“I’d like to point all to Jacques response over at Delaware Liberal.  A couple of items I’d like to respond to…  I should mention John has already done so here so I will not endeavor to be redundant.  I wish to pursue a different direction.

I would like to “cherry pick” a couple of phrases from the epistle of Jacques.

I’ve been working on a charter school bill for three years (rush?) …HB 165 is not a prefect bill but it will make some significant changes to our current charter school code to include: mandating breakfast and lunch programs to eliminate any possible discrimination toward low-income families, makes it harder for low-performing charter schools to exist, improves ever aspect of the application process, allows “impact” to be considered, and uses the Charter Performance Framework to help drive accountability and support in academic, organizational and financial domains. The alternative would be to do nothing – to me that is unacceptable!!”

Now in one dump, and I can do this because I color coded HB 165 here,  the following are all the changes.  Note, they are not as many as Jacque seems to portray.  Most of the long bill one reads, is in black, meaning it was the pre-existing piece of legislation.

Below are the necessary add ons….

(I) (f) If a child is unable to attend a charter school because the charter school does not provide lunch, and the child would otherwise qualify for a free or low-cost lunch under the federal National School Lunch Program, the charter school shall provide lunch to the child at no cost to the child’s family. Charter schools may not consider whether a child would qualify for no-cost lunches pursuant to this subsection when making enrollment decisions.

(II) Minor capital improvements shall be funded in the same manner as the Vocational Technical School Districts.

(III) In the event of the failure of a school district to make timely payments to a charter school as required in this paragraph, the Department of Education shall have the authority to direct transfer of such funds.

(IV) (l) Charter schools shall have the same access to conduit bond financing as any other non-profit organization, and no State or local government unit may impose any condition or restriction on a charter school’s approval solely because the applicant is a public charter school. It is the further intent that a charter school shall apply for conduit funding to issuers within the State of Delaware unless more favorable terms may be found elsewhere.

(m) The Department of Education shall administer a performance fund for charter schools, to be known as the “Charter School Performance Fund”. The Department of Education shall establish threshold eligibility requirements for applicants desiring to apply for funding, which shall include but not be limited to a proven track record of success, as measured by a Performance Framework established by the charter school’s authorizer or comparable measures as defined by the Department. The Department of Education shall also establish criteria to evaluate applications for funding, which shall include but not be limited to the availability of supplemental funding from non-State sources at a ratio to be determined by the Department. The Department of Education shall prioritize those applications from applicants that have (a) developed high-quality plans for start-up or expansion or (b) serve high-need students, as defined by the Department. The fund shall be subject to appropriation and shall not exceed $5 million annually.

(V) Upon approval of a charter school application, the Department of Education shall present applicants seeking a charter from the state with a charter contract (“Charter Contract”) that clearly defines the respective roles, powers, and responsibilities of the school and the approving authority and incorporates the provisions of the Performance Agreement entered into between the charter school and its approving authority pursuant to 14 DE Reg. 275. Other approving authorities may choose to present applications they approve with such a Charter Contract. Where a Charter Contract is utilized, both the school and the approving authority shall execute the Charter Contract.

(VI) all information furnished to it during the new charter school application process and may exercise its reasonable discretion in determining whether the proposed new school or expansion is contrary to the best interests of the community to be served, including those students likely to attend the charter school.

(VII) be among the bases for disapproval of an application or expansion if at least one criteria in § 512 of this title is also deemed not satisfied by the authorizer. The information regarding impact may, by itself or in combination with other factors, form the basis for conditions being placed on the approval.

(VIII) (d) The Department shall make an initial review of all charter school applications it receives in order to assess the completeness and viability of each such application based on the application submission criteria established in this title. Upon a finding that an application does not warrant a full review, the Department shall notify the applicant in writing of the deficiency or deficiencies and the application shall receive no further consideration. Each district that is asked by an applicant to serve as an approving authority may, in its discretion, undertake such an initial sufficiency review and make such an initial sufficiency determination.

(e) Applicants seeking a charter from the Department that have submitted an application deemed by the Department sufficient to receive a full review shall be offered an opportunity for an interview in support of the application. Such interviews will allow the Department to assess applicant capacity, allow it to clarify information provided in the application, and gather additional information. The information gained in the interview process may be among the factors considered by the approving authority in approving or denying an application.

(IX)  At least one such hearing shall be held prior to the issuance of the accountability committee’s final report on that application. The approving authority shall, in advance of the 15-day public notice period, post any and all charter applications under consideration on a public website maintained by the approving authority, and during this public notice period shall accept electronically submitted and written comments from the public.

(15) The school shall have a satisfactory plan to ensure the effectiveness of its board of trustees, including governance trainings conducted for any new board members and at a minimum of once every three years; and

(16) The school shall have a satisfactory plan for procedures it will follow in the case of the closure or dissolution of the school, including a plan to set aside sufficient funds to cover the salaries owed to those employees who are paid over a twelve-month period. For a new applicant granted under this Chapter, the application shall include a reasonable plan to establish sufficient available balances pursuant to § 516(l).

 Each charter school seeking renewal of its charter shall produce an annual report on or before September 30. The approving authority may, in its discretion and for good cause shown, elect to accept an annual report submitted subsequent to this deadline

§ 514A. Renewals and Non-renewals.

(a) Four years after a charter school has commenced its instructional program pursuant to this chapter and not later than every 5 years thereafter, the approving authority shall, upon notice to the charter school, review the performance of the charter school to determine its compliance with its charter and its satisfaction of the criteria set forth in this title for the purposes of renewal or non-renewal.

(b) A charter school may be renewed for successive five-year terms of duration. An approving authority may grant renewal with specific conditions for necessary improvements to a charter school. Where a charter school has demonstrated an outstanding record of performance, an approving authority may grant it a renewal term of ten years. Any charter school receiving such an extended renewal term shall, at the midpoint of the ten-year charter, be subject to an annual performance and program evaluation that includes academic, financial and operations data that looks back to all of the years of the charter up to that point. If, upon this evaluation, the approving authority determines that the charter school’s level of performance is deficient by renewal standards, the approving authority may initiate the formal renewal and non-renewal process set forth below.

(c) No later than April 30th, the approving authority shall issue a charter school renewal report and charter renewal application guidance to any charter school whose charter will expire the following year. The renewal report shall summarize the charter school’s performance record to date, based on the data required by this Act and the charter contract, and shall provide notice of any weaknesses or concerns perceived by the approving authority concerning the charter school that may jeopardize its position in seeking renewal if not timely rectified. The charter school shall have 10 working days to respond to the renewal report and submit any corrections or clarifications for the report.

(d) The renewal process shall, at a minimum, provide an opportunity for the charter school to:

(1) Present additional evidence, beyond the data contained in the renewal report, supporting its case for charter renewal;

(2) Describe improvements undertaken or planned for the school; and

(3) Detail the school’s plans for the next charter term.

(e) The renewal application guidance shall include the criteria that will guide the approving authority’s renewal decisions. Renewal determinations by the Department of Education shall be based on its Performance Framework, the terms set forth in the Charter Contract, and shall take account of the school’s Performance Agreement with the approving authority, consistent with 14 DE Reg. 275, and with this Act. Other approving authorities may choose to adopt the criteria utilized by the Department of Education. Each approving authority shall develop a rubric based on its criteria for evaluating renewal applications and shall provide this rubric to applicants as part of the renewal application guidance. The approving authority shall publish the renewal application guidance on its website and make it available in written form upon request.

(f) No later than September 30th, the governing board of a charter school seeking renewal shall submit a renewal application to the approving authority pursuant to the renewal application guidance issued by the approving authority. The approving authority shall rule by resolution on the renewal application no later than 30 working days after the filing of the renewal application.

(g) In making charter renewal decisions, every approving authority shall:

(1) Ground its decisions in evidence of the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the Performance Agreement set forth in the charter contract;

(2) Ensure that data used in making renewal decisions are available to the school and the public; and

(3) Provide a public report summarizing the evidence basis for each decision.

(x) (i) Prior to any charter school closure decision, an approving authority shall have developed and shall utilize a charter school closure protocol to ensure timely notification to parents, orderly transition of students and student records to new schools, and proper disposition of school funds, property, and assets in accordance with the requirements of this Act and other applicable laws. The protocol shall specify tasks, timelines, and responsible parties, including delineating the respective duties of the school and the approving authority. In the event of a charter school closure for any reason, the approving authority shall oversee and work with the closing school to ensure a smooth and orderly closure and transition for students and parents, as guided by the closure protocol.

(j) In the event of a charter school closure for any reason, all cash and cash equivalents held by or available to the school shall be distributed first to satisfy outstanding payroll obligations for employees of the school, then to the remaining creditors of the school. Remaining State general fund appropriations will be returned to the general revenue fund through the state treasury. Remaining funds received from local school districts shall be returned to each of the districts in an amount proportionate to the number of students from each district. Any remaining funds and assets will be managed by the charter, as appropriate. In the event that a charter school files for bankruptcy, the distribution of all assets will be managed by the bankruptcy court or otherwise in accordance with bankruptcy laws. Nothing herein shall be construed in any way to impair or preempt a lien or security interest on any asset owned by a charter school or to prevent the school from paying the costs required to close or dissolve.

(k) In the event that all State and local funds due to a charter school are paid timely as required by Section 509, a charter school authorized to operate in the State must by December 31 of that fiscal year maintain an available balance sufficient to pay the minimum costs necessary to provide students with the minimum annual instructional hours required by the Department of Education during the remainder of that fiscal year as reasonably projected by the charter school. Such costs include, but are not limited to, all employee compensation required to attain the minimum annual instructional hours during the remainder of that fiscal year. Such costs also include all fixed and variable non-payroll expenditures incurred through the final month of that school year. A school’s failure to maintain sufficient available funds by December 31 of its third year of operation shall be deemed a material violation of its charter.

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It’s me now.  There are only ten additions.  But being practical, this is really all one needs to read, because this is the changes that this bill will wrought.

If the bill fails, these Items will NOT go into effect…  If there are some good parts of this bill, then the amendment process is to be the method to surgically remove those pieces that are not functionary and won’t work.

So in essence, here is what got changed.

(I) Children who qualify for national reduced breakfast and lunch, must be fed lunch on the school.  They must give up breakfast if they wish to attend a charter. For low income families, giving up breakfast is something they won’t do. By not allowing breakfast, this bill prohibits low income people from choosing to attend a charter….. Secondly, Newark Charter School does not have a cafeteria.  When they gave lunch in the past, the two choices were McDonalds and a pizza joint.  So not only are low income students skipping breakfast, they are being forced onto the fast track towards diabetes….

(II) Also changing, instead of minor improvements being the role of the charter, the private for profit enterprise conducting the school, they want to be able to charge off all improvements to the state.  It was as if you could get a new roof, and send the state the bill, without costing you a thing…  All the money you were making hand over fist, you got to keep and spend on something else…  Money for these improvements would be deducted from minor improvements originally slated for public schools.  The public schools fall apart, and the charters get repaired…  We use our own money; they should too.

(III) Charter Schools get paid from existing districts. When a child from Christina opts to go to a Charter School, that money follows.  Christina loses money; the Charter gains it.  If Christina does not pay the charter when the law decries,  the DOE will transfer the funds overtop of the elected boards of education.   One problem with this is that under the current arrangement, schools shipping students to Christina District for its special schools, are not obligated to pay Christina in a timely basis. Most are seriously past due.  Christina is short considerable funds from this action. It is therefore unfair to require the transfer of funds from public into private hands, yet ignore the transfer from public to public, or private to public..   This clause sets up Charter Schools with favored status.

(IV) Charter Schools want public funding.  A Charter School feels it should go into business, at no expense to itself, and then collect money from the state for each student, and cut teaching expenses to the bone, so they can make a hefty profit. Charter Schools want to be able to have the state give them money…  It is like Taco Bell wants to build a new restaurant and the state, says, ” sure, here’s the cash,, but better save me a chalupa!”… Recently as Pencader failed mid year, $350,000 was coughed up allowing those students to finish the year….  Again, all money going to charter schools is being taken away from traditional state supported public schools. This bill allows for $5 million dollars to be designated as a Charter School Slush Fund.

(V) When a new school applies to become a charter, it must now sign a contract with the state. It must agree to hit all goals in its Charter Contract as measured by the Charter Performance Framework. That is a document written by third graders and will be used by the state to evaluate the functioning Charter.  Public schools, however, have a far more difficult and stringent evaluation process. A Charter School will get asked if everyone learned something, and if they say “yes” they will get rewarded with staying open.  There is no provision to check whether the “yes” was correct or not.

(VI)  DOE gets to decide if a Charter will be approved.  No matter whose objections it is over.  DOE as complete power to decide; school boards be damned.

(VII)  The Department of Education will review each application to make sure all the blanks are filled and proper keywords are being used.  If done perfectly, there will be no homework.  Applicants disagreeing can appeal the DOE’s decision and it will decide again.

(IX)  If the DOE approves an application, and it will if there are lost of plans, it will have a secret public hearing sometime 15 days after it posts notice of the meeting on one it’s thousands of pages on its official website.  After that, Charters must be renewed every 5 years unless they get to be renewed at ten year increments.  To be approved and renewed, they must have plans, lots of plans…  Like Pencader, they don’t have to hit plans.. just have them.

(X)   In the event of closure,  there must be money to finish up the year.  If a school on January 1st does not have enough to finish the fiscal year it might not get its charter renewed….

We can see what Jacques did.  He takes credit for the bill and is willing to live with it. The changes do little for anyone but the Charter School owners.  They get to make the big bucks. it appears this bill is just a “gimme” for the charter school industry….

I would recommend an amendment to require breakfast, in order to put Charters in line with public schools.

I would get rid of the Charter Slush Fund of $5 million dollars,   Either that or give every Delaware District their $5 million too.  Except Christina…. they deserve $7.3 million…  for the $2.3 that was taken back.

I would recommend Charters must comply with all regulations currently mandated upon public schools, and that Jacques come up for a bit of air.

 

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