the last several weeks.
National Charter School leader Nina Rees keynotes charter conference in Minneapolis
National Alliance of Public Charter Schools
Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, was the keynote speaker at the ‘Capstone Conference for Charter Schools’, sponsored by the Center for School Change and CliftonLarsonAllen on July 31st.
Ms. Rees challenged Minnesota’s charter community to “step up” and ensure that the next phase of the charter movement is about “quality, innovation, and accountability”. She is the third individual to hold the post since the National Alliance’s founding in 2005.
Al Fan, Executive Director of Charter School Partners, serves on the National Alliances’ State Leaders Council (SLC) as a representative from Minnesota.
State to return to 90-10 payments. While great news, it brings some short term challenges
On July 30th, MDE staff presented to the charter community a review of the 2013 K-12 Education Omnibus bill and other bills impacting Minnesota schools and charters specifically. A headline from the presentation was that based on the state’s positive tax income projections, the state will be able to return to a 90-10 holdback for all public schools in Minnesota (a key provision of CSP’s Charters 2.0 legislative initiative), beginning July 1, 2013. Just two years ago, the holdback was 60-40.
While this is incredibly good news, particularly for charter schools, the shift in payments potentially present a significant cash flow challenges, particularly for new charter schools opening this year or those relatively new schools or other schools who do not have a large fund balance. In short, charter schools will not receive ANY payment from the state during October and possibly the first payment of November and are being encouraged to set aside almost half of the payments they start receiving in July to cover the cash flow gap. Per the MDE:
“Charter schools are advised to set aside approximately 43 percent of each current year payment in the periods July 15 to September 30 to provide cash for operations during the two to three periods in which they will not receive payment.”
Here’s the entire memo from MDE.
TO: Business Managers
FROM: Division of School Finance
DATE: July 25, 2013
SUBJECT: Aid and Tax Shift Buyback
2013 Legislation and the latest Minnesota Management and Budget economic update make it possible that charter schools will return to a 24-period state aids payment schedule beginning in October 2013. The effect is that state aid will have been over-advanced to charter schools in the period July 15 through September 30. View the Aid and Tax Shift Buyback memo for further explanation and how to prepare in the event the payment schedule changes from 16 periods to 24 periods.
Contact: Audrey Bomstad at 651-582-8793.
Minnesota Board of Teaching approves all Teach for America teachers for the 2014-2015 school year but warns TFA needs to be an ALT CERT provider for future approvals
On August 2, in one of the largest attended Minnesota Board of Teaching (BOT) meetings ever (over 175 attendees, mostly TFA supporters), the board granted all 38 waivers for “community expert” licensing exemption, including 16 from Teach For America, and reversed itself on two denials it voted in July. Per the Star Tribune, “…the approvals came with a warning from the board’s chair, Waseca teacher John Bellingham, that he “strongly encourages and expects” the entities seeking the variances to propose alternative licensing programs rather than continue to seek exceptions.”
Here’s a MinnPost article and a MinnCAN blog on the event.
Bill Wilson, leader of Higher Ground, a St. Paul charter school requests Board of Teaching approval for four Teach for America Corps Members. Charter school leaders from Hiawatha Academies, Sojourner Truth Academy, ARCH Academy, Venture Academy, Best Academy, St. Paul City School had all testified, requesting an individual waiver for the teachers they sought to hire. The teachers also attended and many testified.
State charter school laws improving nationally
The National Alliance of Public Charter Schools recently published an analysis of how many states have strengthened their charter school laws over the past four legislative sessions. They found that 35 states have brought their laws into closer alignment with the Alliance’s model charter law. Sixteen states alone have lifted caps on charter school growth and another 19 states have strengthened the quality of their laws. Minnesota’s charter law continues to be ranked #1 among the 42 states (and the District of Columbia) who have charter laws. You can read more about the state changes that have been made in “Assessing the Increasing Strength of Charter Laws Between 2010 and 2013″.
Study finds District-Charter Collaboration in eight cities
A trend we follow at Charter School Partners is District-Charter Collaboration. CSP was involved in supporting a change in the charter law regarding District-Charter Collaboration,which passed in 2012.(Here’s a joint Op-Ed by Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson and CSP E.D. Al Fan from May 2, 2012).
On Education Week’s Charters & Choice blog Katie Ash explores an “Education Next” article on how traditional public school districts are increasingly pursuing collaborative, rather than obstructive, approaches to working with public charter schools. The article examines traditional public school districts’ reactions to charter schools in 12 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, D.C., Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Newark, New Orleans, New York City, and Phoenix. All of the chosen cities had a minimum of six percent of the student population in charter schools. Of the 12 cities, eight responded to the competition from charter schools in what the article describes as a “constructive” approach. In Atlanta, district officials embraced a collaborative grant between a traditional middle school and a charter middle school. Education officials in Detroit called on charter management organizations to take over dozens of the city’s most academically struggling schools.
What’s next for ESEA reauthorization?
The National Alliance’s Charter Blog explains what’s next for the the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). On July 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of ESEA in H.R. 5, the Student Success Act. but the Senate and the White House seems to have little appetite to take up legislation, instead relying on current waivers with individual states. Minnesota’s Republican Representative John Kline serves as Chair of U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce.